A research team of Dr. Harvey M. Friedman from the University of Pennsylvania published a fascinating press release yesterday.
Dr. Friedman stated that the herpes vaccine they are working on has a whole new approach. One of the advantages of this kind of herpes vaccine is that it would be targeting not just gD2 glycoproteins (which gives herpes virus the ability to break into cells), like many of its predecessors did. It would also produce an immune response against other viral glycoproteins – gC2 and gE2 (which are the main reasons why HSV-2 can survive for a long term).
The new vaccine was tested on macaques and guinea pigs and showed very promising results. According to Harvey M. Friedman, macaques and humans have similar immune systems. However, there were some complications during the testing. A group of macaques was quite small, and since they usually don’t develop symptoms similar to humans, it was not possible to observe how the vaccine worked on a cellular level. Although the results were positive and the researchers were very pleased with their findings, it is still unclear why the macaques who participated in the study and weren’t given the vaccine developed mild vaginal inflammation (as stated above, they usually don’t have that kind of HSV symptoms). The press release doesn’t indicate why the macaques don’t suffer from painful HSV symptoms like humans do and whether it could be the result of their natural diet and low levels of stress.
The second trial involved guinea pigs that usually show severe symptoms of herpes infection (very similar to what most humans are experiencing). The study revealed that almost all guinea pigs were protected from genital outbreaks by herpes vaccine. Unfortunately, futher testing showed that portion of viral DNA remained in the body and had the ability to replicate in the future.
“If the vaccine behaves like this in people, it would limit lesions to appearing only about one day in 100, and the virus would be potentially contagious only about two in every 1,000 days,” Dr. Friedman added.
If this herpes vaccine will pass the human trials, it would be implemented as a series of three vaccines within six months. However, even if Dr. Friedman finds a company to sponsor his vaccine development, it will take al least two years for them to start first human trials.