The Herpes Virus - what is it? (part 2)

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This is a picture of a herpes virus. It's a virus that most people come into contact with at one stage or other during their lives - usually when they're children. Different forms of this virus cause:

Virus SubtypeClassificationDisease
Herpes Simplex Type 1 (HSV1)HHV1Coldsores
Herpes Simplex Type 2 (HSV2)HHV2Genital Herpes
Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV)HHV3Chickenpox, shingles
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)HHV4Mono (infectious mononucleosis), Burkitt's Lyphoma, CNS symptoms in AIDS patients, post-transplant lymphoproliferative syndrome (PTLD), nasopharyngeal carcinoma
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)HHV5Mono-like symptoms (infectious mononucleosis-like syndrome), retinitis, cytomegalovirus colitis, cytomegalovirus hepatitis
RoseolavirusHHV6, 7"Rose rash" (roseola infantum), "sixth disease", "three day fever", "baby measles"
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)HHV8Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoman, some types of Castleman's disease

Table taken from Wikipedia.

There may be other forms of this virus associated with other diseases in humans; there are over 100 known herpes viruses - there may well be many more.

The viruses are classified into three groups based on the types of tissue they exhibit affinity for in the body.

VirusesTissue typeClassification
HSV1, HSV2, VZVNervous system tissueAlphaherpesvirinae
CMV, RoseolavirusLymph tissue and lymphatic systemBetaherpesvirinae
EBV, KSHVT or B lymphocytes; also lymphotropicGammaherpesvirinae

As many as 90% of the population carry one or all of these viruses in their systems. After infection, the virus hides in a latent form, where it can stay dormant for years - possibly forever - until the conditions are ripe for it to come out and replicate again.

In the alpha viruses, it hides inside the cytosome of the nervous tissue awaiting reactivation, often caused by stress or inflammation. I mentioned this previously in an earlier post on Alzheimers, Herpes and Etanercept; the key trigger for alpha virus reactivation appears to be the presence of TNEF-alpha in large quantities, telling the virus that it's safe to come out because the immune system is currently busy.

In the beta viruses, they hide inside the nucleii of the lympahtic cells themselves, causing what are known as "Owl's Eye" inclusion bodies - so called from their appearance:

CMV Owl's Eye inclusion bodies

The gamma viruses behave similarly to the beta viruses, but target specific lymphocytes.

When the virus replicates, it often destroys the host cell in the process, or severely distorts it.

The Herpes Virus - A cause for more diseases than we give it credit for?

Most of the literature on the web tends to only consider the problems with chronic and acute infections by herpes viruses. These typically form in children (upon first exposure), in the form of sexually transmitted disease (HSV2), or in immunocompromised patients (for example, people with AIDS, organ transplant patients, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy).

They don't tend to consider the long-term effects of a sub-clinical infection; after all, if there are no symptoms, then the body is looking after itself - it's why we have an immune system.

However, I believe that it is important to consider sub-clinical infection and asymptomatic infection as potential causes or cofactors in a wide number of diseases - ranging from heart disease to most cancers.

This is becoming more possible now, partly because of the creation of gene-chip technology - especially viral chip assays, which allow any tissue sample to be tested for the presence of a virus quickly and efficiently. This is something that was not easily possible before, and has lead to the discovery of the presence of herpesviridae in many cancers. However, the researchers are not yet willing to draw a conclusive line between these results and the cause of the diseases themselves. In the case of Alzheimer's disease, however, we can definitively say at this point that there is a direct connection. And much of the research is showing other connections too.

The next article in this series will cover the path that led me to this conclusion. After that, I'll start tackling each disease, with references to the research. And finally, some proposed treatments that can if not cure the diseases, at least slow them down as long as doctors are willing to prescribe common medications off-label.

CMV Owl's Eye Inclusion picture source: Dan Wiedbrauk, Ph.D., Warde Medical Laboratory, Ann Arbor, MI. Used for educational purposes.
Herpes Virus picture source: taken from; original source unknown

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

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