Factors not associated with an increased likelihood of HSV-1 included race, condom use, oral sex, a history of any sexually transmitted infection or ever having a partner with herpes. Men weren't tested in this study, though prior research showed investigational herpes vaccines to be ineffective in men and HSV-1 positive women.
"I was very disappointed there wasn't more of a benefit," said Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an attending physician in infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., who wasn't involved in the study. "I think we're asking that a vaccine provide better immunity than an actual infection provides. I'm concerned if we'll ever find a vaccine effective for HSV-2."
"I think what we tell patients is ... there are antiviral medications that can make a difference and can give people comfort, and the availability of treatment is encouraging," he added.
While other potential vaccines are in the pipeline, Belshe said, the one that works probably needs to be "more complex" than the one recently studied, which contained a single surface protein of the herpes virus. The chicken pox vaccine, which has been widely used in the past decade, is a good example of a herpes-related virus that has been brought under control, he said.
"Something like that is what we need to come up with for HSV," he said. "I think this is a very important study, and the result is an incredibly important step in figuring out what will work."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on genital herpes.
SOURCES: Robert B. Belshe, M.D., professor, medicine, pediatrics and molecular microbiology, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis; Bruce Hirsch, M.D., attending physician, infectious diseases, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.; Jan. 5, 2012
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