Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) has been associated with the genesis of leukoplakias, epithelial atypia, and oral cancer. Tobacco habits, such as snuff dipping, are also definitely correlated with this type of lesion. The normal cytolytic HSV-1 infection can, after in vitro inactivation, transform cells. Extracts of snuff were prepared and assayed for their ability to inhibit HSV-1 replication. Plaque formation assays of HSV-1 in the presence of snuff extract showed that a reduced number of plaques was formed. Different batches of one brand of snuff were tested for inhibition of herpes simplex virus (HSV) production. More than 99% inhibition of 24-hr HSV production was obtained with undiluted batches. The 1:5 dilutions of snuff had an inhibitory effect of 85% and 1:25 dilutions, 39%. In agreement, the attachment of the virus to the host cell and penetration of the virus to the cell nuclei were found to be inhibited as was the synthesis of viral DNA. Nicotine had an inhibitory effect, while aromatic additions to snuff were found to have no major inhibitory effect on HSV replication. Snuff extracts were prepared from different brands of snuff reported to contain high and low quantities of tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines. Brands with reported high levels of tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines had significantly greater ability to inhibit HSV replication. In conclusion, this study has shown that extracts of snuff have inhibitory effects on the production of cytolytic HSV-1 infections. A chronic snuff dipper keeps tobacco in the mouth for the major part of the day. Thus, virus shed in the oral cavity in connection with a reactivated latent HSV-1 infection has great possibilities of being affected by snuff or derivatives of snuff. It is suggested that an interaction between tobacco products and HSV-1 might be involved in the development of dysplastic lesions in the oral cavity.


This research was supported by grants from the Faculty of Odontology, University of Göteborg, and by Swedish Medical Research Council Grant 4514.

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