Sexual Health news - Oral and Genital Herpes

Researchers study new approach to prevent herpes outbreaks

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have made a discovery that may change the way individuals are treated for genital herpes and oral herpes.

"We've essentially identified the molecular 'key' that herpes viruses use to penetrate cell membranes and infect cells of the human body," said researcher Betsy Herold, M.D.

Scientists involved in the study previously found that infection by the herpes viruses depends on calcium released within the cells. With this study, they discovered that this calcium release occurs because the viruses activate a critical cell-signaling molecule called Akt at the cell membrane.

For the study, they took laboratory cultures of human cells and mixed them with four different drugs known to inhibit Akt. The cells were then exposed for one hour to herpes simplex virus 2, the virus that causes genital herpes.

They found that all four drugs significantly inhibited herpes virus infection in each of the cell types. However, cells not pretreated with the Akt inhibitors were readily infected once exposed to the virus.

Researchers said that the finding could lead to new drugs that may inhibit the cell-signaling molecule and reduce outbreaks of the sexually transmitted disease.

"Our findings indicate that inhibiting Akt should be a useful therapeutic strategy to pursue," said Herold.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one out of six individuals between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes. However, the STD is more common among women than men. It causes painful sores in the genital area and mouth.

Individuals contract the virus by having sex with a person with herpes. While it is more common to transmit the disease when an outbreak is underway, it can also be released from skin that does not appear to have a sore.

There is currently no cure for the herpes virus. Antiviral medications can prevent or shorten outbreaks in some patients, but experts state that new treatments are needed.