What Research Is Being Done On Shingles?

Lots of research is being conducted on the shingles illness through organizations like the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Other organizations that support the shingles research are the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging and the National Eye Institute.

What they are Doing

The NINDS organization has two main goals:

  1. To create drugs to fight and prevent the disease
  2. To understand the disease to help prevent it from occurring in individuals at high risk

What they are Saying

Researchers are trying to find out what exactly happens once the chickenpox virus enters the body and why it lays dormant, only to become active again later on. Some think that the virus DNA blends with the chromosomes of the nerve cell, which is what houses the cell's own genetic material.

Immune System's Defenses

Those who have strong immune systems are able to combat infections, but those with faulty immunity are vulnerable to different types of sicknesses, like shingles. Antibodies produced by the immune system aren't very effective against the shingles virus. There are two types of white blood cells that come to attack the shingles illness, T lymphocytes and macrophages. Research is being done to find out how to strengthen these two white blood cells to increase chances for those who are at high risk for the virus spreading to their vital organs like the lungs or brain.

Cures for Shingles

Many researchers are looking for ways to prevent the shingles virus from occurring, by studying the way the chickenpox virus infects neurons. They are studying how the virus enters and exits the nerve cells, with hopes to block this step from occurring. Scientists have now created animal models to evaluate the chickenpox virus vaccine. They are looking to find a way to improve the vaccine, so that it can protect against or prevent the virus from establishing latent infection or reactivation, which then causes shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia. Other studies are being made to find out new methods of identifying the biological differences between individuals who are suffering from Postherpetic Neuralgia or have already healed from it's long-term pain that sometimes arrive after shingles.

Chickenpox and Shingles

Varicella-zoster (VZV) is the virus that causes both, chickenpox and shingles. When a child isn't given the VZV vaccine, he or she is prone to contracting the chickenpox, a very contagious illness that spreads through breathing and contact. First, the virus enters into the upper respiratory tract where it then incubates for 15 or more days. Afterwards, it spreads through out the bloodstream, migrating to the skin where it then forms into a rash. With the shingles illness, you can not contract it from someone else. If you are around someone who has shingles, it is very possible to develop the chickenpox, especially if you have never had it before. If you'se already been exposed to the virus, it is possible for it to reactivate, resulting to the shingles sickness. Once the virus is reactivated, it travels down the nerves to the skin, which develops into a rash. Most of the time with shingles, the virus will not spread to the bloodstream or lungs, so it isn't an airborne contagion. And since shingles contain active virus particles, contact can lead to chickenpox. Natural treatments are being used more and more to ease the symptoms of shingles.

Sources:

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/detail_shingles.htm

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