COMBATING INFECTION: Shutting down shingles

April 2006 
Volume 36  Number 4
Pages 18 - 19
  PDF Version Available!



SHINGLES, or herpes zoster, is caused by varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox (varicella). It's characterized by unilateral blisterlike lesions that erupt along dermatomes—usually T3 to L3 in the trunk or, less commonly, in the area of the 5th cranial nerve.

Shingles develops in 10% to 20% of adults who had chicken pox as children, most often after age 50. But it can develop at any time in people who are immunocompromised; for example, because of HIV infection, chemotherapy, corticosteroid therapy, or cancer. In fact, shingles may be the first sign of an impaired immune system. When it emerges in an immunocompromised person, shingles may become disseminated and cause serious liver, pulmonary, ocular, or central nervous system complications.

Emerging from dormancy

After someone recovers from chicken pox, the virus retreats into his nerve roots, where it lies dormant. In favorable conditions, when the immune system ...

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