About Herpes Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a herpes virus. The disease is characterized by the formation of fluid-filled, painful blisters in the genital area.
Causes and Symptoms There are several different kinds of human herpes viruses. Only two of these, herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2), can cause herpes. HSV-2 is most often responsible for genital infections. HSV-1 usually causes oral herpes, but it can also cause genital herpes about 10-30% of the time.
While the herpes virus can infect anyone, not everyone will show symptoms. Risk factors include early age at first sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, and a medical history of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The first symptoms of a primary herpes infection usually occur within two to seven days after contact with an infected person but may take up to two weeks. Symptoms of a primary infection are usually more severe than those of recurrent infections. For up to 70% of people, a primary infection causes general symptoms such as tiredness, headache, fever, chills, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and painful, swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are greatest during the first three to four days of the infection and disappear within a week.
Most people with genital herpes experience prodromes, or symptoms of the oncoming disease. This might entail pain, burning, itching, or tingling at the site on the genital area, legs, or buttocks where blisters will form. The prodrome stage may occur anywhere from a few hours, to one or two days before an outbreak of the infection. Following that, small red bumps appear. These bumps quickly become fluid-filled blisters that may also fill with pus, and become covered with a scab. The blisters may burst and become painful sores. Blisters may continue to erupt for a week or longer. Pain usually subsides within two weeks, and the blisters and sores heal without scarring by three to four weeks. It is possible to pass the virus to other parts of the body by touching an open sore and then bringing the fingers into contact with the mouth, the eyes, or a break in the skin. The highest risk for spreading the herpes virus is the time during the appearance of blisters up to the formation of scabs. However, an infected person can spread herpes virus to other people even in the absence of sores.
Women can experience a very severe and painful primary herpes infection. In addition to the vaginal area, blisters often appear on the clitoris, at the urinary opening, in the rectum and around the anus, and on the buttocks and thighs. The cervix is almost always involved, causing a watery discharge. About one in 10 women get a vaginal yeast infection as a complication of herpes. In men, the herpes blisters usually form on the penis but can also appear on the scrotum, thighs, around the anus, and in the rectum. Men may also have a urinary discharge with a genital herpes infection. Both men and women may experience painful or difficult urination, swelling of the urethra, meningitis, and throat infections, with women experiencing these symptoms more often than men.
Last year, Michal Margalith, a researcher from US based biopharmaceutical company Vical, say they have developed a vaccine involving the DNA of the virus. The treatment involves injecting the patient with a circular piece of DNA called a plasmid.
This plasmid programs cells to produce HSV-2 proteins. These proteins trigger an immune response allowing the immune system of the infected person to fight off the virus. Experiments have managed to trigger an immune response from mice but it may still be a long time before we see this type of DNA-based vaccine approved for human use.
While steps toward formulating a herpes cure are moving forward, scientists still feel it will be several more years before we will be able to reap the fruits of these different research efforts. Meanwhile, prevention still remains the best cure against genital herpes. Reference: