Herpes can be good for the immune system, some think, and here's why.
If you know just one thing about Herpes viruses it's probably that once you get infected by one you have it for life which obviously stinks in many ways after all these viruses are behind things like mono chicken pox and shingles infectious blindness and even some cancers, but it turns out that they might also be kind of good for you having herpes may protect you from things that have nothing to do with herpes like the plague and that's because herpes virus infections do something immunologists have only recently realized was even possible they train your first line immune defenses.
In defenses now we've known for a very long time that the human immune system can remember pathogens and launch a better counter assault if they dare show up again that's thanks to the Adaptive immune system the arm of the immune system that includes things like antibodies those y-shaped molecules that glom onto viruses in the like taking them out of commission, but apparently your innate immune system can learn from experiences as well that's the arm of the immune system that spots infectious agents to begin with and takes a first stab at kicking them to the curb.
For more than a century, scientists didn't think it could remember anything, let alone use that memory to adapt how it responds to threats. It's right there in the names innate versus adaptive, in fact the idea it can remember and adapt is so new that the term for it trained immunity was only proposed in 2011.
The innate immune system doesn't remember specific attackers like the Adaptive immune system does basically it just remembers that bad guys exist and that they could come after you at any time like they've done before, but this is probably enough to alter how well you fight off a potentially deadly infection and apparently one way to get this trained immunity is with a Little Help From a herpes virus which is a weirdly constructive way to think about herpes.
Herpes viruses are members of the purpose Verity family, eight of which infect humans, and they're everywhere. The odds of you getting at least one in your lifetime is pretty high and two thirds of young people in the world probably have herpes simplex, one for instance the virus behind cold sores and some cases of genital herpes.
They'll have it forever because herpes viruses can do something few viruses can't - they can hunker down inside cells and remain dormant for long periods of time, which is known as latency, and this is where the immune training idea comes in.
Studies suggest that while herpes viruses are hanging out in their hosts they can help the immune system fight off deadlier pathogens - while latent infections generally aren't attacked like active ones they don't go totally unnoticed by your immune system so because they're there, and your innate immune system essentially keeps its bouncers on high alert that high alert state is your trained immunity and experimental research in my suggests it could save your life.
In a 2007 study, researchers exposed mice to two different bacteria monocytogenes which causes very serious foodborne infections of herpes viruses were resistant of infection, so before the virus had been established. Some weren't resistant to the pathogens that's all in mice of course and scientists haven't definitively proven that infections in humans similarly lead to better defenses against other pathogens because we don't generally infect people with deadly pathogens just to prove their herpes as protecting them, but there are clues that human herpes viruses can first similar benefits like when researchers looked at the immune cells of people with latent infections of the herpes virus CMV they saw changes consistent with trained immunity specifically they found differences in the participants natural killer cells.
Immune cells named natural killers because they recognize and kill infected cells in infected participants these cells produced more interferon gamma, a protein which helps your immune system to keep an eye out for trouble and researchers think a heightened state of vigilance could last up to a few years after latent infection starts so well herpes viruses hide in our bodies they may also help those bodies stay alive longer - a frenemy with benefits kind of situation.
From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense for the virus too, since it can't replicate inside dead cells. Trained immunity may not always be a good thing researchers think that it could go awry and lead to autoimmunity the immune system attacking a person's own tissues still it's probably pretty useful a lot of the time and further research on the phenomenon could really help people like eventually studying herpes could teach scientists how to give people trained immunity without the viral infection in fact some preliminary research suggests certain vaccines are already doing this we just need to take a closer look to figure out how and this could mean we can finally get a jump on some of our more persistent foes and hey since most people are stuck with these viruses anyhow it's nice to know that there are some upsides.
Do you have herpes? Is it good to have for immunity being trained?
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