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Could today’s younger generation be facing a potential outbreak of herpes from an increased lack of antibodies?
That’s the warning behind a new study and editorial published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, where scientists compared results from two different groups of young people born five years apart.
The data from the first group, which consisted of people who were teens between 1999 and 2004, came from a previous study. The newer sample group consisted of teenagers who were 14 to 19 years of age between 2005 and 2010.
Among the younger group, a quarter fewer participants were found to have antibodies for HSV-1, the herpes strain commonly associated with above the waist breakouts like lip sores.
HSV-1 has become more associated with genital breakouts that were previously only linked to HSV-2. This is, in part, attributed to an overall increase in oral sex.
“A quarter fewer participants were
found to have antibodies for HSV-1.”
The fear doctors have is this considerable reduction in antibodies will cause a surge of young people to spread the virus as more of them become sexually active.
These missing antibodies are typically seen to build up in young people during common childhood exposure. Ironically it is the advancement of people leading more hygienic lives that may have been a culprit here, according to the study.
Dr. David Kimberlin published an editorial in conjunction with the study to warn of the potential increase of newborns infected by the mother. He recommends pregnant women be tested for both viruses, with an antiviral treatment given when needed.
Both herpes viruses are transmitted through either skin-to-skin contact or saliva. While some of those who become infected can experience regularly recurring outbreaks, others only see symptoms once.
Either way, they would still be able to pass along the virus, of which there is no cure.