You might have heard that the herpes virus is affecting people between the age of 14 and 19. Do you know why is this so common in this age of people? Because people of this age are more involved in sexual activity. According to research, we might be closer to the herpes vaccine more than ever.

Curious about the reviewer? Read more about Dr. Anjum here.

What is herpes?

The two common types of herpes simplex virus (HSV) are herpes simplex virus type -1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type -2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is associated with oral-facial herpes and can spread from one person to another through kissing and saliva. In addition to kissing and saliva, HSV-1 can also spread during sexual intercourse. HSV-2 which causes genital herpes is more contagious than HSV-1. HSV-2 can be transmitted through contact with the genitals of the infected individuals during sexual intercourse.

Both kinds of infections can’t be recognized, but sometimes blisters or ulcers at the site of infection can be observed. Variable symptoms can be observed in the infected individuals starting from simple blisters to deadly encephalitis.

The research on herpes simplex includes all medical research, the purpose of which is to treat, prevent, or cure herpes. The elements of herpes research are drug development, vaccine, and gene editing.

Herpes is the most difficult to treat among its family, including chickenpox and Epstein bar virus. These all members attack humans and animals like cats, dogs, horses, pigs, sheep, and cows.

Herpes viruses could be very harmful to newborns and immunocompromised individuals such as those infected with (human immune deficiency virus (HIV). Newborns are particularly susceptible to HSV infections as the virus can result in high mortality with permanent sequels in survivors.

The delay in vaccine development was not accepted by biologists. The first research which was done on the herpes vaccine was in the 1920s.

In recent years, the rate of the HSV spread has increased dramatically. The virus has affected almost 48% of people between the age of 14 and 49. Approximately, 54% of people are affected between the age of 30-39, 41% in 20-29, and 59.7% in 40-49.

Current approaches used by professionals to diagnose the herpes virus infections in humans include laboratory confirmation through culturing, serological testing, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). A blood test is the most accurate method for testing the presence of HSV in asymptomatic individuals.

Current research on herpes vaccine

The development of a prophylactic-therapeutic vaccine has proved its effectiveness against one type of virus. Biologists believe it will be effective for the other type of virus because of the genetic similarity in both types of herpes virus.

Conditions for a successful vaccine

The vaccine will be considered successful if it fulfills these conditions:

  • It successfully mitigates initial clinical episodes.
  • It controls the formation of ganglia.
  • The frequency and severity of recurrences were reduced.
  • Reduce the spread of the virus from animals having an initial infection.

The people who are in the initial phase of the HSV spread the virus faster because the symptoms of an HSV are more likely to appear in them.

The lesions of the blisters spread the virus from one person to another through oral contact or genital contact during sex.

A pregnant mother who gets infected with the virus transfers this virus to her newborn baby, resulting in his death or mental disability.

Is the development of the herpes vaccine difficult?

The complexity of the virus is making the development of the herpes vaccine difficult. It might have symptoms like the measles virus, but it is very different in structure from it.

The suffering from measles virus is only for a short span. Our immune system responds quickly against this virus and makes itself ready for the next attack of this virus.

Unlike many other viruses, the herpes virus remains latent in our bodies. However various factors such as hormonal, physical (chemical agents), and environmental factors may induce the activation of HSV in the host body and may end up in the occurrence of several HSV-induced illnesses.

The DNA of the herpes virus is very complicated than other viruses. It many times goes undetected by our immune system like most cancer cells do.

The procedure of working of vaccine is to stimulate the immune system of the body, but if our immune system can’t recognize viruses, how can a vaccine be effective against that virus?

If you are unaware of who is your target in the body, how can you find against it? Some researchers believed that this virus has evolved with humans for centuries. Due to which it is more like a part of our body except for invader.

The doubt whether biologists would be able to create a vaccine for a virus leads to a fear that whether this virus can be treated or not. But constant research on viruses leads to a question. Do you know what that question is?

How close are we to the herpes vaccine?

Scientists reported success within an experimental phase of a vaccine in which they have used a genetically modified version of the virus. The gene editing in the vaccine prevents the virus from performing its functions of a normal life cycle.

The vaccine has only proved itself effective on lab animals. Still, scientists believe that it will be more effective than previous medicine and eliminate all the drawbacks of the previous vaccine.

There is a burgeoning demand for the vaccine against HSV-1 and HSV-2 because the youth of all countries are in danger of being infected by this virus. To dominate the body’s immune system, the virus controls the nerve cells of the body and remains there in a dormant state.

The spread of the virus is confined to living human beings, and newborns can also be infected. Still, scientists haven’t become successful so far.

Some experimental vaccines were prepared by the biologists, but due to the failure of these vaccines at some phase of research, those vaccines were banned, and no further research was conducted on those vaccines.

After a lot of research, biologists have developed some vaccines in the research phase and some of which are very satisfactory. Let’s have a look at some of the vaccines which are under research then, we will discuss the development in vaccines with facts and figures.

Detailed information on the herpes vaccine race:

Vaccine Vaccine type Status
HSV-2 therapeutic vaccine DNA vaccine Phase II a
UB-621 Anti-HSV antibody Phase II
ACAM-529 HSV-2 replication-defective vaccine Phase I-II
VC2 Live attenuated vaccine Pre-clinical
R2 Live-attenuated HSV vaccine mutated in R2 coding region of UL37 Pre-clinical
HSV-2 ΔgD-2 Live-attenuated HSV-2 vaccine with US6 deleted Pre-clinical
HSV-2 mRNA trivalent vaccine HSV-2 mRNA trivalent vaccine Pre-clinical
G103 HSV-2 subunit trivalent vaccine Phase I-II
GV2207 N/A Pre-clinical
NE-HSV2 N/A Pre-clinical
TBA DNA vaccine Discovery
Theravax Live-attenuated vaccine Terminated
Herpovax Inactivated HSV-1 and HSV-2 vaccine Phase IV

The Herpes Vaccine Race

Live Attenuated HSV Vaccine:

These vaccines infect the respiratory mucosa and replicate there. Their localized spread provokes the immune system of the body. After the maturation of the immune response of the vaccine, it can be removed from the body.

