Herpes simplex virus DNA in normal corneas: persistence without viral shedding from ganglia

J Med Virol. 1995 May;46(1):75-80. doi: 10.1002/jmv.1890460116.


Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) DNA has been shown to persist in the cornea not only after inoculation of experimental animals but also in surgical samples from patients with herpes keratitis. The further observation of corneal HSV-1 DNA in subjects without known HSV eye disease prompted the present study of the presence and distribution of HSV-1 in eye bank corneas. Prior to DNA extraction, the corneas were trephined, separating the central and peripheral cornea. With polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for HSV-1 thymidine kinase (TK) and glycoprotein D (gD) gene sequences, we found HSV-1 in 10 of 24 eye bank corneas, from the 4 mm wide corneal rim in 8 eyes and from the 8 mm diameter central cornea in 2 eyes. In 9 subjects, both eyes were assayed, and HSV-1 was detected in 6 subjects. In only one subject was HSV-1 detected in both eyes and in only one subject was HSV-1 detected in the central and peripheral cornea of the same eye. The biological role of HSV-1 DNA corneal sequences is unknown. To investigate this, a rabbit animal model was established by transplantation of corneas containing viral DNA sequences in HSV-1 naive recipients. Followed for 5 months, there was no evidence of sheeding of HSV-1 in the tear film or seroconversion of the recipient rabbits. At the end of this time, HSV-1 DNA was detected in the corneal graft at a similar intensity to the PCR signal from the donor rims.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cornea / virology*
  • Corneal Transplantation
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Eye Banks
  • Female
  • Ganglia / virology*
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / enzymology
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Rabbits
  • Thymidine Kinase / genetics
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / genetics
  • Virus Latency
  • Virus Shedding*


  • DNA, Viral
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • glycoprotein D, Human herpesvirus 1
  • Thymidine Kinase