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Herpes viruses

Author: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2013.

The human herpes viruses (HHV) include several very common viruses that have cutaneous manifestations. The Herpesvirales order (family Herpesviridae) is characterised by:

  • Double-stranded DNA genome
  • Icosahedral capsid surrounded by a tegument
  • Lipid envelope derived from infected cell membranes modified by insertion of viral-encoded glycoproteins
  • Diameter of 160–200 nm
  • Infectious, latent (persistence in the host) and reactive phases of infection
The herpesvirus family
Subfamily Genus Species Common name Abbreviation Condition
Alphaherpesvirinae Simplexvirus Human herpesvirus 1 (HHV1) Herpes simplex virus 1 HSV1 Primary Herpes simplex (cold sores)
Reactivation: Recurrent herpes, eczema herpeticum
Human herpesvirus 2 (HHV2) Herpes simplex virus 2 HSV2 Primary Genital herpes
Reactivation: Recurrent herpes
Varicellovirus Human herpesvirus 3 (HHV3) Varicella-zoster virus VZV Chickenpox
Reactivation: Shingles
Betaherpesvirinae Cytomegalovirus Human herpesvirus 5 (HHV5) Cytomegalovirus CMV Cytomegalovirus infection
Roseolovirus Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) Roseola virus HHV6B   Roseola
Reactivation: pityriasis rosea, drug hypersensitivity syndrome
Human herpesvirus 7 (HHV7)
Gammaherpesvirinae Lymphocriptovirus Human herpesvirus 4 (HHV4) Epstein-Barr virus EBV Infectious mononucleosis and many others
Rhadinovirus Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8) Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus KSV Kaposi sarcoma



  • Caselli E, Di Luca D. Molecular biology and clinical associations of Roseoloviruses human herpesvirus 6 and human herpesvirus 7. New Microbiologica 2007:30;173–87. Journal 

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