A cold sore gene has been discovered

Cold Sore Gene Discovered By Massachusetts Researchers

One of two closely related viruses that are both identified as herpes – the cold sore is caused by something called the herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1 for short. As most sufferers of the condition will know, once the virus enters the body it can never be removed, leaving some patients to suffer from regular and painful outbreaks of cold sores around the mouth.

Until now, scientists have been unable to discover why the human reaction to the virus varies so much from patient to patient; why some people endure multiple outbreaks every year while others may only rarely feel discomfort. However, in a joint study from the University of Utah and the University of Massachusetts, researchers believe they may have found the first gene directly related to frequent cold sore outbreaks.

Why Do Some People Get Them More Often?

In previous studies surrounding the frequency of HSV-1 outbreaks, findings have indicated an environmental impact upon frequency, including changes in temperature and other climatic condition. Dr John D. Kriesel from the University of Utah School of Medicine suggests there are in fact three factors at work – the virus, the aforementioned environmental factors, and a genetic susceptibility.

In this study, Kriesel and his team examined the DNA of 355 known cold sore sufferers. Within this group, some people suffered high frequency outbreaks, while others only reported very occasional cold sores.

One gene, called C21orf91, appears to have a relationship with outbreaks. There are five variations of this gene – two of which seem to protect against reactivation, and two of which seem to increase the likelihood of painful cold sores appearing.

In addition, since this herpes strain is closely related to the one that causes Genital Herpes, advances in cold sore research could help with genital variants of the condition. For more information on Genital Herpes, Click to read our article Herpes Symptoms In Women – How To Spot The First Signs of Genital Herpes.

Cold Sore Outbreaks Could Be Controlled With New Medicines

With no existing cure or preventative treatment for cold sores, most patients find themselves attempting to treat their condition by soothing the symptoms with medicines like Aciclovir cream. With the discovery of this new gene, it is possible that scientists could further understand the nature of outbreaks and work to develop new pharmaceutical medication to help curb the likelihood of cold sore attacks.