The Self-Modifying Herpes Simplex Virus

By Alexander Pan

Researchers from Penn State investigated the Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1), which is a common infection that causes genital and oral lesions. To this day, HSV-1 has no cure and can spread easily through sores, saliva, and sex. Since the virus affects millions of people around the world, there are variations of the virus in different regions, implying that the HSV-1 diversifies and evolves. The researchers studied HSV-1 in the samples from a father and son to examine their transmissions. Through the method of genomic sequencing, each virus was investigated in an animal model in order to compare levels of virulence. Animal models were used to provide an environment that affects the virus such as the immune system and the nervous system. The results show that the HSV-1 did not change much when transmitted to related individuals. The HSV-1 between related individuals had similar growth rates and pathology. However, when the viruses were compared between different father-son virus pairs from different geographical regions, the HSV-1 was differentiated between unrelated individuals.  Therefore, this supports the idea that the virus modifies itself in different people from different geographical regions. Moving forward, therapeutics and vaccines should be created based on particular regions to increase effectiveness. Furthermore, researchers plan to study the molecular mechanisms of how the virus changes and modifies itself between unrelated individuals in order to determine a treatment for HSV-1. 


Penn State. (2017, October 20). Exploring how herpes simplex virus changes when passed between family members. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 29, 2017 from

Utsav Pandey, Daniel W. Renner, Richard L. Thompson, Moriah L. Szpara, Nancy M. Sawtell. Inferred father-to-son transmission of herpes simplex virus results in near-perfect preservation of viral genome identity and in vivo phenotypes. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-13936-6