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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Family stress a factor in herpes reactivation

Researchers at the UW-Madison Waisman Center recently published a paper outlining the effects of family stress on the reactivation of herpes virus strains in adolescents. 


Collaborators on the study included Elizabeth Shirtcliff, a former postdoctoral fellow at UW-Madison, psychology professor Christopher Coe and Seth Pollak, director of the Child Emotion Laboratory. 


It's a good example of interdisciplinary collaborative research, this coming together of different interests and expertise,"" Coe said. 


According to Coe, the study focused on measuring Wisconsin adolescents' family environment and its effect on their immune health.  


""We wanted to know whether specifically [the adolescents] had the herpes virus '¦ and whether the virus was more likely to be activated based on their familial environment,"" he said.  


The study compared adolescents between the ages of 9 and 14 who came from typical family atmospheres, adopted teenagers and teenagers who experienced neglect or abuse in their families.  


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Coe said though viruses like the flu could occur only once in an individual's body, the herpes virus never goes away, but it may be dormant. 


""So if you are having a lot of stress, these cold sores can reactivate,"" he said. 


According to the paper, ""most individuals have been exposed to several different herpes viruses."" 


Coe said cold sores, mononucleosis and the chicken pox are all strains of the herpes virus. Researchers found that any of these strains can reactivate because of acute stress.  


According to Coe, active athletes tend to get cold sores and chicken pox can reoccur as shingles. 


The document states early hardship among children negatively impacts their emotional and mental state, ""but it less clearly established how much the maturation and regulation of physiological systems is also compromised.""  


The results of the study showed adolescents who had experienced maltreatment or were adopted were more likely to experience herpes reactivation. 


Coe said Pollak will continue to study other aspects of adolescent behavior, but his participation in the study is over. 


""[Now] I will continue to work on my general area, which is looking at to what extent negative and positive emotions affect our health,"" he said.

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