What biological properties are characteristic of herpes simplex virus (HSV)?

Updated: Mar 01, 2018
  • Author: Folusakin O Ayoade, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

HSV-1 and HSV-2 are characterized by the following unique biological properties: [1]

  • Neurovirulence (the capacity to invade and replicate in the nervous system)
  • Latency (the establishment and maintenance of latent infection in nerve cell ganglia proximal to the site of infection): In orofacial HSV infections, the trigeminal ganglia are most commonly involved, while, in genital HSV infection, the sacral nerve root ganglia (S2-S5) are involved.
  • Reactivation: The reactivation and replication of latent HSV, always in the area supplied by the ganglia in which latency was established, can be induced by various stimuli (eg, fever, trauma, emotional stress, sunlight, menstruation), resulting in overt or covert recurrent infection and shedding of HSV. In immunocompetent persons who are at an equal risk of acquiring HSV-1 and HSV-2 both orally and genitally, HSV-1 reactivates more frequently in the oral rather than the genital region. On the other hand, HSV-2 reactivates 8-10 times more commonly in the genital region than in the orolabial regions. Reactivation is more common and severe in immunocompromised individuals. [2]

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