You may see ‘Are they working on a cure for herpes?’ on forums and in internet questions.
The answer is a resounding “YES.” The medical world is well aware that there area many people who have too many recurrences. And some of them know how badly the ‘idea of having herpes’ affects society – especially in America. There are fortunes to be made…
Can we guess when a cure for herpes might be available? NO, WE CANNOT. There is no way to know when a breakthrough will occur. So, do not put your life “on hold” until they invent something new. Learn to live in harmony with the virus. Our resources will enable you to do just that.
Weekly, the HVA is sent links to newly published scientific articles which include the word ‘herpes’. We get between 23 and 156 each week. Some are about herpes varicella or herpes zoster – but plenty are about herpes simplex too.
Most papers report research in silico (computer based i.e. “in silicon”), or in vitro (“in glass” i.e. using cells growing in the laboratory). We occasionally report on these for the monthly updates our subscribers are sent.
Occasionally, the research reports working in vivo (in living organism) and this is when we start looking seriously at their work.
What kind of research is being done on on a cure for herpes?
Topical treatment: creams and lotions.
Currently there are aciclovir creams sold under many names which have limited effect; but penciclovir (pronounced as pen-sye’-kloe-veer) cream, sold under the brand name Fenestil, may be worth a try. However, we recommend you the Lomaherpan cream – which the office staff use as we find it stops recurrences in their tracks.
Future creams and lotions made from plant extracts from around the world are being shown to have very useful effects. But for a plant extract to become a commercial item, the cost of research and marketing is enormous. And then, because the active ingredient is a plant extract, any other company can make it too and cash in on your hard work. So we don’t expect to see these ideas come to market.
Oral treatment: tablets
Current antivirals are aciclovir and valaciclovir (brand name Valtrex) which are often used. One other antiviral can be prescribed but as it is extremely expensive, it is rarely used: famciclovir (brand name Famvir).
Pritelivir (pronounced as pri-tell’-i-veer) is a drug that works in a different way from the three above. This is useful for the rare person whose body will not metabolise the current antivirals. Pritelivir Is being trialled for use in immunocompromised patients only, at present. We will be following their reports.
Vaccines can be used as a treatment for people getting symptoms or as a prevention for people who do not yet have herpes simplex antibodies. Usually trials start by seeing if the jab can be used, and sold/prescribed, as a treatment. Then when there is an income stream, the company will run trials to look for it as a prevention/prophylactic injection.
Marian Nicholson, our director, started answering our helpline in 1985. At that time, we hoped that a vaccine created by Dr Skinner would stop herpes in tracks. It looked promising at first. Sadly, major trials in humans proved us wrong. It did not generate protection for uninfected people. There have been many, many trials on humans since. In the UK, the HVA helped find volunteers to trial candidate vaccines for Cantab, Chiron, Immunovax and GSK. None of these major trials showed up well enough to go further. The phase III trial that GSK ran on their candidate vaccine “Cost them so much it almost bankrupted the company,” on of the researchers told us!
Many other vaccines have been tested on people around the world, but dropped as they do not have a good enough effect.
Vaccines currently being trialled
At the time of writing, two different ideas are being trialled in the USA. BionTech have an RNA vaccine, and Moderna are testing a mRNA vaccine. Rational Vaccines are planning to run trials on UK volunteers, but have not set the date.
Getting rid of herpes simplex
Two different ways of “killing” the virus in the dorsal root ganglion are under way. These would be a cure for herpes once an for all. Molecular scissors are being worked on in vivo by Dr Keith Jerome. He points out that as his ‘scissors’ will be sent into the nerve root which registers sensation for the ano-genital region, his team will have to be very sure that it will not remove all feeling from the genitals and anus before testing it on people. The CRISPR technique is being used for the same purpose, by a team in New England.
The Sphere magazine, sent to subscribers, reports on research in every issue.
This post was loaded on 12-8-2023 and revised on 31-1-2024