The findings of this study suggest that the herpesvirus HHV-6 could infect brain cells and cause cognitive and mood disorders.
(Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is a set of two closely related herpes viruses known as HHV-6A and HHV-6B. HHV-6B infects nearly 100% of human beings, typically before the age of three and often results in fever, diarrhea, sometimes with a rash known as roseola.)
Prusty also explains that the results of the study contradict the belief that latent viruses — that is, viruses thought to be inactive, laying dormant in organs and tissues — are completely harmless.
“Studies like ours prove this thinking as wrong,” says Prusty, who points to the mounting evidence that shows that human herpesviruses may cause other neurological conditions.
A much higher number of these viruses were found in the brains of people who had lived with the disease. Another study that we covered offered “the first population evidence for a causal link between herpes virus infection and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Next, Prusty and his colleagues plan to study the molecular mechanisms that could explain exactly how HHV-6A damages Purkinje cells, and how this could lead to psychiatric disorders.