Canceling Out Cold Sores

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Cold sores. They make pimples seem like freckles. They come on strong and painful, and always when you least expect them, it seems. But you may have seen your last one.

A study of the herpes simplex virus (HSV1) by the Duke University Medical Center explored why and how it can stay dormant and untreatable for years and then be roused to induce a sore in the same place on the mouth where it began.

Researchers found that the latent virus emits genetic material called micro-RNA, which blocks the “on switch,” so to speak. But when a trigger such as a fever or sun exposure produces opposing messenger RNAs, they overwhelm the micro-RNA, forcing replication of the virus and, ultimately, the cold sore.

This discovery is likely to lead to drugs that activate HSV1 (it must be active in order to be treatable) and then stop it for good.

“In principle, you could activate and then kill all of the virus in a patient,” study leader Bryan Cullen told the AFP. “This would completely cure a person, and you would never get another cold sore.”

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