When herpes simplex virus infects the eye, it leads to damage of cornea. If the damage is more, the cornea needs to be transplanted. It is evident that cornea transplants generally fail in patients with herpes simplex virus infection compared to those with other eye conditions.

The Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan researchers reported that patients with herpes simplex virus infection might have corneal inflammation that increased the risk of corneal transplant rejection, but detection during pre-transplant clinical examinations is not possible.

To support the data, the researchers examined corneal tissue removed from 62 patients. Although herpes simplex virus had been inactive for six months before surgery in 81 percent of the patients, the microscopic evidence of inflammation was found in 74 percent. There was a correlation of the rate of transplant failure with the presence of this biomarker.

It is also possible that treating inflammation intensively before corneal transplant surgery would reduce the risk of rejection, said study lead author Dr. Roni M. Shtein, a cornea specialist.