Herpes is an infection that results from one of two types of herpes simplex virus. The symptoms may appear as oral herpes or genital herpes. Herpes can hide in the nerve cells for a long time before activating, which makes finding a cure challenging. There is currently no cure, but research on vaccines is ongoing.
Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) typically causes oral herpes but
Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is a more common cause of genital herpes. A person might acquire HSV-2 through genitalia to genitalia contact, genitalia to mouth contact, or other forms of sexual contact.
Infection with HSV is very common. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that roughly
This article reviews the reasons there is no cure for herpes, the progress on developing a cure, and the current treatment options.
Researchers have conducted several clinical trials investigating vaccines against herpes infection, but no commercially available vaccine is currently available.
Experts suggest that even if antiviral drugs destroy the active parts of the infection, it only takes a small amount of the virus to hide in the nerve cells and become dormant for the herpes virus to continue persisting in the body.
To find a treatment, scientists need to understand further the mechanism that enables the infection to hide. By learning more about this mechanism, they might be able to tackle the whole infection.
Some medications may reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms and lower the chances of passing the infection on to others. Current antiviral medications to treat herpes include:
Acyclovir is typically the
For people with severe infections or compromised immune systems, the doctor may prescribe intravenous (IV) acyclovir. Possible side effects of acyclovir may impact the central nervous system or gastrointestinal tract, which runs from the mouth to the anus.
People with high levels of stress or trauma may experience more frequent recurrences of herpes. In this case, a doctor may advise psychotherapy and counseling.
Some home remedies, such as petroleum gel or essential oils, may alleviate the discomfort that herpes lesions cause, but they will not help reduce viral load.
Click here to learn more about the best home remedies for herpes.
A person can transmit HSV-1 when they have no symptoms. However, they are most contagious during an outbreak.
People with an HSV-2 infection can transmit genital herpes while experiencing no symptoms. HSV-2 is most contagious during an outbreak of sores.
Pregnant people with symptoms of genital herpes should speak to a doctor, as there is a risk of neonatal herpes.
Neonatal herpes is where a pregnant person passes the infection on to their fetus before, during, or immediately after delivery. It is
Clinical trials are underway to search for an effective treatment. A new drug called pritelivir is currently undergoing clinical trials as a treatment for herpes symptoms. Experts believe pritelivir may be a useful alternative for people who cannot take acyclovir.
The researchers expressed hope that current developments of the mRNA vaccines due to COVID-19 may help in finding a solution sooner.
The following sections provide answers to frequently asked questions about herpes.
Is herpes contagious forever?
Herpes is a lifelong infection that has periods of flares or outbreaks and remission. A person can pass herpes to their partner at any time, though they
Is there any hope for a cure for herpes?
Medication has come a long way in helping to suppress herpes, and a cure may be possible in the future. According to a 2020 study looking at the effect of adeno-associated virus (AAV)-delivered meganucleases on mice, researchers were able to eliminate
How do I know if I have herpes?
Symptoms typically appear within
In some cases, a person may not realize they have it. However, if they experience any symptoms related to herpes, they should ask all of their recent sexual partners if they have or may have oral or genital herpes.
If an infection is possible, a person should consider seeing their doctor for diagnosis and testing.
HSV causes herpes and can affect the mouth or genitals. There is currently no cure for the virus, but treatments exist that can reduce the symptoms and infectiousness of the disease.
Scientists are researching vaccines or compounds that might cure herpes. However, there currently is no vaccine that can help prevent the spread of herpes, so a person should use appropriate protection and precautions when engaging in sexual activity with others.