Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Herpes Viruses, HIV, HPV, Infections, STD / 24.04.2023 Interview with: Manoj Gandhi, MD PhD Senior Medical Director of Genetic Testing Services, Thermo Fisher Scientific. Dr. Gandhi has been working to advance the quality of medical care globally. Using his knowledge of Clinical Medicine and Molecular Biology/Pathology, he is focused on bridging these two fields and bringing innovative solutions that help advance science, the practice of medicine with the ultimate goal of impacting patient lives, whether it be in Infectious Diseases or Oncology or Personalized Medicine. This approach allows him to explore creative ways to utilize technology to help better identify diseases and improve the direction and value of treatment. What are the most common STIs prevalent in the US and worldwide today? Response: By far, the most common STIs in the US and worldwide is Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer in women and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) that is the cause of genital herpes. Outside of these two major causes of STI, the others that are very common are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis and Syphilis. It is important to note that the reported cases represent only a subset of the individuals with an infection as many may be asymptomatic and could be spreading these STIs to others. HIV is another STI that is common but usually rests in its own category due to its impact. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, JAMA, STD, USPSTF / 23.02.2023 Interview with: James Stevermer, M.D., M.S.P.H. Vice chair for clinical affairs Professor of family and community medicine University of Missouri Medical director of MU Health Care Family Medicine–Callaway Physicians, Dr. Stevermer joined the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force in January 2021. What is the background for this study? Response: Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that unfortunately has no cure and cannot accurately be detected in people who do not have signs of the condition. The current screening tests have limitations and there is a high chance that test results will say a person has the condition when they do not. In addition, the available treatments are focused on managing symptoms and preventing the condition from reoccurring. As a result, the Task Force concluded that the harms of screening outweigh the benefits. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Dermatology, Heart Disease, Herpes Viruses, Stroke / 23.11.2022 Interview with:| Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScM| Director, CHEARS: The Conservation of Hearing Study Channing Division of Network Medicine Department of Medicine Brigham and Women’s Hospital Harvard Medical School Boston, MA 02114 What is the background for this study? Response:       Herpes zoster, commonly known as “shingles,” is a viral infection that often causes a painful rash. Shingles can occur anywhere on the head or body. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has chickenpox, the virus stays in their body for the rest of their life. Years and even decades later, the virus may reactivate as shingles. Almost all individuals age 50 years and older in the US have been infected with the varicella zoster virus and therefore they are at risk for shingles. About 1 in 3 people will develop shingles during their lifetime, and since age is a risk factor for shingles, this number may increase as the population ages. The risk is also higher among individuals of any age who are immunocompromised due to disease or treatment. A number of serious complications can occur when a person develops shingles, such as post-herpetic neuralgia (long-lasting pain), but there was limited information on whether there are other adverse long-term health implications of developing shingles. There is a growing body of evidence that links VZV, the virus that causes shingles, to vascular disease. VZV vasculopathy may cause damage to blood vessels and increase the risk of stroke or coronary heart disease. Although some previous studies showed a higher risk of stroke or heart attack around the time of the shingles infection, it was not known whether this higher risk persisted in the long term. Therefore, the question we aimed to address in this study was to investigate whether shingles is associated with higher long-term risk of stroke or coronary heart disease. To address this question, we conducted a prospective longitudinal study in 3 large US cohorts of >200,000 women and men, the Nurses’ Health Study (>79,000 women), the Nurses’ Health Study II (almost 94,000 women) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (>31,000 men), without a prior history of stroke or coronary heart disease. We collected information on shingles, stroke and coronary heart disease on biennial questionnaires and confirmed the diagnoses with medical record review. We followed the participants for up to 16 years and evaluated whether those who had developed shingles were at higher risk for stroke or coronary heart disease years after the shingles episode. The outcomes we measured were incident stroke, incident coronary heart disease [defined as having a non-fatal or fatal myocardial infarction (heart attack) or a coronary revascularization procedure (CABG, coronary artery bypass graft or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty)]. We also evaluated a combined outcome of cardiovascular disease, which included either stroke or coronary heart disease, whichever came first. