Science Questions

Can you pass on colsore virus without having a coldsore?

Sun, 27th Jan 2008

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Josie asked:

If you suffer from coldsores, can you pass on the virus even when you don't have a coldsore showing?


We put this question to Cambridge University researcher Ed Hutchinson:

Iím afraid, unfortunately the answer is sometimes, yes you can.  Cold sores belong to a family of viruses called herpes viruses.  These donít just include the famous sort of herpes weíve all heard of but a whole range of viruses.  These viruses have a nasty trick of causing visible infection then hiding and coming back at various points in your life.  Itís called latency.  If the cold soreís happening itís hiding in some nerves in the side of your head and theyíre coming back into youíre mouth on a regular basis.  Sometimes this is going to cause a visible cold sore and sometimes itís going to cause something you canít see but itís still going to be shedding infectious virus into your saliva.  Iím afraid itís always a risk.


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