Latent and slow persistent viral infections

After an infection has passed, a virus may sometimes remain in the body for long periods, causing no harm. It may be reactivated, however, by stress or some change in the individual's health, and initiate a disease state. Well known examples of latent viral infections are cold sores and shingles, both caused by members of the herpesvirus family. A virus of this sort will remain with an individual throughout their lifetime.

Whereas latent virus infections are characterised by a sudden increase in virus production, in persistent (slow) infections the increase is more gradual, building up over several years. Such infections have a serious effect on the target cells, and are generally fatal. An example is the measles virus, which can re-manifest itself after many years in a rare condition called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.

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