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Potential Herpes Vaccine Disappoints Researchers
Date:1/5/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- A potential vaccine for genital herpes has shown only limited effectiveness in thwarting one type of the sexually transmitted virus and no ability to stop a second type from spreading, a new study shows.

A group of American and Canadian researchers conducted a randomized trial on more than 8,300 women aged 18 to 30 who tested negative for both forms of the herpes simplex virus, known as HSV-1 and HSV-2. Half of the women were given the experimental vaccine while the other half were given the hepatitis A vaccine.

The experimental vaccine was 58 percent effective at preventing genital disease stemming from HSV-1, but completely ineffective against HSV-2.

"We were disappointed it did not meet the primary [goal], which was protection against all types of genital herpes," said study author Dr. Robert B. Belshe, a professor of medicine, pediatrics and molecular microbiology at Saint Louis University. "Herpes is a complex organism and has ways of escaping the immune system, so we have to figure out a way of overcoming those mechanisms."

The study is published Jan. 5 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Genital herpes affects about 16 percent of Americans aged 14 to 49, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both types of the virus are released from their resulting sores but can also be transmitted between outbreaks, and the infection is potentially fatal in newborns who acquire it from their mothers during birth.

Fifty clinical sites in both the United States and Canada followed the women -- who reported their own sexual risk behaviors -- between 2003 and 2007. A heightened risk for HSV-1 infection was associated with six or more lifetime sexual partners and more than one partner in the previous 12 months, while those who were 23 or older were less likely to contract HSV-1
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