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Health Team

Test vaccine shows promise for less severe type of herpes

Posted January 5, 2012 9:46 p.m. EST

— A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests a test vaccine may help prevent one type of genital herpes, the most common sexually transmitted infection, affecting one in four women in the United States.

Unfortunately, though, it's less severe type – HSV-1 herpes – which means it probably won't be put on the market, says Dr. Peter Leone, an epidemiologist at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Leone, an expert on sexually transmitted disease, said researchers are more interested in developing a vaccine to prevent the more serious effects of HSV-2.

"The big difference between the two is that HSV-2 is associated with an increased risk of HIV acquisition through sexual intercourse," Leone said. 

Led by Leone, a team of researchers gave the vaccine to 8,000 women and then followed them for 20 months. The vaccine effectively prevented outbreaks in about 50 percent of women with HSV-1, which is the more common strain of the two and often appears in the form of mouth sores.

Until recently, scientists believed HSV-1 only happened above the waist, but experts now say that genital herpes can be caused by either type of the virus, Leone said.