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Herpes Vaccine Trials Begin

By Stephen Luntz

Phase 1 trials are underway for a vaccine against the HSV-2 virus responsible for genital herpes.

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An estimated 500 million people have HSV-2 infections. While many never experience an outbreak of the genital sores, they may still be infectious. For others “the virus causes pain and discomfort, and can have serious health implications for babies born to infected women,” says Prof Ian Frazer, who is leading research into the vaccine at the Diamantina Institute. Moreover, genital sores greatly increase the chance of HIV transmission.

Coridon, the company developing the vaccine, will inject 20 healthy individuals to test its safety and establish the dose required to generate a strong immune response. “Based on that we will know if we can move to the next stage or if we need to tweak the vaccine and test again,” says Coridon CEO Neil Finlayson.

The vaccine works by introducing a small section of DNA that uses the body’s cells to produce a protein that primes the immune system against HSV, both by causing the production of antibodies and by generating a cell-mediated response.

“Herpes infection can stay dormant in the spinal cord and sit in a latent stage in the ganglion, returning when the body is under stress,” Finlayson says. “Antibodies can protect against viral infection, but when someone is already infected you need a cell-mediated response where T-cells recognise the body’s own cells as infected and mount a response to clean up the virus.”

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.