Some research suggests there may be a weak genetic link in the development of shingles. However, a pregnant person cannot transmit shingles to their infant.
Shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox due to infection with the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).
After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus does not leave their body. Instead, it remains in their nervous system. The virus may reactivate later in the person’s life, causing shingles.
This article explores the research around VZV and genetics and whether an infant may acquire the virus while a person is pregnant. It also discusses some potential risk factors associated with shingles.
According to a
For example, a large portion of information about the 1,112 study participants’ family history relied on personal memory, which is not a reliable way to determine genetic risk.
The review results found only a weak connection between shingles risk and genetics. Review authors concluded that those with a family member who had shingles might have a higher risk of developing it themselves, as long as they had chickenpox before.
It is still unclear how this link would cause shingles, although some studies have made suggestions.
Shingles is only transmitted from one person to another through direct contact with the fluid in skin lesions and blisters.
Even if a person does contract VZV from blister fluid, they risk contracting chickenpox. Shingles only develops once the virus reactivates after being inactive in a person’s body for some time following chickenpox.
According to the
However, if a person has shingles lesions on or near the nipple, the CDC advises pumping breast milk from the affected breast and feeding the infant with the unaffected breast to avoid direct contact with the infant’s mouth.
More research into the link between genetics and shingles is needed. However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, proven risk factors that make shingles more likely include:
- Age: People ages 50 years and older get shingles more often than younger people. The risk increases with age. People ages 40 and younger rarely get shingles.
- HIV: This virus weakens the immune system. As such, it can make VZV more likely to flare up.
- Certain types of cancer: Cancers of the immune system, such as leukemia and lymphoma, can increase the risk of shingles.
- Medications that weaken the immune system: People who take medication to avoid rejection of a new organ after transplant surgery, suppress psoriasis, or reduce psoriatic arthritis symptoms may have a greater risk of shingles.
- Other treatments that can weaken the immune system: People receiving chemotherapy to treat cancer might have reduced immune function and a higher risk of shingles.
Some limited studies suggest that shingles may have a weak link to a person’s genetics. However, further research is necessary.
Shingles cannot be transmitted from a pregnant person to their baby during pregnancy. However, if a newborn baby is exposed to fluid from a shingles blister, they may risk contracting chickenpox. Chickenpox is the primary infection that can later reactivate to cause shingles.
Older people and people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of shingles. A person can speak with a doctor to know more about how shingles is transmitted, their individual risk of developing it, and whether shingles vaccination may be appropriate.