Vaccine Blocks Herpes in Some Women

ByABC News
September 17, 2000, 9:39 PM

T O R O N T O, Sept. 17 -- Researchers have made the first vaccine thatprotects against genital herpes. But there is a major catch: Itworks only in women and only if they have never had cold sores.

The findings, reported today, are a surprise. Until now, novaccine has ever been shown to work in one sex but not the other.Experts say this could present unexpected trouble for creatingother vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS.

More Testing Probably Required

The results were not the clear home run that the vaccinesdeveloper, SmithKline Beecham, had hoped when it began designingthe latest studies a decade ago. Further testing will almostcertainly be required for the drug to be approved, assuming thatthe company keeps working on the product.

Nevertheless, doctors say a vaccine that offers even partialprotection against a chronic disease is noteworthy. The only othersexually transmitted disease that can be stopped with a vaccine ishepatitis B.

I would say the chances are good but not at all certain thatthe herpes vaccine will eventually be approved for routine use,said Dr. Spotswood Spruance of the University of Utah, one of thosewho tested it.

He predicted the vaccine would be given to adolescent girls.Widespread use of the vaccine this way would probably reducegenital herpes for both sexes, since it would lower the chance ofmen coming in contact with infected females.

Herpes Lasts a Lifetime

Genital herpes and cold sores result from closely related bugs.Herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1, causes fever blisters on themouth, while HSV-2 triggers sores on the genitals. Once acquired,both infections last a lifetime.

Both infections grow more common with age. Recent surveyssuggest that in the United States, 45 million people ages 12 andolder are infected with the genital herpes virus.

Spruance and colleagues reported the results of two majorstudies of the vaccine at a meeting in Toronto of the AmericanSociety for Microbiology. Both were conducted on couples in whichone partner had genital herpes but the other did not. The studiesinvolved more than 2,700 people in the United States, Canada,Australia, Italy and New Zealand.