Cold Sores Linked With Gene Mutation

Do you get cold sores? Your genes might be to blame.

A new study shows that a gene mutation could explain why some people are more susceptible to developing this itchy, unsightly sores on and around their lips. The findings are published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

Most people -- 90 percent in the world, in fact -- are infected with the cold sore-causing virus, yet only about one in five people actually develop sores.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that a mutation on the IL28b gene makes it so the body's immune system is not able to prevent the herpes simplex virus type 1 -- which triggers cold sores -- from becoming active, thereby causing the cold sore to develop.

This isn't the first time genes have been linked with cold sores. A 2011 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases tied two variations of the gene C21orf91 with protection against the reactivation of the cold sore-causing herpes virus. Meanwhile, two other variations of the same gene were linked with having more cold sore outbreaks.

The virus that causes cold sores is related to the one that causes genital herpes (herpes simplex virus 2). There's no cure for cold sores, and they can recur randomly (typically in the face of stress or a weakened immune system), according to the Mayo Clinic.

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