Researchers looking to knock out the herpes virus have been conducting research on animals, giving them an experimental drug that addressed active infections and lowered the chance for future outbreaks.
Drugs like Famvir, Valtrex and Zovirax can only address active infections, treating cold sores and genital sores when there is an outbreak of herpes. This new drug, however, aims to cure people of this chronic disease.
The key is to attack the otherwise hidden virus via the nervous system.
Gerald Kleymann is the study author who said the simplex virus is the cause behind genital herpes and cold sores that occur on people’s skin and lips. He is the CEO of the company that produced the drug (Innovative Molecules GmbH).
Kleymann said herpes is a prevalent disease, which means treating it should not be taken likely. Nearly one in two men/women have the herpes simplex virus type 1, with a quarter of people infected with the herpes simplex virus type 2.
Kleymann said lip blisters are regarded as a social stigma, and genital herpes can lead ruin to your sex life. And, if a pregnant woman gives birth while the virus is active, it can be transmitted to the newborn. It can also lead to eye infections and be deadly in immunocompromised transplant patients. In some very rare instances, it can cause herpes encephalitis.
When a person is infected, the virus lives in the nerve cells, leading to recurring infections. According to the study team, about 30% of people will have recurring herpes infections.
However, IM-250 may change all that. Tested on guinea pigs and mice, the new drug aims to lower the risk of transmitting the virus. In guinea pigs, it looks as if the drug could eliminate the chance of recurring infections. In mice, it helped speed up the pace at which people recovered from the outbreak and killed the latent virus in the infected cells.
Going further, IM-250 appears effective against treatment-resistant infections that typically do not respond to the typical herpes medications. The drug can hit where the virus lives and hides, generally in the neurons of genitals and face.
While current treatments can help lower how severe a herpes infection outbreak is, they cannot kill the virus that lay dormant in nerve cells. It’s the latent reservoir that must be attacked in order to lower the chance of recurrence.
The research, while promising, is only involving animals.
The next step is to replicate the findings in humans. According to Kleymann, human clinical trials are currently in the planning stage. He said it would be a breakthrough against herpes if the same results in animals are seen with humans, ensuring that it would lower how often the virus causes an outbreak.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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