Herpes is a word that is signals fear and a lifelong tale of infection, pain, shame and misery. So far, there is no known cure for herpes, and anyone who does contract herpes will just have to deal with the matter. There are 24 million people in the United States of America who suffer from genital herpes. However, recent developments in research shows that there may be, in fact, an actual prevention for herpes.
Doctors are constantly studying how herpes works in the body and what prevention mechanism the body takes in order to control it. On this certain case researchers are more interested in the kind of measures the immune system makes to stop the herpes virus from spreading. This is done by taking skin samples from those who are affected by herpes and have sores that are healing or skin that are not completely affected.
Doctors used to think that the herpes virus would travel from the nerve cell to the tip, causing painful sores at the skin. Since antibodies are not always available in every patient’s body, this case would be generally unhindered by anything from the immune system. However, they were in for a surprise.
After taking the skin samples, putting in the fluorescent stain and putting the sample under a powerful microscope, the doctors discovered a variety of cells with the immune system has to curb any virus outbreak. Their attention, in order to create a herpes vaccine, moved to a particular type of cell called CD8 killer T cells.
More About CD8 killer T cells
- CD8 killer T cells do not work like the ordinary white blood cells.
They do not produce antibodies which deactivate the body of the foreign particle. CD8 killer T cells do exactly what they were named for- they kill the virus infected cells in the body.
- CD8 cells are discovered to be around the skin, guarding the nerve ends, from where the herpes virus usually appears and creates painful sores.
Viruses work differently from other microorganisms. Viruses replicate by entering the cell of the host body; then the virus takes over the nucleus, and programs the cell to create copies of the virus, after which the virus copies burst out of the now very dead cell.
- The CD8 killer T cells are thought to be the second base of protection in the body.
If the cell is infected by viruses, the CD8 killer T cells release perforin, a chemical that instantly kills the cell in the body so that it can no longer create copies of the virus. Thus, the number of viruses do not increase. Researchers tested this phenomenon by placing CD8 killer T cells in an area with no herpes virus, and it did not release perforin, thus keeping the cells around t intact.
- The CD8 killer T cells are capable of more than just killing off infected cells.
Researchers observed that CD8 cells can release chemicals that will summon other CD8 cells to come to the scene of crime where the viruses are being fought.
- CD8 killer T cells are also capable of remaining on the skin for an extended period of time.
To add more, CD8 killer T cells also show signs of keeping memory, where it can recognize different types of infections.
- Unlike many other immune cells, the CD8 killer T cells are known to exist in the skin, especially on the nerve endings where the herpes virus usually breaks out from.
Since the patients being observed are herpes patients, this is the only form of behavior observed so far from the CD8 cells. In fact, doctors have discovered that the CD8 cells usually do a pretty good job in keeping the viruses at bay. The outbreaks, compared to the curbing that the CD8 does, are few and exceptional cases.
So are CD8 killer T cells the magical solution and prevention for genital herpes? Researchers have advised to not keep our hopes up too high. There is still very little known of the CD8 cells and what they are capable of. So, while we can sit and dream of a world where herpes is not a major threat, science has a long way to go to make CD8 cells the new penicillin.