Human cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus type 1 are discussed in this review as they relate to destructive periodontal disease in humans. Genomes of the two herpesviruses occur frequently in severe adult periodontitis, localized and generalized juvenile periodontitis, Papillon-Lefèvre syndrome periodontitis, Down's syndrome periodontitis, HIV-associated periodontitis and acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. Herpesvirus infections generally involve a mild or asymptomatic primary phase followed by an asymptomatic latent phase interrupted sporadically by periods of activation, where viral replication and possibly clinical disease become manifest. Herpesvirus reactivation is triggered by a number of immunosuppressing factors, some of which have also been shown to be risk indicators of periodontal disease. Available evidence argues for the involvement of active cytomegalovirus infection in the initiation and progression of localized juvenile periodontitis and possibly other types of periodontal disease. In periodontal disease, herpesviruses may cause release of tissue-destructive cytokines, overgrowth of pathogenic periodontal bacteria, and initiation of cytotoxic or immunopathogenic events. Understanding the significance of herpesviruses in the causation and pathogenesis of destructive periodontal diseases may have important implications in future prevention and treatment of the diseases.
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