Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

People Unknowingly Spread Epidemic Of Sexually Transmitted Disease

Date:
March 23, 2000
Source:
University Of Washington
Summary:
A study from the University of Washington published in the March 23 New England Journal of Medicine warns that an epidemic of sexually transmitted disease is likely to continue unless people learn whether they have genital herpes.

A study from the University of Washington published in the March 23 New England Journal of Medicine warns that an epidemic of sexually transmitted disease is likely to continue unless people learn whether they have genital herpes.

Related Articles


An estimated one out of four Americans already has genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), but most of them don't know it. The study overturns a myth and reveals that people who appear asymptomatic -- who likely don't know they have the disease --- are just as likely to be infectious as people who know their diagnosis.

Because the disease can lurk unseen or show only subtle symptoms, it is estimated that only one in five infected people knows that he or she is infected. Someone who does not know can easily transmit the disease to someone else without knowing. In turn, that person could go on to develop painful symptoms, or possibly infect a newborn during birth.

"Previously, many people thought that asymptomatic persons were less likely to shed HSV in the genital area than those with chronic symptoms. That's just not true. Even asymptomatic people shed a lot," says Dr. Anna Wald. She is director of the UW Virology Research Clinic and an assistant professor of allergy and infectious diseases in the UW School of Medicine and of epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

The lesson is that doctors need to start paying attention to people who do not think they have the disease. "At present, the medical and public health communities largely ignore persons who have asymptomatic HSV-2 infection because little information is available as to what is the benefit in identifying such persons," Wald says. "In fact, most HSV-2 infections are acquired from a person with no history of genital herpes infection. In order to prevent the spread of HSV-2 to babies and to sexual partners, we will have to identify and control the infection in people who do not currently realize they have the disease."

Herpes lesions may manifest themselves as blisters, ulcers or crusts on the genital or perianal area, and the buttocks. Genital herpes is a virus that attacks the body through tiny passages in the skin. It is transmitted by sexual contact. HSV can be spread through oral sex if the carrier has a herpes sore on the mouth or genitals.

After the initial infection, genital herpes lurks without symptoms in nerves at the base of the spinal cord. But when it travels along the nerves to the skin, it makes a painful appearance. Symptoms include tingling and burning, and blisters and ulcers in the genital area.

The disease has no cure, but it is not fatal. It can be suppressed with medication, such as acyclovir. Herpes is dangerous because herpes sores allow easier transmission of HIV. Genital herpes can also have serious ramifications during pregnancy, because the baby can become infected.

In the study, scientists found 53 people who had tested positive for HSV-2 but who were unaware that they had the infection, and 90 people who were aware that they had genital herpes. The study of genital secretions over three months found that HSV was being shed in 83 percent who were not aware that they had genital herpes.

The study also reveals that education can help people determine whether they have the disease. As part of the test, people who had tested positive on a blood test, but who had not realized they had the disease, were shown pictures of herpes sores and given explanations of how to recognize the condition. The study found that after three months, 87 percent of them reported they could now recognize the herpes symptoms.

So far, it's been difficult to diagnose HSV-2 by blood tests because older tests confuse it with herpes type 1, which usually causes cold sores. Wald says new blood tests are making easier to diagnose genital herpes. Most people with HSV-2 have mild symptoms, which are easily confused with other conditions.

The study addresses the myth that men are less likely to have asymptomatic shedding, because their sexual anatomy includes more skin than mucosa. The rate of shedding by asymptomatic women and men was about the same for both genders.

Other authors involved in the study are Dr. Lawrence Corey, a UW professor of laboratory medicine and allergy and infectious disease, and a member of the clinical research division of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Dr. Rhoda Ashley, professor of laboratory medicine; Dr. John Krieger, professor of urology; Judith Zeh, UW research associate professor in statistics; Alexander J. Ryncarz and Stacey Selke of the Department of Laboratory Medicine; and Terri Warren of the Westover Heights Clinic in Portland.

The UW Virology Research Clinic has several research programs related to the disease. They are leading a team that will study how health care professionals can help educate people about the disease and prevent it. Wald and colleagues are also testing a new vaccine that might improve conditions for people who have genital herpes. Another vaccine is being tested in people who do not have herpes. And UW scientists are testing what kind of medicine might help prevent transmission of the disease from an infected person to an uninfected partner.

###

People interested in participating in studies relating to HSV-2 can call the UW Virology Research Clinic at (206) 720-4340 or visit the clinic's web site at http://www.depts.washington.edu/herpes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Washington. "People Unknowingly Spread Epidemic Of Sexually Transmitted Disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000323082221.htm>.
University Of Washington. (2000, March 23). People Unknowingly Spread Epidemic Of Sexually Transmitted Disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000323082221.htm
University Of Washington. "People Unknowingly Spread Epidemic Of Sexually Transmitted Disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000323082221.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins