OCT 29, 2019 3:33 PM PDT

Immune Protein Prevents Herpes Spreading to the Brain

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

An immune protein that was discovered more than two decades ago has been identified as the primary component of a molecular blockade that prevents genital herpes infections from spreading to the nervous system. Scientists involved in this latest research are hopeful that the findings could someday transform into preventative therapies for genital herpes and other inflammatory diseases.

Genital herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is not to be confused with HSV-1, with is usually characterized as oral herpes and is transmitted by non-sexual means. At least one out of every six people between the ages of 14 and 19 has HSV-2. The disease is transmitted through sexual contact, often even if the person with the virus is not currently experiencing reactivation.

Once infection ensues, the virus spreads to the nervous system where it eventually enters a period of latency. It lives dormantly with periodic reactivations where the infected person experiences genital lesions. New research shows that a specific immune protein is responsible for preventing the virus from continuing through the nervous system and ultimately reaching the brain.

Interleukins are immune proteins vital for relaying cellular messages during the immune response to pathogens. IL-36γ’s role is pro-inflammatory; in 20 years of research, scientists have observed time and time again its role in the inflammatory response during both autoimmunity and pathogenic invasion.

University of Arizona researchers were the first to pinpoint IL-36γ in the female reproductive tract in the context of HSV-2. Most recently, senior author Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz, PhD, explains, they have been evaluating the “extent that this molecule can protect against, or contribute to, genital infection.”

Their study included an experimental group of mice lacking IL-36γ. Without this key immune protein, an HSV-2 infection spread through the nervous system to the brain. In a control group with normal IL-36γ levels, researchers observed “significantly more” protection from HSV-2 neuroinvasion. While the methods by which IL-36γ protects the body from HSV-2 neuroinvasion are still unknown, researchers do know that neutrophil recruitment is part of the story.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oncotarget, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Journal of Immunology

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 01, 2020
Immunology
Immune Cells and MS: The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe
OCT 01, 2020
Immune Cells and MS: The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe
Much like electrical wires that are encased in plastic insulating sheaths, nerve cells also are also surrounded by a sim ...
NOV 05, 2020
Immunology
Immune cells from recovered COVID-19 patients can help protect immunocompromised individuals against infection
NOV 05, 2020
Immune cells from recovered COVID-19 patients can help protect immunocompromised individuals against infection
Our knowledge of COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 is increasing every day, with new research papers published continuously. Resear ...
NOV 06, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
New Vaccine Shows Promise for Herpes
NOV 06, 2020
New Vaccine Shows Promise for Herpes
The World Health Organization estimates that over 500 million people have Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2), a sexuall ...
NOV 19, 2020
Immunology
Parasitic Worms Help Unravel the Immune Mechanisms Underlying Chronic Disease
NOV 19, 2020
Parasitic Worms Help Unravel the Immune Mechanisms Underlying Chronic Disease
Parasitic worms known as helminths have a complicated relationship with the immune systems of the hosts they invade. Ter ...
DEC 09, 2020
Immunology
Antibodies as Warning Signs of a Silent Cardiovascular Killer
DEC 09, 2020
Antibodies as Warning Signs of a Silent Cardiovascular Killer
In atherosclerosis, cholesterol and other fatty deposits build up around the inner walls of an artery, creating a plaque ...
JAN 05, 2021
Immunology
Immune Imbalances Dictate COVID Symptom Severity
JAN 05, 2021
Immune Imbalances Dictate COVID Symptom Severity
COVID symptoms. “As it is often the case for pathogenic infections, the host immune system is a key player in vira ...
Loading Comments...