Can Frogs Give You Herpes?

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Herpes is a contagious disease caused by a virus that creates sores, blisters, and ulcers in those who get infected. It appears mostly around the mouth and genitals and does not look appealing when left untreated.

Although the virus is very common in some parts of the world, many people do not know how it is spread. There is a lot of tabou and misunderstanding around herpes since people are afraid of getting it. Some assertions have come from various sources that frogs spread this disease when they come in contact with humans.

Although frogs may carry viral diseases, there are no known cases of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), HSV-1, or HSV-2 being transmitted from frogs. However, frogs may transmit Ranid Herpes Virus or Bufonid Herpes Virus to each other. The amphibian form of herpes does not pose any known threat to humans.

Therefore, humans are not susceptible to contracting a herpes infection from frogs. Yet, many different narratives have emanated from different perspectives alleging that frogs may be vectors of this infection. Keep on reading, as I’d like to further clarify whether frogs can transmit herpes to humans or not.

What is Herpes?

Herpes is an infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) leading to sores and blisters around the mouth or genitals. There are 2 types of herpes classified based on the affected organ and transmission: HSV-1 is oral herpes that affects the mouth, and HSV-2 causes genital herpes.

Herpes manifests through the emergence of blisters and ulcers. Although these blisters heal with time, the virus that causes them cannot be completely cured. Thus these outbreaks are recurrent and can be contagious. Herpes may cause pain to anyone infected, but as these sores and blisters heal, the pains ease.

In addition, HSV may come with other symptoms such as tingling, itching, and a burning sensation around the affected parts. Sores or blisters may come in at a later stage. Herpes can take some time to manifest and can sometimes be healed before symptoms get worse, for example by applying certain medicated creams to the affected area when tingling begins.

Can Frogs Cause Herpes in Humans?

Although frogs may carry viral diseases, there are no known cases of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), HSV-1, or HSV-2 being transmitted from frogs. Although frogs may transmit Ranid Herpes Virus or Bufonid Herpes Virus to each other, the amphibian form of herpes does not pose any known threat to humans.

Over the years, as herpes infects more people and becomes more known, fear of the disease has helped propagate some fallacies. People joke about it in TV shows, movies, and the media with sometimes confusing explanations as to where and how people can get the virus, like from frogs.

However, frogs may be able to help humans overcome HSV-1 thanks to the anti-viral properties of their skin. A study demonstrated that certain peptides on frog’s skin have antibacterial and antiparasitic properties that can act as anti-viral, “anti-HSV-1 peptides” (Roy et al, 2019). 

More research is needed to further the study and create a remedy, however, frogs may be a human’s allies in our fight against the Herpes Simplex Virus. But you may be saddened to learn that there are frog-herpes viruses that can lead to fatal outcomes in frogs (CTNF).

Can Frogs Get Herpes?

Frogs are prone to get infected with a few types of herpes including Bufonidae Herpes Virus (BfHV1) which affects toads, and the Ranid Herpes Virus (RaHV1) that infects the Ranidae family of frogs. However, these variants are different from human herpes (HSV).

Frogs can get infected with the following types of amphibian herpes:

  • Bufonidae Herpes Virus (BfHV1)
  • Ranid Herpes Virus (RaHV1)
  • Ranid herpesvirus 2 (RHV2)
  • Ranid herpesvirus 3 (RHV3)

The frog herpes viruses are especially rampant in Europe, causing grayish or whitish skin lesions in infected frogs. They generally affect frog eggs and tadpoles in the Spring and then and can expand into adults during the Summer. Frogs are generally fine until the virus affects their kidneys and lungs becoming cancer-like and often leading to death.

Much like the fact that toads cannot give you warts, contact with an infected frog does not cause transmission of amphibian herpes to you. However, frog-herpes could affect your pet frog if it comes into contact with an infected wild frog.

How is Human Herpes Transmitted? 

Herpes is one highly transmissible infection that doesn’t take long to develop into a chronic infection. Because a virus causes the infection, you must come in contact with it to become infected. Herpes may be transmitted through contact with an infected surface.

Herpes simplex virus can be passed from one person to another through direct contact with an infected person (ex. kissing, sex). Additionally, the virus may spread through contact with other areas of the skin and eyes. 

The virus is most contagious between the time where the symptoms first appear on the individual and when they heal. However, it can still be transmitted to a lesser degree when the symptoms are not entirely present. In addition, a weakened immune system raises the risk of contracting herpes to a high degree. 

How to Treat a Herpes Infection?

Although it is true that for the moment you cannot entirely rid yourself of herpes if you have the virus, some treatments can help relieve the symptoms. The best place to start is with your Doctor or pharmacist since many treatments exist that can alleviate the discomfort that herpes can cause.

Antiviral medications such as acyclovir help stall the development of cold sores. A few antiviral creams also help manage the itching and tingling effect of herpes. Using the right cream can actually help stop the development of sores before they start if applied when tingling starts. 

However, be sure to talk to your Pharmacist or Doctor before trying any creams, medications, or treating or diagnosing symptoms.

More About Frogs

Much like the fact that toads cannot give you warts, if you get a herpes infection, you may have gotten it from another medium and not from frogs, even if you came in contact with them. 

Sources

Franklinos LHV, Fernandez JR, Hydeskov HB, Hopkins KP, Everest DJ, Cunningham AA, Lawson B. Herpesvirus skin disease in free-living common frogs Rana temporaria in Great Britain. Dis Aquat Organ. 2018 Aug 14;129(3):239-244. doi: 10.3354/dao03246. PMID: 30154283.

Origgi, Francesco & Pisano, Simone. (2018). Bufonid herpesvirus 1 (BfHV1) associated dermatitis and mortality in free ranging common toads (Bufo bufo) in Switzerland. Scientific Reports. 8. 10.1038/s41598-018-32841-0. 

Origgi FC, Schmidt BR, Lohmann P, Otten P, Akdesir E, Gaschen V, Aguilar-Bultet L, Wahli T, Sattler U, Stoffel MH. Ranid Herpesvirus 3 and Proliferative Dermatitis in Free-Ranging Wild Common Frogs (Rana Temporaria). Vet Pathol. 2017 Jul;54(4):686-694. doi: 10.1177/0300985817705176. Epub 2017 May 11. PMID: 28494706.

Roy M, Lebeau L, Chessa C, et al. Comparison of Anti-Viral Activity of Frog Skin Anti-Microbial Peptides Temporin-Sha and [K³]SHa to LL-37 and Temporin-Tb against Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1. Viruses. 2019;11(1):77. Published 2019 Jan 18. doi:10.3390/v11010077

Jpc Systemic Pathology, Urinary System, January 2021, U-v01, JPC# 320229

Garden Wildlife Health, Ranid and Bufonid Herpesvirus Skin Disease

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.