Where Does Herpes Live?

Without our Central Nervous System, we couldn’t do anything. We need it but not everything it does or has is helpful. Like letting the herpes virus take up residence.

Now we have two nervous systems in our bodies: The Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).

The CNS contains the brain and the spinal cord.

The PNS consists mainly of nerves connecting the CNS to every other part of the body.

Nerve System

So, what makes the Herpes virus so special to our CNS. Unlike most virus’s, Herpes infects the nerves in the CNS, most of the time.

For HSV1 (cold sores, facial/ oral herpes) it will take up residence in the Trigeminal (TRI-GEM-IN-AL) Nerve.

The Trigeminal Nerve is the most complex nerve in our face. It is responsible for the sensations we have in our face and motor functions such as biting and chewing.

It gets its name from the fact that each of the two nerves has three major branches.

Each of the two pons has three major branches: the ophthalmic nerve (V1),  the maxillary nerve (V2) and the mandibular nerve (V3).

The ophthalmic and the maxillary nerves are purely sensory; but the mandibular nerve controls motor functions as well as sensory e.g. taste buds.

 Herpes Zones - Face

The three major branches of the trigeminal nerve converge on the Trigeminal Ganglion. 

Located within an oddly named part called Meckel's Cave which contains the cell bodies of incoming sensory-nerve fibers.

So now that we have that information where does herpes live?

Herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) typically causes infections of the oral mucosa, so we are talking the mouth, around lips and nose etc.

It will stay dormant in the sensory ganglia neurons until stimulated.

Herpes Cell Level

HSV-2 was harder to find exact information on. But it generally hibernates and reactivates from the lumbar-sacral ganglia. Sorry for the low res image but it is located on our mid to lower spine.

 Genital Herpes Cut Through

So that seems pretty simple; but that doesn’t mean that it only infects the CNS.

One study conducted by Dr Kate T. Brizzi, MD1 and  Dr Jennifer L. Lyons, MD found

“HSV-1 is primarily acquired in childhood, and HSV-2 causes most cases of genital herpes, although incidence of HSV-1 causing genital herpes is rising. Peripheral nervous system manifestations of primary HSV infection are rare, but reactivation of the infection can lead to both CNS and PNS diseases.”

So, although rare, it can jump ship to other the nervous systems ganglia which can cause other forms of disease within us.