Can the herpes virus be permanently eliminated? A new treatment could change everything. Researchers at the Fred Hutch Cancer Institute in Seattle have developed a gene therapy that, when tested on mice, showed impressive results: a 90% elimination of the herpes simplex virus and a 97% reduction in genital herpes.

This discovery could significantly change the treatment of herpes, a stubborn virus responsible for painful and unsightly cold sores. Herpes is particularly difficult to combat because it colonizes nerve cells and can remain dormant for months or even years. When it reactivates, often due to fatigue, stress, or exposure to cold or sunlight, it causes outbreaks of cold sores.

While dormant, the virus is almost undetectable by the immune system, and medications are often ineffective as they can only block its replication and eliminate symptoms, but not the virus itself.

The researchers developed vectors, modified viruses capable of targeting the nerve cells where herpes hides. These vectors carry an enzyme that acts like DNA scissors, cutting the viral DNA at two specific points, making it impossible to repair. This technique is inspired by the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, recognized by a Nobel Prize.

Martine Aubert, co-director of the research team and former PhD student at the University of Nancy, explains that this method reduced the herpes simplex virus in mice by 90% in one month, reducing the risk of transmission. The method destroys the DNA of the virus hidden in our nerve cells without damaging them. The researchers hope to launch clinical trials on humans soon.

Nearly 4 billion people worldwide are affected by the herpes simplex virus type 1. If clinical trials in humans confirm the results obtained in mice, this gene therapy could offer an effective solution against cold sores. However, potential side effects of this therapy on nerves or the liver still need to be evaluated.

The application of gene therapy often raises concerns, but the hope of getting rid of cold sores could significantly improve the lives of patients suffering from them. The promising results of this research on mice represent a potential turning point in the treatment of herpes and a major advancement in gene therapies, which are often subject to prejudice.