First Patient Receives BioNTech Herpes Vaccine Candidate

German biotech company BioNTech announced that the first patient was dosed in the herpes vaccine trial. The vaccine is aimed at preventing HSV-2, a mostly sexually transmitted genital herpes, and possibly even HSV-1, oral herpes caused by oral-to-oral contact.

BioNTech estimates around 100 people between the ages of 18 and 55 to participate in its Phase 1 trial of the vaccine.

The experimental trial is scheduled to have two parts. The first one, Part A, is to center on safety and watching for vaccine-induced immune feedback. Part B of the trial will grow and ensure the absolute safety of the vaccine BNT163, including watching for pre-existing immunity to HSV-1 and HSV-2. The team estimates to finish the research trial in June 2025.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) around 491 million individuals aged 15 to 49 suffer from HSV-2 infection.

What is the herpes simplex virus (HSV)?

The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is divided into two different types, including HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 refers to oral herpes transmitted through oral-to-oral contacts such as kissing or oral sex and can result in cold sores. HSV-1 can also lead to genital herpes.

HSV-2 is transmitted through sexual intercourse and produces genital herpes. It can be transmitted through sexual contact with genitals or anal surfaces, skin, sores, or touching the fluid of someone infected.

Globally, around 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 have HSV-1, which accounts for 67 percent of the world population. For HSV-2, around 491 million people between the ages of 15 to 49 have it worldwide.

Although HSV infections usually do not have many symptoms, they can bring throbbing blisters or ulcers. It can also result in a burning sensation around the mouth before sores arrive, but symptoms vary greatly for each individual. It can also bring fever, body aches, and even swollen lymph nodes.

Genital herpes can come and go, and for many people, the first occurrence comes with the worst symptoms, lasting around two to three weeks. Future outbreaks tend to be less severe and shorter-lasting. Stress, menstruation, and other infections can trigger herpes symptoms to recur. In very rare occurrences, both types of herpes can be passed on from mother to child during childbirth, resulting in neonatal herpes.

To treat HSV, antiviral medications are used, including acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir. The medication can help diminish the symptoms but cannot completely cure the infection. HSV-2 infections can surge the risk of HIV infection.

How to prevent the spread of genital herpes?

Herpes in general can be transmitted when an infected individual has a cut- blisters or open sores- on their bodies. People with oral herpes must avoid oral contact with others. Those with genital herpes should also refrain from sexual activity when symptoms appear, as they are contagious.

Even if you don't have symptoms, you can still transmit herpes to others. To minimize the risk of proliferation, it is important to get medical checks frequently and also inform your sexual partner of your herpes.

It is also crucial to use condoms every time you have sexual intercourse. If you have symptoms, refrain from having sexual intercourse and oral sex if you have open sores in your mouth.

As HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be contagious even when no symptoms are apparent, it is crucial to get your body checked regularly by medical professionals.

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