Nav: Home

Your viruses could reveal your travel history, and more

April 01, 2016

The genomes of two distinct strains of the virus that causes the common lip cold sore, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), have been identified within an individual person -- an achievement that could be useful to forensic scientists for tracing a person's history. The research also opens the door to understanding how a patient's viruses influence the course of disease. The research by an international team led by Moriah L. Szpara, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University, will be published in the May 2016 issue of the journal Virology.

Most people harbor HSV-1, frequently as a strain acquired from their mothers shortly after birth and carried for the rest of their lives. The new discovery was made with the help of a volunteer from the United States. The research revealed that one strain of the HSV-1 virus harbored by this individual is of a European/North American variety and the other is an Asian variety -- likely acquired during the volunteer's military service in the Korean War in the 1950s.

"It's possible that more people have their life history documented at the molecular level in the HSV-1 strains they carry," said Derek Gatherer, a lecturer in the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom and a member of the research team, which also includes scientists at Georgia State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Princeton University.

Earlier research by the same team has demonstrated that the geographical origin of HSV-1 can be predicted, as well. Since Asian, African, and European/North American varieties of the virus exist, and the virus is often acquired early in life, the research implies that a personal strain of HSV-1 can reflect a person's origin. Another implication is that two individuals who have identical strains of HSV-1 are more likely to be related than those who have different strains.

"Using similar genetic fingerprinting of HSV-1 could help flesh out a person's life story, adding an extra layer of genetic information not provided by our genomes alone. Forensic virology could be on the way in the same way in which we use genetic fingerprinting of our human DNA to locate perpetrators at the scene of a crime and to help trace the relatives of unidentified bodies," Gatherer said.

"We're working on better ways to sequence viral genomes from ever-smaller amounts of starting material, to allow identification and comparison of samples from diverse sources," said Szpara, who also is affiliated with Penn State's Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. "Deep sequencing of viruses like HSV-1 will provide a better view of the viral genetic diversity that individuals harbor, and will provide valuable information about how that influences the course of disease."

In addition to Szpara and Gatherer, other members of the research team include Christopher D. Bowen, Daniel W. Renner, and Jacob T. Shreve at Penn State (Eberly College of Science and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences), Yolanda Tafuri at Princeton University, Kimberly M. Payne and Paul Kinchington at the University of Pittsburgh, and Richard D. Dix at Georgia State University and Emory University.

This research was supported by startup funds from Penn State University, along with funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Eye & Ear Institute of Pittsburgh, and Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.
-end-
CONTACTS

Moriah Szpara: moriah@psu.edu, (+1) 814-867-0008

Barbara Kennedy (PIO): science@psu.edu, (+1) 814-863-4682

IMAGES and ARCHIVE

Images and and archive of this information are at http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2016-news/Szpara4-2016.

Penn State

Related Virus Articles:

New insights into how the Zika virus causes microcephaly
Scientists have uncovered why Zika virus may specifically target neural stem cells in the developing brain, potentially leading to microcephaly.
New Zika virus inhibitor identified
Compound could serve as basis for drugs to prevent neurological complications of Zika.
Zeroing in on the Zika virus
Hobman has been announced as one of three Canadian scientists who have received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for their teams to study the Zika virus.
What does it take for an AIDS virus to infect a person?
Researchers examined the characteristics of HIV-1 strains that were successful in traversing the genital mucosa that forms a boundary to entry by viruses and bacteria.
Cough virus kills liver cancer cells and hepatitis virus
A virus that causes childhood coughs and colds could help in the fight against primary liver cancer, according to a study.
Characterizing the Zika virus genome
The sudden emergence of the Zika virus epidemic in Latin America in 2015-16 has caught the scientific world unawares.
Discovery of new Hepatitis C virus mechanism
Researchers at Osaka University, Japan uncovered the mechanisms that suppress the propagation of the hepatitis C virus with the potential of improving pathological liver conditions.
What does Zika virus mean for the children of the Americas?
A special communication article published online by JAMA Pediatrics explores whether new paradigms in child health may emerge because of Zika virus.
Predicting the spread of the Zika virus
A new tool by Japan-based researchers predicts the risk of Zika virus importation and local transmission for 189 countries.
An old new weapon against emerging Chikungunya virus
Researchers utilize existing drugs to interfere with host factors required for replication of Chikungunya virus.

Related Virus Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#518 With Genetic Knowledge Comes the Need for Counselling
This week we delve into genetic testing - for yourself and your future children. We speak with Jane Tiller, lawyer and genetic counsellor, about genetic tests that are available to the public, and what to do with the results of these tests. And we talk with Noam Shomron, associate professor at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, about technological advancements his lab has made in the genetic testing of fetuses.