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Genital Herpes

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NIAID Research on Genital Herpes

NIAID supports research on genital herpes and herpes simplex virus (HSV). Studies are currently underway to develop better treatments for the millions of people who suffer from genital herpes. While some scientists are carrying out clinical trials to find the best way to use existing medicines, others are studying the biology of HSV. NIAID scientists have identified certain genes and enzymes (proteins) that the virus needs to survive. They are hopeful that drugs aimed at disrupting these viral targets might lead to the design of more effective treatments.

Meanwhile, other researchers are devising methods to control the virus’ spread. Two important means of preventing HSV infection are vaccines and topical microbicides.

Vaccines

Developing a vaccine against genital herpes has been challenging. Recently, an experimental vaccine intended to prevent genital herpes disease in women, although generally safe and well tolerated, proved ineffective when tested in a Phase III clinical trial known as the Herpevac Trial for Women. NIAID is examing other vaccine options and supporting several vaccines in various stages of development

Topical Microbicides

Topical microbicides, preparations containing microbe-killing compounds, are also in various stages of development and testing. These include gels, creams, or lotions that a woman could insert into her vagina prior to sexual intercourse to prevent infection. The NIAID Sexually Transmitted Infections Clinical Trials Group is conducting a Phase I study to evaluate the safety of a microbicide gel to prevent genital herpes.

An NIAID-supported clinical trial demonstrated that once-daily suppressive therapy using valacyclovir significantly reduces the risk of transmitting genital herpes to an uninfected partner. This is the first time an antiviral medication had been shown to reduce the risk of transmission of a sexually transmitted disease. This strategy may help prevent the spread of genital herpes.

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Last Updated January 26, 2011