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J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Apr;19(2):121-33.

Nicotine applied by transdermal patch induced HSV-1 reactivation and ocular shedding in latently infected rabbits.

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Department of Ophthalmology, LSU Eye Center, Baton Rouge, LA, USA.


The identification of factors involved in herpes virus latency and reactivation is critical to a better understanding of the mechanisms essential to viral neuroinvasiveness and neurovirulence. Recurrent episodes of ocular herpes infections cause irreversible corneal scarring and are the primary cause of loss of vision due to an infectious agent in industrialized countries. In this study, we examined the ability of nicotine, a compound known to be involved in stress-associated immunomodulation and recognized as one of the most frequently used addictive agents, to induce ocular shedding in rabbits latently infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) strain McKrae. New Zealand white rabbits latently infected with HSV-1 at 3-4 weeks post-inoculation were randomly divided into two groups. The corneas of all rabbits were free of lesions as verified by slit lamp biomicroscopy. One group received nicotine by transdermal patch (21 mg/day) for 20 days and the other group served as the control. Reactivation data were obtained by detection of virus in tear film collected by ocular swabbing performed concurrently with the administration of nicotine. Compilation of data from three separate experiments demonstrated that 16.5% (258/1560) of the swabs taken from rabbits treated with nicotine were positive for virus, compared with 8.3% (53/639) of swabs taken from controls. Rabbits receiving nicotine exhibited a significantly (P < 0.0001) higher rate of ocular shedding than controls. The concentration of nicotine in the serum was determined at various times (0-24 hrs) after new patch replacement. Peak (average) serum level of nicotine was obtained 8 hours after patch replacement and exhibited a broad range of values (0.233 microg/mL-6.21 microg/mL). These results suggest that an initial systemic exposure to nicotine significantly increases HSV-1 reactivation. Further studies are needed to reveal any effects of nicotine dependency and nicotine withdrawal on herpesvirus reactivation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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