Certain Herpes Viruses Can Infect Human Neurons

Certain Herpes Viruses Can Infect Human Neurons

For years, researchers have noted a tantalizing link between some neurologic conditions and certain species of the herpes virus. In patients with Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and cerebellar ataxia, among other neuropathies, the cerebrospinal fluid teems with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Yet, the nature of that link has remained unclear, as it has been assumed that EBV, as well as other viruses in the same sub-family, called gammaherpesviruses, cannot infect neurons.

Researchers published in mBio that EBV and a related virus, Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), can infect and replicate in both cultured and primary neurons.

Though by no means proving causality, those data do suggest viral infection could underlie at least some of the symptoms of those brain disorders, as well as the potential utility of antiviral drugs as a novel therapeutic strategy.

Several lines of evidence suggested the possibility that gammaherpesviruses could infect brain tissue. First, the viruses are enriched in the cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue of individuals with such conditions as multiple sclerosis (MS) and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, individuals with a history of infectious mononucleosis caused by EBV are more likely to develop MS, while those who have never been infected with EBV are less likely to do so.

Particularly tellingly, the drug acyclovir, which can inhibit EBV and related viruses, has been examined as a potential treatment for MS, with some positive, albeit inconclusive, results.

http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2015/12/robertson/
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