The herpes simplex virus has no cure or vaccine and it continues to spread globally. For over 30 years, scientists and researchers have been trying to develop a vaccine to cure the herpes virus, to no avail.
However, on March 9, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) published an article in eLife Science claiming their scientists have created a “powerful effect vaccine against herpes viruses.”
There are two types of the herpes simplex viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Most people get the virus at infancy or in early childhood. The infection spreads by skin-to-skin contact. Adults do not always show visible signs of sores if they have the infection.
The American Academy of Dermatology says children get herpes simplex virus 1 in a number of ways.
“A child can get this virus from an infected adult. A kiss, eating from the same utensil, or sharing a towel can spread the virus.”
People may transmit the HSV-1 virus by sharing objects, like razors, utensils, and lip balm. They can also infect others by kissing or touching another person’s skin.
More than 20 percent of adults in the United States are infected with the herpes simplex type 2 virus. An individual can become infected with HSV-2 by having sex with someone who is infected.
A herpes simplex virus never leaves the body. It stays dormant in a person’s nerve cells until it wakes up due to an illness, menstrual cycle, stress, surgery, sun exposure, or fever.
HHMI’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists recently found a new way to treat the herpes virus.
Dr. William R. Jacobs Jr., professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, and HHMI investigator offers the following comment about their new discovery.
“We have a very promising new candidate for herpes, but this might also be a good candidate as a vaccine vector for other mucosal diseases, particularly HIV and tuberculosis.”
Previous attempts by scientists to develop a vaccine for the herpes virus failed. According to HHMI, those failures were due to scientists focusing their efforts on a particular protein called glycoprotein or gD.
Dr. Betsy Herold, infectious disease physician and virologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and co-study leader of the new research explains the scientists’ new approach.
“It was necessary to shake the field up and go another route.”
Dr. Herold and Dr. Jacobs developed a new strategy of eliminating the herpes virus by creating a mutant, which is void of the gD protein.
Dr. Herold explains.
“Once we had this mutant in our hands, it was a logical, scientifically driven hypothesis to say, ‘This strain would be 100 percent safe and might elicit a very different immune response than the gD subunit vaccines that have been tried.'”
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute research on creating a vaccine for the herpes simplex virus worked on mice. The next step is to develop a FDA-approved herpes virus vaccine to work on humans.
[Photo courtesy of Len Rubenstein/HHMI]