Herpes may cause blindness

Recently, the researchers from Immunology Centre, University of Georgia State have determined that one of herpes types may cause the disease, known as neovascular senile macular degeneration (SMD), in its turn capable of causing blindness among elderly people.

The researchers discovered that human cytomegalovirus, one of the subtypes of herpes virus, causes the development of endothelial growth factor, special protein, which regulates the formation of new blood vessels in different parts of our body.

When new blood vessels are formed, tissue destruction occurs in retina that causes the development of SMD and,finally, loss of sight and blindness.

It is interesting that the scientists for the first time managed to correlate SMD with an infectious component, as earlier traditionally the causes of the development of this disease remained an enigma for the scientists. Meanwhile, doctors blamed, as a rule, genetics, smoking and diet with high oil content for the development of SMD.

Moreover, the scientists warn – simple precautionary and disinfection measures against human cytomegalovirus may be ineffective, as nowadays, according to different estimations up to 15% of the world population may suffer from this disease. Meanwhile, 80% of people have antibodies to this virus, and when getting into the body, that often happens in a young age, this subtype of herpes virus, repressed by the immune system, passes into stage of latency.

At the same time the virus may hide in the cells of human bone marrow for decades, however not doing the slightest harm to the health of a human, and not passing to people being in contact with him/her. However, in an old age, when the functions of immune system weaken, the virus “becomes free” and starts to propagate actively.

The researchers say that this important discovery will allow to prevent significant number of cases of blindness among elderly people, as by early treatment using immunomodulators or through exposure of a range of drugs, such as ganciclovir,  to the virus we may considerably limit its activity in an organism. Gene therapy is also quite long-range. The researchers say that at the exposure to particular genes, they could help immune system not only to suppress, but also to eliminate herpes virus when it gets into the organism.