American researchers are developing a vaccine that not only prevents herpes, but also works in people who are already infected with the currently incurable disease.
The corner of your mouth starts to itch and your crotch shines as the herpes virus awakens from its slumber and leaves its hiding place in the nervous system.
Four billion people around the world are infected with the virus, and whoever contracted it through kissing or sex will never get rid of it.
But now researchers are happily working on an effective treatment that keeps the herpes virus out.
Virus goes into hibernation
Once you are infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV), it will permanently move into your body. And so far no way has been found to get rid of it again.
The virus infects the nerve cells and goes into a kind of hibernation there. No symptoms are visible at this stage.
However, various factors, such as stress, can wake the virus from its slumber. Then the virus leaves the nerve cells and infects the skin cells.
The virus is aggressive in the skin cells. It multiplies strongly and inflates the cell. This is how the blisters known as cold sores emerge.
Vaccine disarms virus
The new vaccine is a so-called trivalent vaccine. That means it has three weapons against the HSV virus.
The vaccine forms three types of antibodies, which bind to certain proteins on the surface of the virus and disarm the virus.
This gives the immune system the ability to attack the virus, which usually manages to hide from the body's natural defense.
Promising animal tests
The vaccine has been tested on guinea pigs. 36 healthy animals were vaccinated with the vaccine, after which they were infected with HSV-2 (the type of herpes that attacks the genitals).
Herpes broke out in only one of the infected animals.
In a control group that had not received the vaccine, only 1 of the 24 guinea pigs exposed to the virus escaped herpes.
Possible on the market in 10 years
The next step is to test the new vaccine on macaques, which are more physiologically similar to humans than guinea pigs. If those tests are also successful, the vaccine will be tested on people infected with the virus.
If everything goes according to plan, an effective vaccine against herpes can come on the market within 10 years.
The hope is that the vaccine not only has a preventive effect, but can also ensure that the virus remains dormant and does not break out in people who are already infected.