04 Apr Could a Herpes Treatment Cure Save the Coral Reefs?
While most people are aware of oral and genital herpes infections in humans, few know that the herpes simplex virus might actually be responsible for the decrease in the world’s coral reef population. The herpes infecting coral reefs is not the exact same virus that infects humans, but outbreaks in both can be triggered by increased stress. Could finding a herpes treatment cure actually save the dying coral reefs?
Unlike humans, coral reefs cannot prevent the spread of the virus by using contraceptives as they reproduce asexually. This might lead one to pose the question “how do you stop something that reproduces asexually from contracting herpes?” Finding a herpes treatment cure might be the only answer.
A Herpes Treatment Cure Might Save the Dying Coral Reefs
“After finding that bacteria from waste water effluent are a major factor in the elkhorn coral die-off in Florida’s coastal waters, researchers are focusing on other pathogens that may be affecting reefs, including viral disease.
One of the surprises from recent research was the predominance in corals of herpes viruses – similar but not identical to the herpes virus that can infect humans. Herpes viruses appear to constitute a majority of the viruses found in corals, and one experiment showed that herpes-like viral sequences were produced in coral tissues after acute episodes of stress.
“We have found that nutrient increases from pollution can cause increased levels of viral infection, as do warmer water and physical handling,” said Rebecca Vega-Thurber, an assistant professor of microbiology at Oregon State University. “Now we have to determine if those increases in infection cause actual diseases that are killing the coral.”
“We were shocked to find that so many coral viruses were in the herpes family,” Vega-Thurber said. “But corals are one of the oldest animal life forms, evolving around 500 million years ago, and herpes is a very old family of viruses that can infect almost every kind of animal. Herpes and corals may have evolved together.”
While there is still no cure for herpes, many suppressive therapy options exist that can control and treat herpes outbreaks. While scientist continue to search for a herpes treatment cure, both herbal and prescription products exist to help make living with herpes easier.
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