Now that a group of researchers has discovered how cold sores activate themselves, many believe that, in the very near future, they may also discover how to completely eradicate the virus that causes them.
Usually appearing as painful and ulcerated lesions around the mouth, cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, also known as HSV1. This particular virus often lies in a dormant or latent state in a nerve of the face called the trigeminal nerve, until it is reactivated by sunlight, a stressful situation or a high fever.
A number of medications are currently prescribed to treat cold sores, including one called acyclovir. Although these medications shorten the duration of an episode, they are powerless in helping the system rid itself of HSV1, because this virus cannot be destroyed while it is in a dormant state.
It was while studying the interactions between the various molecular substances produced by this virus that a group of researchers came to understand the molecular mechanism that allows the virus to go into hiding and then reappear periodically. One of the substances produced by HSV1, the latency associated transcript RNA, blocks the formation of the protein that activates the virus and triggers its replication. In stressful situations however, the virus actually produces more messenger RNAs that activate the virus, than it does substances that block its activation. This is how HSV1’s replication is triggered.
The researchers believe that this breakthrough could soon lead to a curative treatment for cold sores. The treatment would entail activating the virus artificially, and subsequently eradicating it by administering acyclovir. Acyclovir is an effective medication that is able to destroy the HSV1 herpes virus while it is in replication mode. The nasty cold sore could finally be a thing of the past. Good news for everyone who has ever had to deal with these unsightly and painful sores!