One of the most common questions asked of doctors who treat genital herpes comes from couples in which one partner is infected with the virus and the other is not. How, they ask, can they have a relationship without passing on this sexually transmitted disease?
In an attempt to better answer that question, a new study uses mathematical models to predict viral loads below which transmission of the virus is unlikely to occur. The model suggests that a treatment or intervention that maintains genital viral load below a threshold of 10,000 copies of herpes simplex DNA would prevent most transmissions, according to the study published online Tuesday in the London-based Royal Society journal Interface.
Using a model—which the study’s authors emphasized must be further tested—was a way to estimate a threshold when measuring viral load directly is challenging, if not impossible, due to the rapidly changing interactions between the virus and the host’s immune system.