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Published On: Fri, Oct 26th, 2012

Advances in herpes prevention and treatment- vaccines and nanoparticles

During the past few days, researchers from Yale University and biotech firm Agenus Inc. have made postive steps toward the prevention, treatment and symptom relief of the sexually transmitted viral infection, herpes simplex II (HSV2).

Herpes simplex virions Image/CDC

At the Yale School of Medicine,  professor of immunobiology, Akiko Iwasaki is in the process of creating a new method of vaccination that may be the first step in preventing the spread of genital herpes, according to a Yale Daily News report Tuesday.

In the study, which was published Oct. 17 in the online scientific journal Nature, Iwasaki and fellow researchers used mice to test what Iwasaki calls the “prime and pull approach”, which is an alternative approach from previous herpes vaccines.

The report says, according to the study, priming consists of activating the body’s T-cells — a type of white blood cell that protects the body from infection­ — using a conventional vaccine. Once responsive, the T-cells are “pulled,” or chemically drawn to the vaginal tissue by chemokines, proteins that activate white blood cells, she added. The recruited T-cells were able to “establish a long-term niche” in the vaginal tissue of the mice, protecting them from contracting herpes. 

“Tissue-resident memory T-cells are crucial for protection against genital herpes,” Iwasaki said.

The female genital tract, which is a portal of entry for sexually transmitted infections, is an immunologically restrictive tissue that prevents entry of activated T cells in the absence of inflammation or infection. “If we can protect women, the benefit will trickle down to men and population as a whole,” Iwasaki said.

Also at Yale, Mark Saltzman, chair of the biomedical engineering department of the Yale School of Medicine, and researchers in his laboratory have been working to develop nanoparticles to decrease symptom severity and boost survival rates of mice with HSV-2, according to a Yale Daily News report.

The study is published in the August issue of “Journal of Controlled Release” .

Researchers say that administering three doses of siRNA nanoparticles improved survival rates for mice infected with HSV-2.

By delivering siRNA molecules to the site of infection, these nanoparticles reduce the expression of the nectin-1 protein involved in HSV-2 infection and cell-to-cell transmission. As a result, HSV-2 is less likely to enter cells surrounding the site of infection.

On Wednesday, biotechnology company, Agenus Inc. announced that it has initiated a Phase 2 randomized, double-blind, multicenter study of HerpV, a recombinant “off-the-shelf” therapeutic vaccine candidate for the treatment of genital herpes in Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2) positive subjects. HerpV contains Agenus’ QS-21 Stimulon®* adjuvant, which is currently being studied in 17 additional clinical programs.

According to their news release, the study designated as protocol C-400-02 will enroll 75 HSV-2 positive subjects who have a history of frequent disease recurrences. The study will test the efficacy of the HerpV vaccine as measured by effect on genital viral shedding. In the study, 65 participants will receive the active treatment, HerpV and QS-21, and a control group of 10 participants will receive placebo. A booster injection will be given at six months after treatment to evaluate the durability of treatment effect.

Experts in HSV-2 clinical research believe that a reduction in viral shedding, the driving force behind the spread of genital herpes, is an important surrogate for clinical benefit in potentially reducing recurrent outbreaks.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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