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Teens may be more susceptible to herpes infections than before

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Research has found that due to a lack of antibodies, all age groups and especially teenagers are more likely to contract genital herpes than they were in decades past. The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that today's teens are more likely to be less resistant to herpes simplex virus 1, which can cause genital herpes.

Changes in vulnerability over time
The authors of the study believed that the lower rates of HSV-1 were due to better health and hygienic conditions in the lives of young people in the U.S. While this may seem like a positive occurrence, it also means that teenagers are less likely to have been exposed to HSV-1, which commonly causes cold sores but can also cause genital herpes.

In recent years, HSV-1 has caused a much larger number of genital herpes cases than before, and experts are citing blood tests showing a lack of antibodies for the infection as the cause. While most genital herpes cases were formally caused by herpes simplex virus 2, one of eight strains of the virus, STD tests show that HSV-1 now accounts for approximately 60 percent of all cases, according to LiveScience.

The study found that U.S. adolescents between the ages of 14 and 19 who were tested between 2005 and 2010 were less likely to have antibodies against HSV-1 than people of the same age group who were tested between 1999 and 2004. Antibodies for HSV-1 have fallen about 23 percent for this age group, which means they are more likely to get genital herpes infections from sex later in life.

HSV-1 as a sexually transmitted disease
Experts have cited that HSV-1 has more commonly become an STD than in years past, when it primarily caused cold sores. Now the rates have risen, and some experts believe that there may be a connection between genital herpes infections and evolving sexual practices.

"Every year the proportion of patients who get infected with HSV-1 through oral sex is increasing," Marcelo Laufer, M.D., pediatric infectious disease specialist at Miami Children's Hospital, told Health Day News. "Adolescents who reach that age without being exposed to HSV-1 might, through oral sex, be more susceptible to the infection."

While there is no cure for genital herpes, treatments can help manage the disease. A lab test online can reveal the STD status of those who may have the disease so that proper precautions can be administered.

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