Frequency Of Cold Sores Is In The Genes

Cold sore frequency tied to genetic variation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's never a nice surprise when a cold sore appears around your lips. But why does this happen to some people more frequently than others?

A new study pinpoints a gene that may be at fault for frequent cold sores. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which infects 70 percent of the US population.

For some, outbreaks resulting in cold sores are rare, but for a third of those infected, outbreaks happen often. If a gene is responsible, targeted treatment could reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

"See a doctor to get treatment for frequent cold sores."

A research team led by Dr. John D. Kriesel, infectious disease specialist at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, evaluated genes that they thought might be related to cold sores.

Their search led them to a gene labeled C21orf 91.The study proposes that C21orf 91 be designated the Cold Sore Susceptibility Gene-1. It is the first gene to be identified for cold sore susceptibility.

In an editorial accompanying the study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Drs. Anthony Cunningham and David Booth write that it is likely that many more genes will be discovered to control variation in HSV-1.

Further research on the gene, and an increasing understanding about what role genetics play in the frequency of cold sores could eventually lead to treatments for people who are genetically predisposed to the virus.

There's no cure for HSV-1, but it can be treated. Antiviral medications can treat an outbreak that has already started, or prevent cold sores altogether.

People with frequent cold sores should try and avoid passing the virus to others, if possible. Don't kiss or touch your cold sores to another person's skin while you have an active outbreak. Avoid sharing things like lip balm or utensils. Staying healthy will make your body less susceptible to an outbreak, and wearing sunblock will help prevent cold sores.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 19, 2011
Last Updated:
November 24, 2011