More than 10 million Americans suffer from oral herpes, a virus that causes painful cold sores, but a cure may be around the corner.
A team of researches in Seattle believe they have found a cure, and their discovery could also pave the way to eradicating genital herpes too.
Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson cancer center located have succeeded in eliminating 90% of the virus through gene therapy or gene editing, as described by Dr. Keith Jerome, who is the team’s leader.
According to the New York Post, the team’s findings were published on Tuesday in Nature Communications.
“A lot of smart scientists have been really hesitant to think about a cure. To them, a cure was like selling snake oil. It just wasn’t a realistic goal,” Jerome told The Post. “Now, they’re talking about a cure.”
Jerome told the Post that researchers used tiny enzymes, transported through the body in harmless viruses, in order to cut the herpes DNA.
Initially, the virologist’s team started experiments on infected mice a decade ago, they used only one kind of enzyme and found that sliced genes could heal themselves.
Throughout the years, they discovered that combinations of enzymes, also known as “molecular scissors” could rip the herpes virus to shreds and prevent it from regenerating.
The team is hoping to wipe out oral herpes, which is prevalent among two-thirds of the world’s population of those under the age of 50. It’s also seeking to end genital herpes, which afflicts roughly 500 million people across the globe between the ages of 15-49, the World Health Organization estimates.
Jerome and his team’s discovery is said to be nothing short of a medical breakthrough by infectious disease expert Anthony Nicola, an ex-Brooklynite who conducts research at Washington State University.
“We’re scientists. We approach everything with caution, but there’s a lot of cautious optimism… for a cure,” Nicola told The Post. “This is really exciting. There’s something really new here.”