(HealthDay News) – The prevalence of antibodies against herpes simplex virus (HSV) has substantially declined in adolescents in the last decade, which may put them at risk of acquiring genital herpes, according to a study published online Oct. 16 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Heather Bradley, PhD, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine HSV-1 and HSV-2 seroprevalence among 14- to 49-year-olds in the United States between 1999 and 2010.

The researchers found that, from 2005–2010, the seroprevalence of HSV-1 was 53.9% and the seroprevalence of HSV-2 was 15.7%. Compared with the period from 1999–2004 there was a significant 7% decline in HSV-1 seroprevalence, while there was no significant change in HSV-2 seroprevalence. The greatest decline in HSV-1 seroprevalence was seen among 14- to 19-year-olds, declining by nearly 23%, with a >29% decline compared with the period from 1976–1980.

“An increasing number of adolescents lack HSV-1 antibodies at sexual debut,” Bradley and colleagues conclude. “In the absence of declines in HSV-2 infections, the prevalence of genital herpes may increase.”

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