Genital herpes has been a recognised condition for thousands of years, dating all the way back to the time of Hippocrates. Yet despite ongoing medical efforts to drive down the rate of occurrence, this condition has persevered, and today there exists an estimated 35,000 cases of herpes amongst the UK population. Globally, the figures are even more concerning, with herpes affecting two-thirds of the populous under the age of 50 and in fact there’s no doubt that herpes could have reached epidemic levels if it weren’t for the natural protection that some individuals have against the virus.

The end of herpes would be nothing short of momentous, a genuine feat of science, and today, thanks to the efforts of two companies, this is the exact situation we are finally facing.

Genital Herpes – A Brief Overview

Genital herpes is a virus that passes from one to another through intercourse and, in rarer instances, though oral sex. Classified as a simplex virus (HSV), this condition infects the skin and mucous membranes surrounding the genitals, and can sometimes also affect the rectum.         

The condition leads to many symptoms which fall under two categories – those experienced during a first attack and those associated with recurring outbreaks, these include:

   Fever & flu-like symptoms

   Nausea or feeling sick

   Muscle aches

   Painful urination

   Tingling, burning or itching sensation in the area where blisters will appear

Two Companies, Two Vaccines, One Incredibly Promising Outlook

“Everything looks pretty promising. There are two companies competing head to head to see who can get the vaccine out first, and they both have different ways of getting their vaccine out. So I thought it was very interesting to see the dollars they’ve committed to the research and the ways they’re trying to get it out for human use as soon as possible.”

      Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologist at Orlando Health in Florida

Today there are not one but two potential vaccines looming, from two separate companies. One is a treatment, while the other is a preventative measure.

Genocea, the first company, are just completing their phase two trials, and have achieved a promising 50% reduction in the virus as compared to the test group.

Ultimately this could mean that they are just 2 years away from releasing an approved, publically available vaccine.

Rational Vaccines, the second company, are a few steps behind Genocea in terms of their timeline, having announced their phase 1 results in 2016, although they are working on two drugs, rather than one, with these being Theravax and Profavax.

“Theravax would essentially be a therapy, as an alternative to the current antiviral medication, whereas Provax would be for prevention. That means a patient could take Provax and prevent ever getting the virus”.

      Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologist at Orlando Health in Florida

Thanks to both companies today we stand on the verge of overcoming herpes, yet getting to this point hasn’t been without its many challenges. In the case of Genocea, its trials involved patients who reacted in unexpected ways, whilst for Rational Vaccines, there has been much controversy to address after the company chose to develop their drug on the island of St. Kitts (bypassing US regulations in the process).

Nevertheless we are now at a fascinating turning point for the herpes virus and those in the medical realm should watch with interest just what unfurls over the coming few years.