Study Finds Specific Gene Linked to Cold Sore Susceptibility
OCT. 28, 2011 - Investigators have identified a human chromosome containing a specific gene associated with
susceptibility to herpes simplex labialis (HSL), the common cold sore. Published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases and now
available online, the study looks at how several genes may affect the severity of symptoms and frequency of this common
infection. The findings, if confirmed, could have implications for the development of new drugs to treat outbreaks.
HSL outbreaks, or cold sores, are skin infections that appear with the reactivation of herpes simplex virus, a
virus that infects 70 percent of the U.S. population. Cold sore outbreaks vary in frequency and severity; some people may experience
symptoms rarely, only once every 5 to 10 years, while others may experience them once a month or even more frequently. In addition to
investigating environmental activating factors (e.g., sunlight) that may play a role in outbreaks, researchers for some time have
been looking at the possible role of genetic factors in virus susceptibility and activation.
This study, led by John D. Kriesel, MD, and colleagues from the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City
and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, follows previous studies identifying a region of chromosome 21 as a
base for genes possibly linked to cold sore outbreaks. To identify which of six possible genes in this region were associated
with the frequency of outbreaks, this latest study used single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping in genome-wide,
family-based linkage studies of 618 people from 43 large families. The investigators found a positive link
between the frequency of outbreaks, hereditability, and the presence of a specific gene, C21orf91, on chromosome 21.
"While these findings await confirmation in a larger, unrelated population," the study authors note, "these
findings could have important implications for the development of new drugs that affect determinants of the cold sore phenotype."
In an accompanying editorial, Anthony L. Cunningham, MD, and David Booth, MD, of the Centre for Virus Research and the Institute of
Immunology and Allergy Research at Westmead Millennium Institute and the University of Sydney in Australia, note that if the findings
regarding the C21orf91 gene are confirmed, additional research may then begin to determine possible therapeutic applications and
whether the same gene also plays a role in recurring genital herpes.
C21orf91 Genotypes Correlate With Herpes Simplex Labialis (Cold Sore) Frequency: Description of a Cold Sore Susceptibility Gene
The First Common Cold Sore Susceptibility Gene
Founded in 1904, The Journal of Infectious Diseases is the premier publication in the Western Hemisphere for original research on
the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases; on the microbes that cause them; and on disorders of host immune
mechanisms. Articles in JID include research results from microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and related disciplines. JID is
published under the auspices of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Based in Arlington, Va., IDSA is a
professional society representing more than 9,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases.
For more information, visit www.idsociety.org .
"Reproduced with permission - "Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)"
Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)