THE RACE TO PREVENT HERPES OUTBREAKS




BY LIBBY COLEMAN

The first day, Eli felt tingling sensations up his penis, circling his testicles and then surging down his legs. “I was thinking what the hell is this,” Eli says. The next day brought sensations of burning and stabbing. Bedridden for hours, he finally went to the bathroom to pee, but saw nothing visibly wrong. A quick Google search pointed him to one diagnosis: herpes.

Eli, sadly, is far from alone. The World Health Organization says almost half a billion people below the age of 50 suffer from Herpes Simplex Virus-2, the kind that afflicts the genitals. A whopping 3.7 billion people have Herpes Simplex Virus-1, the mostly oral kind. There are treatments, but so far no preventative solution. The quest for a herpes vaccine is “one of the biggest unsolved problems of infectious disease,” says William Halford, an associate professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

I’d love the peace of mind to know my partners were not at risk of getting herpes.

But that may change. Halford is among a growing number of researchers questing for the herpes vaccine, both at medical schools and at biotech firms. All approach the vaccine differently, and if any of them are successful, they might just create the next human papillomavirus vaccine, which is now recommended for women below the age of 26.



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