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Genetic Research, Herpes Viruses / 12.05.2022 Interview with: Prof. Annette Peters PhD Chair of Epidemiology Institute of Medical Information Sciences, Biometry and Epidemiology, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, Germany Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, Germany German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), München-Neuherberg, Germany  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings? Response: A large number of genetic, behavioural and environmental risk factors have been identified as contributing to the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, little is known about a potential link between virus infections and type 2 diabetes developments. We had the unique opportunity to use a multiplex assay to measure antibodies for herpes viruses by the Waterboer laboratory at the German Cancer Center in Heidelberg and set out to investigate the potential associations in the prospective KORA cohort. First of all, we detected that herpes virus antibodies were highly prevalent in the study population at baseline and increased with age. We found an association between Herpes simplex virus 2 and cytomegalovirus and type 2 diabetes during a seven year follow-up. These associations were robust against controlling for other known risk factors. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Science, University of Pennsylvania, Vaccine Studies / 23.09.2019 Interview with: Harvey M. Friedman, MD Professor of Medicine/Infectious Diseases University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104-6073 What is the background for this study? Response:  Mice and guinea pigs are the animal models used to evaluate candidate vaccines for preventing genital herpes. My lab has been working on such a vaccine. Our candidate vaccine contains 3 immunogens. One immunogen is a protein on the virus that is required for the virus to enter cells (viruses need to enter cells to replicate). The other two immunogens are proteins on the virus that help the virus escape immune attack. Our intent is to produce antibodies to these 3 proteins by immunization and that the antibodies will bind to the proteins on the virus and block the protein functions. The virus then will not be able to enter cells and will not be able to use its evasion strategies to avoid the immune responses generated by the vaccine. Our vaccine aimed at preventing immune evasion is novel as a component of a genital herpes vaccine.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses / 15.08.2019 Interview with: Tejabhiram Yadavalli, Ph.D Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Chicago, IL What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: Charcoal black is a common ingredient used in the cosmetic industry, especially for the eye in products such as eyeliners. Traditionally, black soot obtained from burning clarified butter was used as an eyeliner and is still used today in various cultures across the world. Activated charcoal is highly porous in nature and has a surface area far greater than any other nanoparticle or microparticle known to materials science. Since our lab works on ocular herpes infection we wanted to see whether activated charcoal can influence viral infection potentially by trapping the virus particles and rendering them ineffective. As hypothesized, we found excellent restriction of the virus from infecting the host. The most interesting results came when we applied charcoal in tandem with existing clinical antiviral (Acyclovir). This is where we saw that charcoal can absorb the drug on its surface and slowly release it over a period of time conferring protection for an extended period of time from viral infection. These antiviral drugs have to be taken multiple times a day to show comprehensive protection against the virus. However, we found that the drugs mixed with charcoal were need to be given with much reduced frequency to show excellent antiviral activity. This charcoal platform termed as DECON was effective in controlling both ocular and genital herpes infections. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Herpes Viruses / 18.12.2018 Interview with: Jiahui Qian, MPH School of Public Health and Community Medicine University of New South Wales Sydney Australia What is the background for this study? Response: Herpes zoster is a neurocutaneous disease caused by the reactivation of latent varicella zoster virus and its risk is related to the cell-mediated immunity. Previous studies have reported a higher zoster risk among patients with haematological cancer and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. However, the role of the cancer itself and the receipt of cancer treatment is not clearly separated, we therefore started this study and tried to separate the risk of zoster associated with the cancer itself from cancer treatment.  (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses / 20.07.2018 Interview with: Prof Ruth Itzhaki Emeritus Professor Division of Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology The University of Manchester What is the background for this study? Response: The background arises from the unexpected discovery, made by my lab almost 30 years ago, that the DNA of the common virus, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), known as the "cold sore" virus, was present in a high proportion of autopsy brains from elderly humans. Subsequently, we found that HSV1, when in brain of people who have a specific genetic factor, APOE-e4, confers a strong risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. We found also a parallelism with cold sores in that APOE-e4 is a risk for the sores, which occur in about 25-40% of people infected with HSV1. We then looked for links between the effects of HSV1 infection of cells in culture and AD, and found some major associations between virus and disease. Firstly, HSV1 causes an increase in the formation of a small protein called beta amyloid, which is the main component of the abnormal "plaques" seen in Alzheimer's Disease brains. Secondly, we discovered that in AD brains, the viral DNA is located precisely within amyloid plaques, which suggests that the virus is responsible for the formation of these abnormal structures. Thirdly, we confirmed the finding of another lab that HSV1 causes the increased formation of an abnormal form of the protein known as tau, which is the main component of the other characteristic abnormality of Alzheimer's Disease brains - "neurofibrillary tangles". All these discoveries suggested that the damage caused by HSV1 leads eventually to the development of AD. Lastly, we showed that treating HSV1-infected cells in culture greatly reduces the formation of beta amyloid and abnormal tau. This suggests that antiviral agents might be used for treating Alzheimer's Disease patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, GSK, Herpes Viruses, Infections, Vaccine Studies / 10.03.2018 Interview with: Anthony. L. Cunningham, MD The Westmead Institute for Medical Research Westmead, NSW University of Sydney, Sydney, What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This study examines the reasons why the HZ subunit vaccine candidate (HZ/su vaccine) consisting of a single viral protein, varicella-zoster glycoprotein E, and and adjuvant (immunostimulant) combination AS01B is so effective as a vaccine to prevent shingles (>90%), especially in those over the age of 70 years and 80 years, as published in recent trials i.e. it combats the declining immunity in the aging which usually restricts vaccine efficacy to under 60% in these age groups.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Herpes Viruses, Pediatrics / 12.02.2018 Interview with:

Hannah Song, BA Medical studen Harvard Medical School and Jennifer T. Huang, MD Division of Immunology, Dermatology Program Boston Children's Hospital Boston, MA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Infection with the varicella-zoster virus leads to chickenpox, or primary varicella. The virus then lies dormant and can later reactivate as shingles, or herpes zoster.  Varicella-zoster vaccine is made of an attenuated live virus that prevents most people from getting chicken pox, but rarely can reactivate and cause shingles. There were several pediatric patients who presented to our clinics with shingles/herpes zoster that was localized to one extremity. My hunch was that the extremity where the patients had shingles could be the same limb where they had received vaccination. We called the patient’s pediatricians because pediatricians typically document the extremity where the vaccination is given, and confirmed the theory that shingles in vaccinated children may be more likely to occur at the site of vaccination. Importantly, vaccination may modify the classic appearance of shingles, and you might see pink and red papules and pseudovesicles, rather than classic grouped fluid-filled vesicles on a red base.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Herpes Viruses, Pulmonary Disease / 20.01.2017 Interview with: Dr. Tobias Stöger Group Leader, Dynamics of Pulmonary Inflammation Comprehensive Pneumology Center Institute of Lung Biology and Disease (iLBD) Helmholtz Zentrum München What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Particulate air pollution is common in urban areas and the inhalation of nanoparticles is known to trigger inflammatory effects in humans potentially altering the immune system. Herpes viruses are ubiquitous and well adapted pathogens hiding in host cells and persist thus continuing in a greater part of our population. Under certain stress conditions and if the immune system becomes weakened, the viruses can become active again, begin to proliferate and destroy the host cell. Thus we raised the question whether NP-exposure of persistently herpesvirus-infected cells as a second hit might provoke reactivation of latent virus and eventually lead to an inflammatory response and tissue damage. Our main finding is that NP-exposure of persistently herpesvirus-infected cells – murine or human – restores molecular signatures found in acute virus infection and boosts production of lytic viral proteins. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, JAMA / 22.12.2016 Interview with: What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings? Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by one of two subtypes of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2). The condition is common in the United States, as the CDC estimates that almost one in six people between the ages of 14 and 49 are afflicted. Unfortunately, there are no good screening tests for herpes and it cannot be cured. After a systematic review of the evidence, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force determined that, for adolescents and adults who have no signs or symptoms, including pregnant women, the harms of screening for genital herpes outweigh the benefits. These harms include high rates of false-positive screening tests, potential concerns around unnecessary antiviral medication use, and anxiety and relationship issues related to diagnosis. Additionally, the benefits of screening proved small, in part because early identification and treatment do not alter the course of the condition. In the end, due to the lack of benefits in the face of serious harms, the Task Force recommended against routine serologic screening for genital herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Dermatology, Herpes Viruses, HIV, Infections, STD / 12.12.2016 Interview with: E. Charles Osterberg, M.D. Assistant Professor of Surgery Genitourinary Reconstruction and Trauma University of Texas- Dell Medical School Dell-Seton Medical Center / University Hospital What is the background for this study? Response: Pubic hair grooming has become an increasingly common practice among men and women. Perceptions of genital normalcy have changed as modern society’s definition of attractiveness and feelings of femininity and masculinity have changed. Pubic hair grooming has been shown to increase morbidity such as genital injuries, however little is known about the relationship between grooming practices and sexually transmitted infections. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Vaccine Studies / 21.11.2016 Interview with: Elisabeth J. Cohen, MD NYU Langone Medical Center Editor’s note: Elisabeth J. Cohen, MD, of NYU Langone Medical Center, will head a five year study to evaluate new treatment protocols for herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO). Herpes zoster ophthalmicus is a form of shingles that can cause prolonged pain and permanently damage the eye. Dr Cohen and NYU have received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the longer-term use of suppressive antiviral medication to reduce complications of HZO, What is the background for this study? Can you tell us a little about herpes zoster/shingles? Response: The rationale for the study is two-fold: First: the accumulating evidence that zoster is followed by chronic active infection caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV) that contributes to complications including vision threatening eye disease and life threatening stroke. Second: the proven efficacy of suppressive antiviral treatment in reducing recurrent herpes simplex virus eye disease, caused by a different herpes virus, but with similar disease manifestations. Zoster/shingles is caused by localized, unilateral reactivation of varicella zoster virus (VZV) in people who have had varicella/chicken pox resulting in a painful blistering rash that can be followed by chronic pain/postherpetic neuralgia. There are over one million new cases of zoster per year, and the incidence has increased over the past 6 decades for unknown reasons. Although the rate of zoster increases with age, the largest number of cases occur in people in their fifties. (more…)
Author Interviews, Fertility, Herpes Viruses, Infections, PLoS / 09.07.2016 Interview with: Roberta Rizzo PhD Department of Medical Sciences Section of Microbiology University of Ferrara Ferrara, Italy What is the background for this study? Response: Infertility affects approximately 6% of 15-44 year old women or 1.5 million women in the US, according to the CDC. Approximately 25% of female infertility cases are unexplained, leaving women with few options other than expensive fertility treatments. Researchers are trying to identify factors and mechanisms at the basis of this condition. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Ophthalmology / 13.04.2016 Interview with: Kimberly D Tran, MD Bascom Palmer Eye Institute What is the background and purpose for this study?  Dr. Tran: Approximately 30% of the population will suffer from herpes zoster (also known as shingles) at some point in their lifetime, with an estimated 1 million cases in the U.S. each year (1).  The most common long term complication of  herpes zoster is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), or persistent neuropathic pain lasting beyond three months after initial presentation of  herpes zoster. PHN can negatively affect quality of life to a degree similar to congestive heart failure, depression, acute myocardial infarction,diabetes. Postherpetic neuralgia is a leading cause of suicide in patients over 70 with chronic pain.(3,4) Of all the cases of herpes zoster, an estimated 10-20% will have herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO), which is defined as shingles in the area of the face near the eye, and sometimes the eye itself becomes involved.  Approximately 50% of individuals with HZO will develop ocular complications without antiviral treatment, while antiviral induction within the first 72 hours of rash onset reduces this number to 20-30% (2). Randomized control trial has demonstrated the efficacy antiviral therapy in the treatment of herpes zoster on first presentation.