A study recently published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology
investigated the role of the immune system in herpes
reactivation in mice. Interestingly, the researchers found that the memory T-cells responsible for viral suppression decreased in number when the mice were exposed to other pathogens - allowing the viral infection to reactivate. Although the scientists were working with CMV (which is also in the herpes virus family) instead of HSV, this research could help explain why people are more likely to experience herpes outbreaks when they are sick with other illnesses. Their immune system might, in a way, be getting distracted by the new infection and diverting resources from the control of their herpes infection to fight off the new invader. Follow-up research in humans is certainly necessary before any conclusions can be drawn, but this study gives scientists a potentially fruitful new area to investigate as they attempt to further their understanding of how and why some people get frequent herpes outbreaks while others do not.