Jeremy has a master of science degree in education.
Herpes Simplex Virus Explained
Herpes Simplex Virus is the name given to two of the human herpesvirus, mainly 1 (HSV1) and 2 (HSV2). These are the forms of herpes that typically cause cold sores and genital herpes. These are very contagious viruses that are transmitted via skin to skin contact and skin to blister or cold sore contact. It is one of the most common viruses in the world. Many people that become infected with the virus (HSV1) will develop antibodies and never have an outbreak after their first
Signs and Symptoms of Infection
Symptoms of a herpes infection are similar between HSV1 and HSV2. There exists some difference, however, between the two. Most commonly, the patient will experience flu-like symptoms or just a feeling of general illness. Fatigue is also a rather common symptom, as well as fever. Like most sicknesses, these are common symptoms. Unique to herpes is that fever blisters or cold blisters will form in the infected area.
In HSV1, we see cold sores form around a person's mouth. These typically go away within a few days but they are very contagious. In HSV2, blisters will form on and around the genitalia of the infected person. These can be very painful and will sometimes break. The scary part about all of these symptoms is that even without the sores or blisters, a person can still be infectious and pass herpes on to other people. Viral 'shedding' can occur, where the virus is present and will spread to others, or other places on the body. Essentially they spread it without even knowing. Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their unborn child, which can cause more complications for the baby.
Many people will develop antibodies to the virus after being infected one time but again, it is unknown whether you will develop symptoms again in your life. Some people get outbreaks often, some less often, and others never. Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes but there are many antiviral drugs that can help reduce the symptoms and control the outbreaks associated with the virus.
Structure and Function of the Virus
Like most viruses, the herpes simplex virus consists of a few common features. There is the genetic material inside of a capsid. Around that is the tegument, followed by the envelope of the virus. Each feature has a specific functionality.
The genetic material is key for the virus to copy and infect host cells. This is contained inside of the capsid which exists to protect that genetic material. The capsid is like your house, meant to keep you safe and sound. In the case of herpes simplex, the capsid is a icosahedral shape, which means it takes the shape of a icosahedron, or a twenty-sided polygon.
Outside of this is the tegument which contains proteins and enzymes. Again, these exist solely to aid the virus in replication (copying) of itself in order to quickly infect its host. These enzymes do exactly what enzymes are supposed to do, enhance and speed up a biological process; in this case, replication of the virus.
On the outside of the virus is the envelope. This is a lipid bilayer, meaning that there are two layers (bilayer) of lipids (fats). This acts as a fence or a wall around the virus, keeping everything inside of it safe during the treacherous journey out and about in search of a host. Remember, the human body is an efficient killer of foreign material, so viruses have to come ready to withstand an all out assault on themselves.
Around the envelope sit numerous proteins, which will bind to specific proteins along the host cells. Once latched onto the host cells, they begin to dig small pores into the cell which allows it to enter, causing infection.
Herpes Simplex Virus is a human virus that is actually two similar viruses, HSV1 and HSV2. HSV1 causes cold sores and oral herpes where HSV2 causes genital herpes and blisters in the genital region. Both viruses function in a similar manner. They are spread via skin to skin contact as well as contact with an infected sore or blister. The virus itself will cause symptoms that are typically of being sick, such as fever, feeling of being sick, or just general 'flu-like' symptoms. Outbreaks can occur throughout life or they can occur once and be done. As far as medical science can understand, there is no cure for either form of herpes and once you have it you keep it for life. The virus structure is typical of viruses, with genetic material in the center surrounded by a protective capsid. Outside of this is the tegument, containing enzymes needed for replication, followed by the envelope to protect the entire structure. On the surface of the envelope is are specific proteins that help to gain access to cells, causing infection.
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