(6) What is less understood is the course of HZ after its initial presentation. Traditionally studied and treated in the acute phase,(5-7) recent data suggest that some patients experience a chronic or recurrent disease course. Based on this data, it is clear that more information is needed on the long term clinical course of herpes zoster ophthalmicus. The purpose of this study was to characterize the epidemiology of recurrent and chronic HZO in a unique South Florida population, with an ethnically and racially mixed, predominately male population. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Vaccine Studies / 28.03.2016 Interview with: Zeena Y. Nawas, MD Clinical Research Fellow Center for Clinical Studies Houston, TX, 77004 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Nawas: T cell immunity is believed to be particularly critical to the control of genital herpes, an incurable, lifelong sexually transmitted disease that affects roughly 500 million people worldwide. Genital herpes is characterized by recurrent, painful genital lesions and can be transmitted to sexual partners, even when there is no visible sign of the infection. Current genital herpes therapies only partially control the infection in some patients. These individuals continue to experience clinical symptoms and viral shedding, which drives disease transmission. Incomplete control of genital lesions and transmission risk, and the inconvenience of taking a daily medication are hurdles for effective long-term disease management. GEN-003, is a first-in-class immunotherapy developed by Genocea Biosciences and is intended to treat genital herpes by inducing both a T cell and B cell (antibody) immune response. GEN-003 has demonstrated promising results to date by showing statistically significant reductions in the clinical signs of genital herpes and viral shedding, as well as safety and tolerability in its Phase 1/2 and Phase 2 clinical studies. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Exercise - Fitness, Herpes Viruses, Infections / 06.02.2016 Interview with: Kurt Ashack Fourth year medical student at Michigan State University, Michigan Kyle Burton University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Orlando, Florida Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Skin infections associated with high school athletics have been reported in literature since the late 20th century and while many skin infections are relatively minor, others can cause serious morbidity. Prior reports on skin infections among high school athletes have focused on specific sports or have evaluated relatively small numbers of athletes. No prior report has evaluated skin infections in a large national sample of United States (US) high school athletes across multiple sports. During the study period, 474 skin infections were reported among 20,858,781 athlete exposures (AE); a rate of 2.27 infections per 100,000 AE. The largest number of skin infections occurred in wrestlers (73.6%), followed by boys’ football (17.9%) and boys’ basketball (1.9%). Baseball and swimming had much fewer cases. The most common infections were bacterial (60.6%), tinea (28.4%) and herpetic (5.2%) infections. Body parts most often affected were the head/face (25.3%), forearm (12.7%) and upper arm (8%). The average time for return to play was 3-6 days (45.5%). It was also interesting to note how many more infections there were in boys than girls. Girls’ volleyball had the most of girls’ sports, but all girl reports did not near the boy's number. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Ophthalmology, Vaccine Studies / 30.01.2016 Interview with: Frederick W. Fraunfelder, MD MBA Chairman and Roy E. Mason and Elizabeth Patee Mason Distinguished ProfessorDepartment of Ophthalmology Missouri University School of Medicine Director of the Missouri University Health Care’s Mason Eye Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Fraunfelder: The background starts with a paper by Hwang et al (Cornea. 2013 Apr;32(4):508-9.Reactivation of herpes zoster keratitis in an adult after varicella zoster vaccination. Hwang CW Jr1Steigleman WASaucedo-Sanchez ETuli SS.) After reading this paper, I started keeping track of keratitis cases that were reported to my registry ( and also to the FDA and WHO spontaneous reporting databases. We found case reports in adults and children of keratitis occurring soon after vaccination, and we presented this at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual meeting that we just held in Las Vegas in November 2015. The main findings are that in rare instances, relatively speaking, herpes infection can occur in the cornea of the eye within days to weeks after vaccination. This may especially be true in adults who have had shingles in the past which caused a keratitis in the past. This keratitis may reoccur after the vaccination, and primary care providers should inquire about this past medical/ocular history and advise of the risk of recurrent keratitis after the vaccination for shingles. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cleveland Clinic, Cost of Health Care, Herpes Viruses, Vaccine Studies / 24.09.2015

