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Vol. LXIII, No. 19
September 16, 2011

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New Thinking on Herpes Is Subject of Straus Lecture

Dr. Lawrence Corey
Dr. Lawrence Corey

At NIAID’s fourth annual Stephen E. Straus Memorial Lecture on Infectious Diseases, Seattle-based researcher Dr. Lawrence Corey will describe research that is changing conventional wisdom about herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection. “Life Below the Belt and the Pathogenesis of HSV Infection: The Politics Are Mucosal,” will be presented on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 3 p.m. in Bldg. 40, Rm. 1201/1203.

For more than 50 years, most scientists have believed that HSV type 2, which causes genital herpes and severe herpesvirus infections in newborns and people with compromised immune systems, established itself in sacral nerve root ganglia located at the base of the spine and that reactivation of latent infection was determined largely by processes inside the infected nerves. It was also generally accepted that reactivation, while rare, invariably led to sores in genital tissues. Corey will describe research that is causing experts to revise previous models of HSV-2 reactivation.

For example, recent data suggest that infected people shed HSV-2 nearly daily but experience no clinical symptoms. Moreover, a pronounced role for immune cells in the genital mucosa is beginning to be discerned. Data modeling suggests that because of this mucosal immunity, less than 15 percent of HSV-2 reactivations result in genital ulcers. This emerging picture gives reason for optimism that immunological approaches to genital herpes therapy are within reach.

Corey is president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and professor of medicine and laboratory medicine at the University of Washington. An expert in virology and vaccine development, his research is focused on herpes viruses, HIV and other viral infections, including those associated with cancer. Corey is also principal investigator for the NIAID-sponsored HIV Vaccine Trials Network.

The lecture series honors Dr. Stephen Straus, who served NIAID for 30 years as a lab chief and senior investigator, continuing in the latter role after his appointment as the first director of NCCAM.—Anne A. Oplinger NIHRecord Icon

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