The study was undertaken to assess the frequency of shedding of HSV-1 DNA in tears and saliva of asymptomatic individuals. While not the first, the researchers report that this study uses the most sensitive techniques in a cross-sectional assessment performed to date of the presence of HSV-1 DNA in the eyes and mouths of healthy individuals, in terms of population size and total samples collected.
The 50 participants, who were recruited from the general population, ranged in age from 19 to 71. Nineteen were male and 31 female. African-Americans comprised 78% of the participants. The participants were asked to provide a blood sample as well as samples from twice daily swabs of their eyes and mouths for 30 consecutive days. Samples were analysed using methods including real-time PCR.
Shedding was intermittent, but overall, 49 participants (98%) shed HSV-1 DNA at least once during the study. Thirty-seven participants (74%) had positive blood test results. Three participants shed HSV-1 DNA in their tears but not their saliva and two had only positive saliva swabs.
"The fact that HSV-1 DNA was discovered in such a high percentage of healthy people in the general population tells us that the virus is everywhere and it's unavoidable," said Dr. Kaufman, who developed the first effective antiviral drug for herpes infections of the eye.
Population demographics play a fundamental role in the prevalence of HSV infections. Predictors include age, stress, socioeconomic status, level of education, age of first intercourse and total years of sexual activity. Also, natural stress factors such as sunlight exposure may have been a contributing factor to HSV-1 DNA shedding. UV exposure is a known trigger to activate latent HSV.
MEDICA.de; Source: Louisiana State University Health Science Center