Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

The immune response of HSV resistance

Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is a common sexually transmitted disease that generally establishes a lifelong latent infection with periods of reactivation, often with genital ulcers. Previous work by VIDI scientists found a small group of people who had been exposed to HSV-2, but managed to stave off infection. These people, dubbed “immune seronegative” by the researchers, had immune responses to HSV-2 in the absence of detectable virus or clinical symptoms of genital herpes.

To better understand how this group managed to resist HSV-2 infection, VIDI staff scientist Dr. Christine Posavad and colleagues took a closer look at their cellular immune responses to the virus as compared to the responses in HSV-2 infected people. The researchers looked at 22 immune seronegative people who were in relationships with HSV-2 positive people. Using blood samples from the participants, the scientists looked at T cell responses to different HSV-2 proteins. They found that the immune seronegative people tended to respond to different proteins than HSV-2 positive people.  Specifically, immune seronegative people made responses to HSV-2 proteins produced at early stages of viral infection, but not to virus proteins present during later stages of infection, suggesting that this HSV-2 resistant population may be able to block the virus from progressing past early infection.

Detailed characterization of T cell responses to herpes simplex virus-2 in immune seronegative persons.   Posavad CM, Remington M, Mueller DE, Zhao L, Magaret AS, Wald A, Corey L.  J Immunol. 2010 Mar 15;184(6):3250-9.