THURSDAY, Oct. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say their new discovery of how herpes viruses infect human cells may lead to the development of new medicines to combat herpes and other viral infections.
For what's thought to be the first time, researchers were able to measure the internal pressure that enables herpes viruses to infect cells.
"The pressure explains the way all eight known herpes viruses that infect humans inject their genes into our cells," study author Alex Evilevitch, of Lund University in Sweden, said in a university news release.
This method includes the two most common forms of herpes viruses, which cause cold sores and genital herpes, as well as the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles, and viruses linked to various forms of cancer, according to the study, published recently in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
It's long been believed that a virus has high internal pressure, which enables it to eject its genes at high force and speed into a human cell. That cell then becomes a "virus factory" that produces new viruses.
In this study, the researchers were able to measure the internal pressure of a virus that can infect people.
Current medication used to fight viral infections is highly specialized and can become less effective if a virus mutates, according to the news release. If researchers can develop a treatment that reduces the internal pressure of viruses, it may be possible to use one drug to fight many different types of viral infections, the study authors said.
Also, this type of medication would work even if a virus mutated, because mutations do not affect the internal pressure of a virus, the researchers said.
The University of California Museum of Paleontology has more about viruses.