Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1; species name Human alphaherpesvirus 1) is best known as the causative agent of cold sores; blisters that appear on the lips or face. Although only occasionally causing symptoms, the infection itself lasts for life. However, this virus is not limited to causing what many may consider an irritating but relatively mild condition.
HSV-1 eye infections are relatively common and potentially serious, as they can permanently affect vision. In the immunocompromised, such as newborn babies, those undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, or AIDS patients, HSV-1 can cause severe or even fatal infections.
In patients at risk of severe complications, infection is treated with antivirals such as acyclovir. However, drug-resistant strains of HSV-1 are becoming more common. Virus resistance to acyclovir in bone marrow transplant patients has been reported to reach 30%.
A team at the National Reference Laboratory at Public Health England isolated a series of HSV-1 viruses from immunocompromised patients undergoing antiviral therapy, and phenotyped them for susceptibility to the antiviral drugs acyclovir, pencyclovir, cidofovir and foscarnet (Karamitros et al, 2016). Crucially, they also succeeded in sequencing and assembling the DNA genomes. This identified several known and also some novel antiviral drug resistance mutations.
These fully-sequenced clinical isolates, with known antiviral susceptibility profiles, have been deposited into the National Collection of Pathogenic Viruses, and will be available from the catalogue before the end of 2018. Access to both the biological material and the full-length genomes will be useful in determining genetic determinants of drug resistance, virulence, pathogenesis and viral evolution. Ultimately this should assist in the development of novel antiviral treatments.
To keep up to date with new virus strains added to the collection, vist the New Viral Strains page.
Karamitros T, Harrison I, Piorkowska R, Katzourakis A, Magiorkinis G, Mbisa JL (2016) De Novo Assembly of Human Herpes Virus Type 1 (HHV-1) Genome, Mining of Non-Canonical Structures and Detection of Novel Drug-Resistance Mutations Using Short- and Long-Read Next Generation Sequencing Technologies. PLoS ONE 11(6): e0157600.
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