Causative Agents

The causative agent of genital herpes is usually herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), a medium-sized, enveloped, double-stranded DNA virus. On electron micrographs it looks like herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), the cause of "cold sores" ("fever blisters," herpes simplex labialis), and the genomes of the two viruses are about 50% homologous. This disease, like cold sores, often recurs, because the virus becomes latent. Either virus can infect the mouth and the genitalia, but the type 2 virus causes more severe genital lesions whose frequency of recurrence is greater than that of the type 1 virus. During initial infection and for as long as 1 month after, the virus is found in genital secretions. During recurrence, the virus is usually present in large numbers for less than a week. ■ HSV-1, p. 607

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