Getting Organized: HSV-1

The topic I settled on is herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). Based on the literature I’ve compiled thus far, I’ll be organizing it into the structure and mechanism information, the immune response to HSV-1, and treatments/inhibitors. HSV in general still has no cure, so I think it’s important to try to get a handle on why finding a cure has been so difficult. Despite literature about HSV-1 dating back to the 1960’s, current literature is still discovering new information about the genome and mechanisms of HSV-1. Early literature focused on characterizing the different enzymes and glycoproteins transcribed by and associated with HSV-1 and focused on these as targets for inhibition. Since then, studies have found that it is the mechanism of action for HSV-1 is much more multifaceted. HSV-1 interacts with different receptors and nuclear pathways and its ability to mutate has made it very hard to cure and in some cases treat.

Fortunately, HSV-1 has very minor or no symptoms in most cases. A majority of the population is believed to have HSV-1 and most of those infected are unaware and likely were infected in childhood. With this, researchers want to understand why some patients have very violent reactions, while others have no symptoms. Understanding how HSV-1 acts on the body as well how the body reacts is important for this. A lot of symptoms depend on how the immune system responds to the presence of HSV-1 and prior exposure to HSV or similar viruses may play a part in this. HSV is also known to only have occasional outbreaks in which it is significantly more contagious, so studies in prevention are interested in the nature of these outbreaks.

I think a lot of the innovations in the field can be tracked through the treatment. As I mentioned earlier, treatments tended to focus on inhibition of specific enzymes like the DNA polymerase implicated in HSV replication. As more was learned about the mechanisms of HSV-1, the ideas for how to best treat HSV changed. At one point, the idea of vaccination was even proposed. One of the most recent studies I saw was using CRISPR/Cas-9 to try to alter the HSV-1 genome. While these changes are easiest to track through the treatments, I think it’s important to understand how these new treatments are motivated largely by new information about the structure and function of HSV within the body.

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