DEC 06, 2015 2:30 PM PST

Can Herpes Infect the Brain?

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
New research from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that herpesviruses might play a role in brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s disease patients is filled with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and those with a history of mononucleosis (caused by EBV) are more likely to develop MS.  What’s more, the antiviral drug acyclovir has been investigated as a treatment for MS.  Aside from these findings, no clear links between gammaherpesviruses and brain disorders have been found.
 
Herpesvirus particles such as these can infect human neurons.

To determine whether herpesviruses could even infect neurons, University of Pennsylvania researchers modified EBV and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) to produce green fluorescent protein (GFP).  They observed GFP-labeled virus in both human neuroblastoma cells and primary human fetal neurons.  According to study author Erle Robertson, "after 50 years of studying EBV, nobody had ever seen the virus in nerve cells. But maybe they just never looked".  GFP-labeled virus was also found in the culture medium, indicating that the virus underwent a lytic infection in the neurons. 

Gammaherpesviruses typically undergo lytic infection in fibroblasts and epithelial cells where they replicate until the host cell bursts, releasing virus particles.  They can, however, establish a latent infection in B cells.  During latent infection, the viruses incorporate their double-stranded DNA genomes into the host cell genome.

According to Robertson, this data indicates that “there’s likely to be association of this virus with neurons … but more studies will be necessary to know whether it is actually associated with disease pathology”.   

Sources: Eurekalert, Wikipedia
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
AUG 13, 2020
Immunology
Antibiotics Now, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Later
AUG 13, 2020
Antibiotics Now, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Later
Taking a course of antibiotics as a baby has been linked to a spiked risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease in ad ...
AUG 24, 2020
Microbiology
Microbes That Live on Air Alone Found Outside of Antarctica
AUG 24, 2020
Microbes That Live on Air Alone Found Outside of Antarctica
In 2017, researchers reported that they had identified microbes in Antarctica that could basically survive on only air. ...
AUG 27, 2020
Microbiology
Underground Microbes Use an Ancient Form of Energy Production
AUG 27, 2020
Underground Microbes Use an Ancient Form of Energy Production
Organisms rely on a biological fuel known as ATP, which provides the energy for many processes. In cellular respiration, ...
OCT 18, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
'Silent' Mutations Might Have Given SARS-CoV-2 an Edge
OCT 18, 2020
'Silent' Mutations Might Have Given SARS-CoV-2 an Edge
The pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 is thought to have originated in bats, like many viruses. To make the leap and infect anot ...
NOV 08, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Drug-Resistant Microbes Persist in Hospitals After Deep Cleaning
NOV 08, 2020
Drug-Resistant Microbes Persist in Hospitals After Deep Cleaning
Researchers have found that drug-resistant bacteria can hang around even after deep cleaning. They used genome sequencin ...
NOV 15, 2020
Neuroscience
Researchers Confirm Link Between Alzheimer's and Gut Bacteria
NOV 15, 2020
Researchers Confirm Link Between Alzheimer's and Gut Bacteria
Researchers from the University of Geneva in Switzerland have confirmed the link between an imbalance of gut bacteria an ...
Loading Comments...