Ocular HSV-1 latency, reactivation and recurrent disease

Hassanain S. Toma, Andrea T. Murina, Raymond G. Areaux Jr, Donna M. Neumann, Partha S. Bhattacharjee, Timothy P. Foster, Herbert E. Kaufman, James M. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Ocular infection with HSV-1 continues to be a serious clinical problem despite the availability of effective antivirals. Primary infection with HSV-1 can involve ocular and adenaxial sites and can manifest as blepharitis, conjunctivitis, or corneal epithelial keratitis. After initial ocular infection, HSV-1 can establish latent infection in the trigeminal ganglia for the lifetime of the host. During latency, the viral genome is retained in the neuron without producing viral proteins. However, abundant transcription occurs at the region encoding the latency-associated transcript, which may play significant roles in the maintenance of latency as well as neuronal reactivation. Many host and viral factors are involved in HSV-1 reactivation from latency. HSV-1 DNA is shed into tears and saliva of most adults, but in most cases this does not result in lesions. Recurrent disease occurs as HSV-1 is carried by anterograde transport to the original site of infection, or any other site innervated by the latently infected ganglia, and can reinfect the ocular tissues. Recurrent corneal disease can lead to corneal scarring, thinning, stromal opacity and neovascularization and, eventually, blindness. In spite of intensive antiviral and anti-inflammatory therapy, a significant percentage of patients do not respond to chemotherapy for herpetic necrotizing stromal keratitis. Therefore, the development of therapies that would reduce asymptomatic viral shedding and lower the risks of recurrent disease and transmission of the virus is key to decreasing the morbidity of ocular herpetic disease. This review will highlight basic HSV-1 virology, and will compare the animal models of latency, reactivation, and recurrent ocular disease to the current clinical data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-273
Number of pages25
JournalSeminars in Ophthalmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported in part by National Eye Institute Grants R01EY006311 (JMH), F32EY016316 (DMN), R01 EY002672 (HEK) and P30EY002377 (LSU Eye Center Core grant), an unrestricted research grant from the LSUHSC (PSB), an unrestricted departmental grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, New York, NY (LSU Eye Center), and a Senior Scientific Investigator award (JMH) from Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.


  • Animal model
  • Clinical
  • HSV
  • Latency
  • Ocular
  • Reactivation
  • Recurrence


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