`Hidden` chicken pox in guts can cause stomach ulcers

Updated: Aug 14, 2012, 20:55 PM IST

London: Chicken pox virus can `hide` in our guts since childhood triggering stomach ulcers and also be a reason for unexplained stomach pain and bloating in adulthood, a new study has claimed.

Researchers from the Columbia University in US suggested that the `intestinal` chicken pox virus known as varicella zoster can remain locked away in the nerve cells of the gut.

When it breaks free, it triggers pain and tissue damage, and could be to blame for unexplained conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (which causes cramping, bloating and pain), the Daily Mail reported.

The viral attack could lead to `pseudo-obstruction`, a serious digestive condition where the bowel stops pushing food through the gut.

"The idea of intestinal chicken pox is a new one," Professor Michael Gershon, one of the lead researchers said.

"We are now trying to learn whether disorders of the gastro-intestinal tract that have previously been of unknown origin are, in fact, due to the chicken pox virus," Gershon was quoted as saying by the paper.

In the latest study, six patients with gastric ulcers were all found to have the virus in their gut, following samples taken from their stomach lining.

One patient, a 16-year-old boy suffering with a large stomach ulcer, was found to have the chicken pox virus in all the cells surrounding the ulcer after it was surgically removed.

In another study, six children who had all had chicken pox were tested and shown to have the virus lying dormant in their intestines.
Further studies on guinea pigs confirmed the virus can live dormant in the gut, and can be reactivated when the immune system is low.

The research is being presented this week at a scientific conference in Calgary.