Viral genetics modulate orolabial HSV-1 shedding in humans

Background: Orolabial herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection has a wide spectrum of severity in immunocompetent persons. To study the role of viral genotype and host immunity, we characterized oral HSV-1 shedding rates and host cellular response, and genotyped viral strains, in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins.

Methods: A total of 29 MZ and 22 DZ HSV-1-seropositive twin pairs were evaluated for oral HSV-1 shedding for 60 days. HSV-1 strains from twins were genotyped as identical or different. CD4+ T-cell responses to HSV-1 proteins were studied.

Results: The median per person oral HSV shedding rate was 9% of days that a swab was obtained (mean, 10.2% of days). A positive correlation between shedding rates was observed within all twin pairs, and in the MZ and DZ twins. In twin subsets with sufficient HSV-1 DNA to genotype, 15 had the same strain and 14 had different strains. Viral shedding rates were correlated for those with the same but not different strains. The median number of HSV-1 open reading frames recognized per person was 16. The agreement in the CD4+ T-cell response to specific HSV-1 open reading frames was greater between MZ twins than between unrelated persons (P = .002).

Conclusion: Viral strain characteristics likely contribute to oral HSV-1 shedding rates.

Ramchandani MS, Jing L, Russell RM, Tran T, Laing KJ, Magaret AS, Selke S, Cheng A, Huang ML, Xie H, Strachan E, Greninger AL, Roychoudhury P, Jerome KR, Wald A, Koelle DM. Viral Genetics Modulate Orolabial Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Shedding in Humans. J Infect Dis. 2019 Mar 15;219(7):1058-1066. PMC6420167.