Lets say Im holding in my hand, a syringe.
In this syringe is an experimental vaccine for HSV-2. The dreaded genital herpes.
The vaccine is a live HSV virus with one gene deleted, ICP0 (free paper about this virus). When ICP0 is gone, the virus can still establish life long infection (if you get this vaccine, you will be infected with HSV), but the viruses produced from this infection will be extraordinarily susceptible to interferon. This means that rather than getting a freak-out-inflammatory response where your immune system goes nuts when the vaccine virus reactivates (causing painful sores), your innate immune system can easily clean up most of it (thanks to the interferon), and your adaptive immune system cleans up the little bit of virus that gets away.
Because the crippled herpes virus is almost identical to regular HSV-2, this ‘little’ adaptive immune response creates cytotoxic T-cells that are specific for the vaccine strain… and HSV-2. You get antibodies that are specific for the vaccine strain… and HSV-2. And because the crippled herpes virus causes a real herpes infection that randomly reactivates, every viral reactivation acts like a tiny booster shot, creating more/better CTLs and antibodies.
This means if you were ever exposed to real herpes, herpes specific CTLs and antibodies would already be there, primed and ready to go, able to prevent the ‘bad’ herpes from establishing infection. So while you would be infected with the crippled herpes for life, you would never get infected with the ‘bad’ ones.
Do you want this vaccine?
I sure as hell do, but Im a vaccine junkie (every vaccine I get increases my superpowers), and I really, really dont want HSV-2 (though for all I know, I already have it– 75% of people infected with HSV-2 never know it because they never get outbreaks).
Well, herpes vaccine design is running into the same walls as HIV-1 vaccine design. Theyve tried everything, and everything has failed. The ‘old school’ ways of making vaccines just dont work for HSV or HIV-1. So herpes researcher William Halford is like, ‘Old school isnt working. Lets try something radically different. Maybe a life-long infection with a vaccine HSV-2 virus can be a safe, effective way to prevent disease.” But right now this new HSV-2 ‘vaccine’ is just an idea in the head of Halford and the other herpes researchers who ‘believe’ him.
Halford isnt a nut suggesting we go straight to clinical trials in people, but he is having difficulty getting The Man to even consider his idea. People are obviously cautious about Halfords approach. You would be infecting people with a real, life-long virus. Jesus just think of the PR “Hi! Im Dr. Brown! Im going to infect your baby with herpes. Genital herpes. BRB!!!” *rolleyes* And the old ways should work. Its just a matter of figuring out the right recipe– maybe a live vaccine wouldnt be necessary if one of the nice, safe, subunit vaccines worked out. Its hard to win people over to a ‘scary’ way of vaccinating when the ‘safe’ way still might be possible.
Halford pleaded his case in an editorial in Future Virology last year (its available online for free, and I recommend it). Subunit vaccines are limited. Dead viruses dont get us the immune response we need. Previous ‘live’ HSV vaccines are eventually cleared, robbing us of the ‘baby boosters’ that a real, infectious virus would provide. They are the same damn problems we have with HIV-1 vaccines– the old ways of doing things dont friggen work!! Halfords idea might not be perfect, but it might just be as perfect as we can get with todays technology.
But rather than screaming ‘EXPELLED!! EXPELLED!!’ and taking his ideas straight to high schools, Halford is plugging away in the lab. Supporting (or crushing) his own ideas with evidence.
*pokes Halford* Hurry up!