FRIDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified a certain gene associated with susceptibility to herpes simplex labialis, more commonly known as cold sores.

People who carry this gene may have more frequent and severe outbreaks of the small blister-like lesions that appear around the mouth, the new study said. The researchers noted that their findings could lead to the development of new treatments for the herpes simplex virus type 1, which infects 70 percent of the U.S. population, according to a news release from the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

In the study, investigators identified an area on human chromosome 21 among 618 people from 43 large families where six genes that have been previously linked to cold sores are located. They found one gene in particular, known as C21orf91, was linked to more frequent outbreaks.

"While these findings await confirmation in a larger, unrelated population, these findings could have important implications for the development of new drugs that affect determinants of the cold sore phenotype," study author Dr. John Kriesel and colleagues at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City and the University of Massachusetts Medical School explained in the release.

In an editorial accompanying the study, published online Oct. 28 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Australian scientists noted that if the findings are confirmed, more research could also begin to investigate whether this gene also plays a role in genital herpes.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about cold sores.