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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

UNITED STATES: Herpes Virus Associated with Cognitive Impairment


Medical Xpress (12.06.2013) Aids Weekly Plus

An article in Medical Xpress stated that herpes viruses are associated with cognitive impairment. Researchers from the University of Michigan (U-M) School of Public Health used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to investigate the association between two herpes viruses—herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which causes cold sores, and cytomegalovirus (CMV)—and cognitive impairment in individuals ages 6–16, 20–59, and 60 and older. Findings showed that HSV-1 infection resulted in lower spatial reasoning and reading scores among 12–16-year-olds; impaired coding speed in 20–59-year-olds; and immediate memory impairment in older participants. Researchers also associated CMV with coding speed impairment and learning and recall in middle-aged participants. Amanda Simanek, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and former assistant research scientist at U-M Department of Epidemiology, commented that if HSV-1 impacted cognitive function in the early years, then childhood infection may affect educational achievement and social mobility for life. Simanek explained that the viruses remain in the body in a latent state and can reactivate and attack the central nervous system, causing brain damage. The researchers acknowledged the need for further studies to determine the biological pathways involved in the herpes viruses’ ability to affect cognitive impairment. The full report, “Persistent Viral Pathogens and Cognitive Impairment Across the Lifecourse in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” was published online in the Journal of Infectious Diseases (2013; doi: 10.1093/infdis/jit616).


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Information in this article was accurate in December 12, 2013. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.