Pathophysiology: Little is known about the route and the source of transmission of the virus. VZV is certainly transmissible through the airborne route and does not require close personal contact. The skin lesions are certainly full of infectious virus particles whilst in contrast, it is almost impossible to isolate virus from the upper respiratory tract. It is possible that aerial transmission originates from symptomless oral lesions
Disease statistics: The status of immunity of 4602 individuals a aged 0 to >70 years was investigated by means of an indirect enzyme immunoassay and the fluorescent antibody to membrane assay. After waning of maternal antibodies over the period of 6-9 months seropositivity rates remained low by the end of the 1st year of life. By the age of 4-5 years 62.5% (95% CI; 56.0-68.5) of the pre-school children had already been infected with VZV and at the age of 10-11 years 94.2% (95% CI; 91.0-96.0) of children were positive for anti-VZV antibodies. Among the age-group of >40 years old, only few individuals were susceptible for VZV.
Treatment: Several studies indicate that antiviral medications decrease the duration of symptoms and the likelihood of postherpetic neuralgia, especially when initiated within 2 days of the onset of rash. In typical cases that involve individuals who are otherwise healthy, oral acyclovir may be prescribed. An important study by Kubeyinje (1997) suggested that the use of acyclovir in healthy young adults with zoster is not clearly justified, especially in situations of limited economic resources.
Research: Dr Abendroth's team works on a medically important human herpesvirus, varicella zoster virus (VZV) infects up to 90% of the population. VZV causes chickenpox (varicella) predominantly in childhood and shingles (herpes zoster) in middle to old age people. Whilst VZV usually causes relatively mild disease in healthy individuals, VZV still causes significant morbidity in children and adults. VZV causes life-threatening disease in immunocompromised individuals such as patients who are elderly or have HIV disease.