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Genital herpes is a disease caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), of which there are two types.
HSV-2 cannot survive long on a non-living surface, so there is no real risk of getting it from a toilet seat or hot tub, for example. Use of images for any purpose including but not limited to research, commercial, personal, or non-commercial use is prohibited without prior written consent.
Newswise — It's one of the most common viruses in America, and one that causes the most guilt and shame.
An electron microscope image of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that clearly shows the viral envelope (membrane) and the protein "keys" that interact with receptors ("locks") in human cell membranes to allow binding, fusion, and entry into the cell.
When it's active, it travels to the surface of the infected area (skin or mucous membrane) and makes copies of itself.
One reason may be that the virus can infect a woman's genitals more easily than it can a man's. HSV-1 can also spread from the mouth to the genitals during oral sex (fellatio, cunnilingus, analingus).
But just as HSV-1 can infect the genitals and cause genital herpes, HSV-2 can pass from one person's genitals to another person's mouth, resulting in oral herpes.
It can get inside almost any kind of human cell, reproduce in vast numbers, and linger for years in the body, causing everything from recurrent genital blisters to sores around the mouth.
This is called "shedding" because these new viruses can, at this time, rub off on another person. Genital herpes is more common among blacks than it is among whites, and it becomes more common as people age.


HSV-1 often causes sores (lesions) inside the mouth, such as cold sores (fever blisters), or infection of the eye (especially the conjunctiva and cornea).
Its complications can kill, and it may increase susceptibility to many nerve and brain disorders.But until now, scientists haven't fully understood how the herpes simplex virus (HSV) manages to do all of this. In the past, HSV-1 was not known to cause genital herpes, but that is changing, especially among people who begin having sex at a young age.
Then the virus travels back down the nerve to a ganglion (mass of nerve tissue), usually at the base of the spine, where it lies dormant for a while. And that has stood in the way of developing more targeted, effective treatments against it to help those infected. An estimated 45 million Americans have genital herpes and millions more have the more visible oral variety. The likelihood of childhood infection is higher among those with lower socioeconomic status. Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is usually, but not always, sexually transmitted. New medicines for herpes infection are badly needed; currently, antiviral drugs can quell symptoms of an outbreak, but not eliminate the virus.
And, there's increasing evidence that HSV may damage the nerve cells in which it hides between outbreaks, possibly contributing to neurological disease.In a presentation Sunday at the International Congress of Virology and in two new papers in the Journal of Virology, U-M researchers are reporting the discovery of a receptor that appears to function as one "lock" that HSV opens to allow it to enter human cells. They've also found the gene that controls the production of that receptor, deciphered some aspects of the receptor's structure, and developed a pig-cell system that could be used to test new anti-herpes drugs. The findings may help explain why the oral and genital herpes virus has such a successful track record: The receptor, dubbed B5, is made by most cells for another purpose not yet understood. HSV appears to have evolved a way to latch onto it, and fool the cell into letting the virus in.


And since most cells express the gene for the B5 receptor, this may be a reason HSV can get into most kinds of cells.
We can use the receptor molecule to try to understand the process and perhaps combat infection at this vulnerable site," says A.
Sometimes, young children also can get the disease. HSV can infect a fetus and cause abnormalities. A mother who is infected with HSV may transmit the virus to her newborn during vaginal delivery, especially if the mother has an active infection at the time of delivery. However, 60 - 80% of HSV infections acquired by newborns occur in women who do NOT have symptoms of HSV infection or a history of genital HSV infection. It's possible for the virus to be transmitted even when there are no symptoms or visible sores.
The Italian team has identified a region of a viral surface protein that matches the U-M team's predictions of what the virus likely would use to bind and engage the B5 receptor. Unlike other viruses so far, HSV seems to have evolved to take advantage of a broadly present cellular protein that has properties like that of known cellular fusion machinery," says Fuller. The infection may be more severe and last longer in people who have a condition that weakens the immune system. Once an infection occurs, the virus spreads to nerve cells and stays in the body for the rest of a person's life. The many possibilities for virus binding to cells make deciphering the entry process a difficult problem to solve.



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