Experts have warned that the cold sore virus, or the herpes simplex virus, can be transmitted to unborn babies and harm their brains.
New research found that the type of herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) can be transmitted to the fetus during a mother’s pregnancy, and may contribute to many developmental disabilities and long-term neurological problems, according to scientists at Wuhan University, China.
Usually, cold sore virus (HSV-1) is not harmful to adults but is already known to be fatal for children with weakened immune systems.
It can quickly spread to children’s brains and cause multiple organ failure, and ultimately death.
The researchers behind the study, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, wanted to understand more about how HSV-1 affects fetuses.
Until now, studies in this area have been hampered by restricted access to the human brain tissue of the fetus, said researchers Bo Chen and Ying Wu.
To address this knowledge gap, the researchers created three different models of cell-based neurodevelopmental disorder, including a two-dimensional layer of cells and a three-dimensional brain-like structure.
These models are based on induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), which are created by reprogramming genetically specialized adult cells.
Their modeling revealed that HSV-1 infection in these cells resulted in cell death in addition to impaired production of new neurons.
It also simulates the pathological features of neurodevelopmental disorders in the human fetus’ brain, including abnormalities in brain structure.
The 3D model also showed that HSV-1 infection promotes the abnormal proliferation of non-neuronal cells called microglia, along with the activation of inflammatory molecules.
According to the research team, the results open new therapeutic methods to target the viral reservoirs related to neurodevelopmental disorders.
They added, “This study provides new evidence that HSV infection impairs human brain development and contributes to the neurodevelopmental disorder hypothesis.”
Studies of neonatal herpes when a newborn baby is infected with the virus are often more comprehensive. It is understood that the younger the child, the more likely he is to be infected with the herpes virus.
The child is more susceptible to infection with the virus in the first four weeks of life, and it can be transmitted in one of two main ways:
1. During pregnancy and childbirth
If a mother has genital herpes for the first time in the last six weeks of pregnancy, her baby is at risk.
2. After birth
The virus can be transmitted to a child through a cold sore if someone who has the virus or becomes infected with it soon, kisses the infant.
It can also be transmitted through blisters on the breasts of an HSV-1 infected mother who is breastfeeding her baby.
Source: The Sun