Phuc Le, Ph.D., M.P.H. Center for Value-Based Care Research, Medicine Institute Cleveland, Interview with: Phuc Le, Ph.D., M.P.H. Center for Value-Based Care Research, Medicine Institute Cleveland, OH  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Phuc Le: The live attenuated herpes zoster vaccine is approved by the FDA for persons aged 50 years and above. However, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends it for only persons aged 60 years and older. Therefore, we aimed to analyze the vaccine’s cost-effectiveness among persons aged 50-59 years to see if ACIP’s recommendation is reasonable. We found that the vaccine is not cost-effective among people at aged 50 years, having an incremental costs of $323,000 per QALY gained, which is 3 times more than a commonly accepted threshold ($100,000/QALY). (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, HIV, NEJM / 06.08.2015

Dr. Salim Abdool Karim at CAPRISA Doris Duke Medical Research Institute South Interview with: Dr. Salim Abdool Karim at CAPRISA Doris Duke Medical Research Institute South Africa Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Globally, Herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2) is among the most common sexually transmitted infections and is the leading cause of genital ulcers. Available global estimates indicate that approximately 417 million sexually active adults between the ages of 15 and 49 years had an existing prevalent HSV-2 infection in 2012. Current interventions to prevent HSV-2 infection, including condoms, circumcision, and antiviral treatment among heterosexual, HSV-2-discordant couples, have demonstrated protection levels ranging from 6% to 48%. This study showed that peri-coital tenofovir gel reduced HSV-2 acquisition in women by 51%, rising to 71% in high gel-users. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Vaccine Studies / 07.03.2015 Interview with: Su-Ying Wen, MD Chief of Department of Dermatology, Taipei City Hospital, Renai Branch, Taipei City, Taiwan Department of Dermatology, Taipei City Hospital, Renai Branch, Taipei City, Taiwan Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Su-Ying Wen: Though herpes zoster is seen as a disease of the elderly, it can affect individuals in any age group including children. There are limited population-based data regarding pediatric herpes zoster. We reported a higher incidence rate of pediatric herpes zoster than in previous studies. The higher incidence observed in this population-based study might be because it was measured in a cohort of children who were all infected with varicella rather than as other reports including individuals free of varicella infection in the denominator. Children younger than 2 years at the diagnosis of varicella had a significantly higher risk and shorter duration of developing herpes zoster. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses / 23.12.2014 Interview with: Professors Lynda A. Morrison, Ph.D. and John E. Tavis, Ph.D. Dept. of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Saint Louis University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO 63104 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A number of viruses use enzymes in the nucleotidyl transferase superfamily (NTS) to carry out their genome replication. These enzymes include the RNaseH and integrase of HIV and the RNaseH of hepatitis B virus (HBV). Herpesviruses also encode proteins with functions that are consistent with NTS enzymes. We therefore tested compounds known or suspected to inhibit the HBV RNaseH for their capacity to reduce herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1 and HSV-2 in cell culture assays. We found that certain compounds from several different chemical families could inhibit HSV replication up to 1 million-fold, and were effective down to concentrations that are already in the same range as existing anti-herpesvirus drugs. Many of the same compounds that inhibited HSV-1 and HSV-2 also inhibited another human herpesvirus, cytomegalovirus. Importantly, we showed that these new inhibitory compounds have a different mechanism of action than acyclovir, a nucleoside analog that is the standard of care. In addition, the new compounds we identified could inhibit the replication of acyclovir-resistant HSV-1 and HSV-2. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Pediatrics / 19.12.2014

Ann J. Melvin MD, MPH Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease Department of Pediatrics Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle, WA Interview with: Ann J. Melvin MD, MPH Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease Department of Pediatrics Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle, WA 98105. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Melvin: While relatively uncommon, neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus is a potentially devastating infection with significant morbidity and mortality.  We reviewed all of the neonatal HSV cases treated at our institution between 1993 and 2012 who had HSV DNA PCR results available from the plasma and/or CSF.  Most of the infants had quantitative PCR results available.  The objective of the study was to determine the clinical correlation of HSV PCR levels in the plasma and CSF.  We found a clear association between the plasma HSV level, clinical presentation and mortality.  All of the infants who died had HSV plasma DNA levels of greater than 7 log10 copies/ml.   However, neither plasma nor CSF HSV levels predicted neurologic outcome.   Clinical evidence of CNS disease was more predictive of neurologic outcome than was the CSF PCR level. We also showed the most sensitive test for diagnosis of neonatal HSV to be HSV PCR on the plasma.  However, no single test diagnostic test (plasma PCR, CSF PCR, surface cultures) was positive across all infants, so it is important to obtain samples from plasma, CSF and surface swabs in infants with symptoms consistent with HSV infection. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Herpes Viruses, Vaccine Studies / 06.08.2014

