Vaccine and Cream Combination Could Reduce Genital Herpes Symptoms Better Than Single Treatment Alone, Says New Animal Study

A combination of vaccine and medicated cream that can treat genital herpes breakouts may be on the way.  That is quite a hopeful sign of things to come for those who may have this common condition, but the treatment has, so far, only been tried on guinea pigs. Still, any potentially helpful treatment is, indeed, promising particularly at a time when there is not yet a cure for the disease. 

And this condition really is quite common.  Recent data from the United States Centers or Disease Control and Prevention indicates roughly one in six Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have contracted the condition.  And it is more than just a physical ailment. 

Lenox Hill Hospital obstetrician/gynecologist (OBGYN) Dr. Jennifer Wu explains, “Patients with genital herpes are very distressed by their diagnosis. They feel it can be a lifelong problem and a huge issue with future sexual partners.” 

This new study, then, employed two arms of treatment to guinea pigs that have been infected with genital herpes: the first administered the combination vaccine-medicated cream treatment to guinea pigs while the second administered the cream alone. 

Essentially, the vaccine works by triggering immune cells—we know them as T-cells—which respond to the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2.  This is the virus that causes genital herpes.  And the cream contains a medication called imiquimod, a common genital warts treatment.  According to lead study author Akiko Iwasaki, the cream is applied directly to the infection site as a means to attract immune cells to the location in order to prevent the virus from spreading any further, and causing the lesions common to herpes. 

The Yale University professor immunobiology explains that this dual-treatment appears to be far more effective than either of the two treatments alone.  This is the first time any study has shown how the prime-and-pull strategy can potentially block existing recurrent disease, he says.

Another professor at Yale (pediatrics), corresponding study author David Bernstein, cocludes,  “Development of a therapeutic HSV vaccine is a high priority. Our exciting results have encouraged us, and hopefully others, to pursue this strategy with more vaccines.”

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