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Edit the Infection Out

Herpes establishes itself within people's nerve cells and infects them for life, but the Smithsonian writes that some researchers are exploring whether genome editing could be used to target and disable the virus.

It notes that about two-thirds of people are infected with either herpes simplex virus -1HSV-1 or HSV-2 and many don't even know they carry it.

Researchers like Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Keith Jerome is studying whether gene-editing tools can reach into nerve cells and selectively cut viral DNA, the Smithsonian says, adding that, in mice, he and his team have been able to disable a small percentage of herpes viruses. "If we can perfect it in the future studies, this would be a way to completely inactivate all the virus in a person," he tells Smithsonian.

But the magazine notes that approach would treat an infected person, not prevent people from being infected in the first place. It adds that other researchers are working on herpes vaccines, noting that one is nearing clinical trials. Combining the two approaches might give the best outcome, it says.