On Wednesday SRxA’s Word on Health reported on a link between memory loss and cognitive decline and the herpes virus. Today, we bring a glimmer of hope to the65% – 90% of people worldwide affected with either type 1 or Type 2 herpes simplex virus.
In the US alone, it’s estimated that nearly 60 percent of U.S. men and women between the ages of 14 and 49 carry the HSV-1 virus, while >16.2% are infected with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
HSV-2 is a lifelong and incurable infection that can cause recurrent and painful genital sores and can make those infected with the virus two-to-three times more likely to acquire HIV.
Now, according to a study just published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered a novel strategy for preventing, treating or suppressing herpes virus infections.
“We’ve essentially identified the molecular “key” that herpes viruses use to penetrate cell membranes and infect cells of the human body,” said Betsy Herold, MD of The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.
Dr. Herold and her colleagues had previously shown that infection by the herpes viruses depends on calcium released within the cells. In this study, they found that calcium release occurs because the viruses activate a critical cell-signaling molecule called Akt [also known as Protein Kinase B (PKB) ] at the cell membrane.
As part of their investigation of Akt’s role in herpes infections, the researchers took laboratory cultures of human cell and mixed them for 15 minutes with four different drugs known to inhibit Akt. The cells were then exposed for one hour to herpes simplex virus 2.
The drugs tested were:
MK-2206 – an experimental drug being studied as adjunct therapy for cancer
Miltefosine, a drug licensed for treatment of leishmaniasis and other protozoal infections
Perifosine, an experimental agent in phase 3 clinical trials for treatment of several cancers
All four of the drugs signiﬁcantly inhibited HSV infection in each of the cell types. Miltefosine was the most potent and reduced viral plaques by 90% in all cell types.
By contrast, cells not pre-treated with the Akt inhibitors were readily infected on exposure to the virus.
“For people infected with herpes, the drug acyclovir helps prevent herpes outbreaks from recurring and lowers the risk of transmitting the infection to others,” said Dr. Herold. “But some people have herpes infections that don’t respond to acyclovir, and unfortunately there is no effective vaccine. So new approaches for suppressing and treating herpes infections are badly needed, and our findings indicate that inhibiting Akt should be a useful therapeutic strategy to pursue.”
Cold sores. Annoying, embarrassing, uncomfortable. Enough to drive you crazy?
Not quite. However, according to a new study the virus that causes cold sores may be associated with cognitive problems such as difficulties with memory and thinking.
During the study researchers from New York and Miami tested thinking and memory in 1,625 people. Participants gave blood samples that were tested for five common low grade infections: herpes simplex type 1 (oral) and type 2 (genital), cytomegalovirus, chlamydia pneumoniae (a common respiratory infection) and Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria found in the stomach). The memory and thinking skills were tested every year for an average of eight years.
The results showed that the people who had higher levels of infection had a 25% increase in the risk of a low score on the Mini-Mental State Examination – a 30-point questionnaire that is commonly used to screen for cognitive impairment and dementia.
In other words, those who had higher levels of anti-viral antibodies in their blood, meaning they had been exposed over the years to various pathogens, were more likely to have cognitive problems than people with lower levels of infection in the blood.
“We found the link was greater among women, those with lower levels of education and Medicaid or no health insurance, and most prominently, in people who do not exercise,” said author Mira Katan, MD. “While this association needs to be further studied, the results could lead to ways to identify people at risk of cognitive impairment and eventually lower that risk.”
The authors suggest that exercise and childhood vaccinations against viruses could decrease the risk for memory problems later in life.
Just one more reason for us all to get vaccinated and stay fit!