Dr. Gregory Smith developed the R2 noninvasive vaccine. The application of vaccines on mucous tissue protects the nervous system of mice and rats from future issues. This shows its effectiveness for both clinical and neuroinvasive herpes virus.

Vaccine Developed by Using DNA:

The process of creation of the Herpes Simplex Vaccine by using DNA is different from other vaccines. In this vaccine, a small portion of DNA stimulates T-cells which increase the response of the immune system against pathogens. In Feb 2014, Frazer’s vaccine passed the trial of a vaccine against herpes virus in atrial, including 20 Australians.

To know whether a vaccine can prevent transmission, further research is needed. In April 2015 the HSV-II phase trial began. The vaccine was applied on randomly chosen 20 people and the results announced in 2016 on the success of its vaccine are:

  • In the trial of 20 patients, no safety issues have been reported.
  • The participants of the study reported a marked decrease level in lesions breakout.
  • On average the detection of HSV-II reduced.
  • The data demonstrated a 58% decrease in the virus shedding, the outbreaks reduced 50% post-vaccination, and 81% is the overall reduction in virus effectiveness.

Improved gene-editing tools – our driving force for the herpes vaccine.

The advancement in vaccine research in the last five years is due to the advancement of gene-editing tools. Researchers added combinations of gene-cutting enzymes. The more cuts this molecular scissor makes, the more difficult it is for the virus to survive.

In the second process, they choose harmless carrier viruses, which transports the molecular scissor to the parts of where nerve cells are clustered. During the early research phase, the research team learned to rely on the molecular scissor called meganuclease.

Over time, researchers found that they could up to 90% of the herpes virus using a 2-3 meganuclease mixture because it is easy to recover from one break than two. After a lot of information maybe you think till now scientists would be successful in developing a vaccine. To know the answer to it you have to take a look at how research on vaccines proceeds further?

Biologists have not confirmed any date for the launch of the herpes simplex vaccine, which will be effective against two types.

Additional research

Dr. Jerome demonstrated cleavage of HSV in a living organism which plays a vital role in disabling the virus. On August 18, 2020, due to a series of improvements in their original method, they had destroyed around 95% of the herpes virus in the cluster of nerve cells of mice.

His team gets this result almost after three years of hard work. In 2021, scientists of china described the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tool, which proved itself vital against the HSV-1 virus.

Even a lot of advancement has been made in research but still, biologists failed in defeating latent HSV. In the past ten years, the research of the vaccine has so far increased the hope that one day the vaccine for HSV will be available in the market.

The new research focused on the mechanism of how viruses attack the immune system of the body and how to cut the genes of the virus from the DNA-based vaccine. New methods of improvement in the vaccine have proved themselves effective.

The new vaccine should focus on cell-mediated immunity to control the complicated life cycle of the virus and its cell-to-cell transference. This article has summarized the latest research on the progress of vaccines. It sheds light on some potentially new ways to conquer the problem.

The detailed information on the vaccines and the latest research showed that the experiments are so far successful only in animals. The most successful treatment is found only for the HSV-1 virus. The vaccine which is effective against the HSV_2 virus is not as such reported so far.

What else is there to fight the herpes virus?

Until the herpes vaccine is released for human use, however, we still rely on the knowledge and experience of our medical professionals to diagnose and manage the condition. Sadly, due to its similarity in symptoms to other conditions, herpes is a commonly misdiagnosed virus.

Lydia – Medical Researcher for Medical Negligence Direct

So, being unaware of the launch of the effective Herpes Simplex Vaccine, we are now using some drugs as a source against HSV. Some drugs are also under research to prove themselves effective against the virus. Do you know which drugs are available in the market and which are still under research against the herpes virus?

Conclusion

What is the herpes virus and what are the symptoms of herpes virus are discussed in this article. Despite doing a lot of research for years on vaccination, but still, scientists are struggling in finding a competent vaccine due to the difficult structure of a virus. By spending a needed amount of finance on research, it is possible to create an effective vaccine, but it needs time.

Till now, what can you do? You have to adopt preventive measures through which we can stop the spread of the virus.

Give importance to yourself and always try to avoid those means which can be a source of damage to our health. Health is a blessing, so never compromise on it because when it is gone, you will miss it.

The herpes vaccine will be added to a long list of diseases and viruses we defeated with the marvel of medicine. Read about the smallpox vaccine that saved lives.

References

  • Kon, K. (2020). Herpes Virus Vaccine Shows Promise in Preclinical Study. Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology news.
  • Miller, H. (2020). Why is there no cure for herpes? Medical News Today.
  • Norton, A. (2020). Are we getting closer to a herpes vaccine? Medical Press.
  • Organization, W. H. (2020). Herpes simplex virus. 
  • Russel, S. (2022). A cure for herpes? There is progress to report. Hutch News Stories.
  • (2020). Vaccine shows promise against herpes virus. 
  • Wikipedia. (n.d.). From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herpes_simplex_research

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Kashaf Fatima
Kashaf Fatima is a professional health writer with 3 years of experience. A reader and a bookworm, she will always have a book recommendation for you. Currently studying a Masters in Food Science, she loves to research about food, nutrition, and everything in between.

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