Even though the virus affects so many people, there’s still no known herpes cure. But scientists are constantly working to find it. According to one study, they might need to look at specialized immune cells of the skin for a solution.
The Anti-Herpes Patrol Cells
As part of the study, the authors focused on the CD8 cells in the skin, also known as killer T-cells. These cells destroy other cells affected by the virus, thus preventing it from spreading.
Until now, scientists believed that CD8 cells travel through the body, looking for traces of the virus. But according to the findings, they don’t. In fact, they remain in place around nerve endings as a line of defense against viruses. They observe the area and activate as soon as they detect a potential threat.
The CD8 cells destroy virus-infected cells by producing a protein known as perforin. The researchers found that they only do so in the infected skin. In the absence of virus threats, the cells remain dormant. They also produce other chemicals that attract more cells to help them fight the virus.
How This Could Lead to a Herpes Cure
Once a person contracts herpes, the virus remains in their body for the rest of their life. When triggered, it travels up the nerves and causes an outbreak on the skin. This study shows that the outbreaks aren’t a necessity. In fact, the CD8 cells can keep the virus in check on their own. As such, CD8 cell-focused vaccines could be the herpes cure scientists have been looking for all these years.
But there’s still a lot to learn before such vaccines become a reality. For one, scientists need to figure out how to boost the number of these cells. Also, there’s no proof that increasing their number will help them do a more efficient job. Finally, there’s still no proof that CD8 cells could have the same effect on cold sores.
The researchers are very optimistic about the outcome of further studies. After all, this is the closest they’ve ever come to finding a herpes cure. If everything pans out, a powerful anti-herpes drug might become readily available in the near future.