Herpes Vaccine Still A Long Way Off

Herpes Vaccine Still A Long Way Off

Due to the complicated nature and evasiveness of the herpes virus, it’s been difficult to develop a vaccine to manage or cure it. And, if a company is able to create this vaccine, it would certainly be a lucrative venture for them.

The herpes simplex virus is prevalent in two-thirds of the population under 50. And, despite continued efforts by companies to come up with a vaccine, none has been able to. In fact, three companies carrying out clinical trials for a herpes vaccine actually quit researching the virus.

As it stands, there are no clinical trials going on for the STD.

Why is that though?

There is a vaccine for hepatitis B, measles, mumps, chicken pox and more, but not for the herpes virus. According to experts, the herpes virus is quite complex. It works like cancer in that the body’s immune system may not detect it easily. It can also stay dormant in the body for many years before it makes a person sick.

There are two types of herpes viruses – HSV-1 and HSV-2

  • HSV-1 – This is oral herpes, which causes fever blisters and cold sores around the face and mouth. This can be caught through contact like kissing or sharing lipstick, lip balm, etc.
  • HSV-2 – This is genital herpes, which causes pain while urinating and sores in the genital region. This is caught via sexual contact.

And, once a person is infected with the virus, it stays there for good. People can have the herpes virus and never know they have it.

There are several anti-viral medication s that can treat the symptoms of herpes, but there is no cure and no vaccine or other preventative treatment.

The herpes virus has a unique structure and behavior, which is why coming up with a vaccine is so hard. It doesn’t act or look like any other virus. It can hibernate in the body and may reveal itself from time to time.

With complicated DNA the immune system may not even notice it, similar to the way cancer cells go unnoticed for some time. Vaccines are effective in stimulating the body’s immune system, and without the body noticing it’s got the virus, it’s been tricky developing a cure or vaccine for it. There’s no way to target the treatment.

Although biomedical and pharmaceutical companies would love to make a vaccine for the herpes virus, it’s just too complicated to pull off. The amount of research it will take as well as money makes it less than lucrative. There have been companies that have tried researching it, but it’s abandoned not long afterward.

Genocea Biosciences was in a Phase II clinical trial last year for the GEN-003 herpes vaccine. While some results were positive, it didn’t persuade the company executives to continue the project. They cut the program and will license out the infectious disease programs to others.

Mark Riegel, MD

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