Herpes Simplex Virus-1 in the Brain: The Dark Side of a Sneaky Infection

Maria Elena Marcocci, Giorgia Napoletani, Virginia Protto, Olga Kolesova, Roberto Piacentini, Domenica Donatella Li Puma, Patrick Lomonte, Claudio Grassi, Anna Teresa Palamara, Giovanna De Chiara

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) establishes latency preferentially in sensory neurons of peripheral ganglia. A variety of stresses can induce recurrent reactivations of the virus, which spreads and then actively replicates to the site of primary infection (usually the lips or eyes). Viral particles produced following reactivation can also reach the brain, causing a rare but severe form of diffuse acute infection, namely herpes simplex encephalitis. Most of the time, this infection is clinically asymptomatic. However, it was recently correlated with the production and accumulation of neuropathological biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease. In this review we discuss the different cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the acute and long-term damage caused by HSV-1 infection in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-820
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • encephalitis
  • herpes simplex virus-1
  • HSV-1
  • neurodegeneration latency/reactivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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