Stories about: herpes simplex

Stem cells offer answers about a devastating brain infection—and a new view of the immune system

Why do some children develop severe encephalitis from herpes simplex virus 1, a virus that's usually innocuous? (Fred Murphy/CDC/Wikimedia Commons)

Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) is one of those viruses that’s found nearly everywhere: almost 60 percent of the U.S. population has been infected by it. Usually it causes little more than cold sores or occasional genital herpes.

But for a handful of children, it’s the source of one of the most devastating brain infections known—herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE)—causing fever, confusion, personality changes and seizures. If not caught and treated with high-dose antivirals, it’s highly fatal, and even with treatment most children are left with irreversible brain damage.

Why do some children develop HSE while everyone else just shrugs the virus off?

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