HSV 2 Vaccine

A recent statement from a biotechnology research company has given rise to optimism within the field of research relating to treatment of herpes simplex virus-s (HSV-2). In this article we consider what is currently known about a promising new treatment. Further information about the research can be located here.

Agenus Inc was the company that recently released an optimistic press release, which was primarily based on data from a phase two clinical trial. The trial was a collaboration between multiple centres and included a total of 80 patients, who reported up to 9 herpes recurrences within the 12 months leading up to the start of the study.

The participants were split into two groups, with one large group consisting of 70 participants receiving the active treatment and one smaller group consisting of 10 participants receiving a placebo. The design of the study rendered both the researchers and the participants to be unaware as to which group they belonged to.

As the study had several stages, the results were analysed as pre-vaccination period, vaccination period and post-vaccination period. Both the pre-vaccination and pos-vaccination period included a 45-day genital swabbing period. In the pre-vaccination period the participants received injections of the treatment or the placebo every two weeks. Once the participants had finished all the stages of the study the difference in HSV virus (as measured via the swabs) was compared between the groups. The key findings indicated that the participants in the treatment group showed a significant reduction in viral load as well as so-called viral shedding after receiving three vaccinations. In contrast to that, the placebo groups’ treatment did not yield any statistically significant changes. Based on this data, the researchers argued that further testing of this vaccine was warranted.

Although it may seem odd that researchers would be optimistic about results from a small study, it is worth mentioning that this study comes in a context of several previous studies by the same company which all appear to support this line of research. In addition to that, the treatment that Agenus Inc has developed is said to include a broad spectrum of herpes antigens, which can target specific immune responses and potentially play a role in viral shedding. Given that past research has suggested that there is a strong relationship between lowered viral shedding and fewer outbreaks among patients, it is hard to doubt the importance of this treatment.

What we know now is cause for cautious optimism. However, further trials are needed to establish the safety and durability of this treatment. Agenus Inc have stated that they are hoping to have the results of a follow up of this study in the beginning of 2014. We will be eager to see whether the optimism for this treatment continues.

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