The Age and History of the Herpes Simplex Virus

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Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is ancient. According to a study published in the Journal or Molecular Biology and Evolution, HSV 1 strain is over 6 million years old. The other strain is significantly younger. HSV 2 is contracted in humans from chimpanzees over 1.6 million years ago.

HS2-virus-300x225 The Age and History of the Herpes Simplex Virus
The Herpes simplex 2 (HS 2) virus.

This means that the virus has been a part of our lives before we were even human. And it’s a strong virus. According to a study published in the Journal of American Chemical Society found that a DNA in a virus like this is so tightly packed and under high pressure.

This high pressure allows the virus to inject the DNA into a host cell. It then turns the cell into a virus-making factory, turning out more copies of itself. Since the virus never goes away, herpes is in constant battle with your immune system.

Most of the time, your immune system is winning as the virus is latent and dormant in your nerve cells. Well, maybe not entirely dormant according to research done by the Australian National University. Researchers found that the virus is active most of the time, but our immune cells are constantly pushing it down.

HS1-virus The Age and History of the Herpes Simplex Virus
The Herpes simplex 1 (HS 1) virus

And since HSV is an old virus, it evolves some tricks of its own. HSV 1 rearranges its telomeres according to a study published in the Journal Cell Reports. Telomeres are the caps on our DNA often compared to the plastic tips of your shoelaces.

These are pretty much the same function. They keep the strands of DNA from fraying. The virus attacks telomeres in a few ways but it degrades a protein called TPP1. When this protein is inhibited, the virus is better able to replicate itself.

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