Sara Tartof, PhD, MPH Post-doctoral research fellow Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Interview with: Sara Tartof, PhD, MPH Post-doctoral research fellow Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Tartof: Our study found that the herpes zoster vaccine continues to be effective in protecting older adults against shingles, even after they undergo chemotherapy. In particular, we found that those patients who were previously vaccinated with the vaccine were 42 percent less likely to develop shingles following chemotherapy treatment. We also found that none of our vaccinated patients underwent hospitalization for shingles, while six unvaccinated patients were hospitalized with the disease. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, HIV, PLoS / 06.07.2014

Dr. Don C. Des Jarlais PhD Director, International Research Core, Center for Drug Use and HIV Research Research Fellow, NDRI Director of Research, Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute, Beth Israel Medical Center Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of MedicineMedicalResearch Interview with: Dr. Don C. Des Jarlais PhD Director, International Research Core, Center for Drug Use and HIV Research Research Fellow, NDRI Director of Research, Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute, Beth Israel Medical Center Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Des Jarlais: HIV infection among non-injecting users of heroin and cocaine doubled doubled over the last several decades, from 7% to 14%. Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) increases both susceptibility to and transmissibility of HIV. We examined HSV-2 infection among non-injecting heroin and cocaine user over the same time period using stored serum samples. HSV-2 infection was strongly related to HIV infection, and both increased over time. We calculated population attributable risk percentages (PAR%) to estimate the extent to which HSV-2 was driving increased HIV infection. HSV-2 infection was responsible for approximately half of the increase in HIV infection (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, HIV / 01.07.2014

Connie Celum, MD, MPH Professor of Global Health and Medicine Director, International Clinical Research Center University of Washington Harborview Medical Center Seattle WA Interview with Connie Celum, MD, MPH Professor of Global Health and Medicine Director, International Clinical Research Center University of Washington Harborview Medical Center Seattle WA  98104 MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Celum: We conducted a randomized, double blind study of daily oral tenofovir and tenofovir combined with emtricitabine (FTC) as oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV among HIV serodiscordant couples (in which onepartner had HIV and the other partner did not) in Kenya and Uganda. Because of recent studies showing that tenofovir gel could reduce the chances of becoming HSV-2 infected, we studied the subset of HIV-uninfected partners who did not have HSV-2 and compared the rates who became HSV-2 infected during follow-up among those  who received oral pre-exposure prophylaxis versus those who received placebo.  We found that oral pre-exposure prophylaxis reduced HSV-2 acquisition by 30%. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Infections, Nature, Pulmonary Disease / 21.11.2013

Gerard Nuovo MD Professor College of Medicine, The Ohio State University Satellite Laboratory, Ohio State Univ Comprehensive Cancer Center Phylogeny Inc, Powell, Interview with: Gerard Nuovo MD Professor College of Medicine, The Ohio State University Satellite Laboratory, Ohio State Univ Comprehensive Cancer Center Phylogeny Inc, Powell, Ohio What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Nuovo: The main finding of the study was that idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis was strongly associated with an infection by a herpesvirus.  The data that supported this main finding included:
  • 1) detection of the viral DNA by in situ hybridization in each case of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and in none of the controls;
  • 2) the localization of the viral DNA to the nucleus of the cell that orchestrates IPF, the regenerating epithelial cell (herpes viruses localize to the nucleus of the target cell);
  • 3) the demonstration that the viral DNA co-localized with "pirated proteins" that the virus makes during productive infection (these were IL-17. cyclin D, dihydrofolate reductase, and thymidylate synthase); this combination of proteins are rarely if ever co-expressed in lung disease and  their co-expression per se was highly suggestive of a viral infection;
  • 4) the demonstration by RTPCR that the cyclin D RNA in IPF comes from the virus and not the human cells;
  • 5) the recognition that this family of herpesviruses (called gammaherpesvirus) causes IPF in other animals including horses, mice, and donkeys;
  • 6) the cloning of part of the gene of the virus from a clinical IPF sample that showed 100% homology to the published sequence of the likely viral pathogen - herpesvirus saimiri. (more…)