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September 2017

Herpes—A Not So Simple(x) History

Author Affiliations
  • 1Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(9):910. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.2879

Centuries ago, the term herpes referred to a group of blistering diseases. The origin of the word is derived from the ancient Greek herpein, meaning “to creep” or “move slowly,” characterizing the latent onset of the infection and the inconspicuous, recurrent spread of lesions on the skin. It was not until the late 19th century that this condition was categorized into specific subtypes—many of which are now known to infect humans. Of these, herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 are perhaps the most infamous viral dermatological conditions, known for their unsightly presentation on the genitals and lips (colloquially referred to as “cold sores”).