Medical technician looking at liquid in a glass vial.

Three New Breakthroughs Could Help Control Spread of HSV

Recent research could lead to a vaccine or other more effective ways of preventing and/or treating infections caused by herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2. At present, there is no cure for such infections. 


Exciting new research findings hold the potential to sharply reduce new infections with the ubiquitous herpes simplex viruses, which today affect nearly half of all Americans. These viruses, known as herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2, are responsible for recurrent outbreaks of cold sores and genital herpes, respectively.

According to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 48 percent of all Americans are infected with herpes simplex virus 1, which is associated with recurrent outbreaks of cold sores, also known as fever blisters. Herpes simplex virus 2, which causes genital herpes, affects 11.9 percent of all Americans. This CDC data covers the prevalence of these viruses during the 2015-2016 period, the latest statistics available.

As alarming as this CDC data may be, infections with HSV1 and HSV2 are down somewhat from the 59.4 percent and 18 percent infection rates, respectively, reported in 1999-2000.

However, the prospects for still further inroads against these viral infections seem much brighter in light of ongoing medical research both in the United States and abroad. This blog post offers a brief overview of each of those findings and its implications for improved disease control in the future, as well as a look at currently available treatments for these viral infections.

Research at Penn: Animal Studies

A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has conducted extensive animal trials of a trivalent vaccine designed to produce immunity against the herpes simplex virus 2, responsible for genital herpes. Researchers published the findings from those animal trials in the September 20, 2019, issue of Science Immunology.

The research team first administered the vaccine to 64 laboratory mice. Four weeks after they received the vaccine, all but one of the mice were determined to have “sterilizing immunity” after exposure to the virus. The lone mouse that failed to acquire this most powerful form of immunity developed a dormant (nonactive) infection with the virus.

Next, Penn scientists administered the vaccine to guinea pigs, which are said to respond to herpes infections in much the same way as humans. Of the 10 animals vaccinated, according to, none developed genital lesions after exposure to the virus. However, two of the animals showed signs of infection although in a form that was not transmissable to other animals.

Lead researcher Harvey Friedman, M.D., a professor of infectious diseases at Penn, told that the immunizing effects of the vaccine were very encouraging to the research team. “Based on these results, it is our hope that this vaccine could be translated into human studies to test both the safety and efficacy of our approach.”

German Study: Learning More About HSV-1

As previously noted, herpes simplex virus 1 is most widely associated with cold sores. While the CDC reports that it infects nearly one in every two Americans, its prevalence worldwide is even greater — as high as 80 percent.

Researchers at Germany’s Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology have recently made some scientific discoveries that could well lay the groundwork for strategies to prevent the spread of HSV-1. In exploring the ways in which the virus affects various cells, they discovered that the NRF2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2) transcription factor appears to play a key role. Past research has found that NRF2, among other things, regulates antioxidant defense in epithelial cells.

Noting that a drug undergoing testing as a treatment for chronic kidney disease tends to activate the NRF2 transcription factor, they tested that drug — bardoxolone methyl — on cells infected with the HSV-1 virus. These laboratory tests, according to, showed that cells infected with the virus became far less productive when treated with the kidney disease drug. In other words, the virus was sharply restricted in its ability to reproduce and spread.

In the conclusion to their study, which was published in the October 2019 issue of Nature Communications, researchers note that their findings confirm that “high NFR2 activity restricts HSV-1 viral infection.” This should offer a helpful foundation for additional research into the prevention of HSV-1 infection by activating the NFR2 transcription factor.

Test tube filled with blood.

Arizona Research: Stopping HSV-2 in Its Tracks

In yet another study into ways to prevent the spread of HSV infections, researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine focused on the role of a pro-inflammatory protein in the immune system’s response to HSV-2 infection.

Specifically, the Arizona research team looked at IL-36g and its possible role in stimulating immune response to the HSV-2 virus. The protein has previously been determined to be a key player in fighting chronic inflammatory diseases but only recently has been studied as a possible weapon against infectious diseases.

Infection with the HSV-2 virus in women usually begins with the introduction of the virus into the vagina. Researchers found that in the absence of IL-36g, the virus quickly moves from the vagina into the nervous system, taking up permanent residence in nerve cells. Once it has established this foothold, the virus alternates between dormant and active phases, the latter of which are marked by the appearance of genital lesions that are highly infectious.

The Arizona research study found, however, that the presence of the IL-36g protein somehow keeps the virus from moving beyond the vagina and into the nervous system, thus preventing it from setting up a permanent home in nerve cells.

Jameson Gardner, the graduate student leading the study, told that this newly acquired understanding of how IL-36 works “can aid in the development of novel therapeutics to protect against . . . the burden of STIs around the world.”

Current HSV Treatments

Unless and until current research leads to the development of an effective vaccine, the most effective available treatments against HSV infections are powerful antiviral medications such as acyclovir and valacyclovir. These drugs cannot prevent outbreaks caused by HSV infection, but they have proved effective in reducing the frequency and severity of such episodes.

These antiviral agents can reduce the discomfort caused by periodic outbreaks of HSV infections by making it more difficult for the virus to replicate its cells within the body. The fewer active cells that are present, the less likely one is to experience a serious outbreak. Although neither of these drugs represents a cure, they do minimize the misery these infections can cause.

Ordering Antivirals Online

Longtime online prescription drug service carries acyclovir, valacyclovir, and Valtrex, the brand-name counterpart of valacyclovir. Its prices for these medications are generally lower than the average prices in the Secure Medical monthly review of prescription drugs.

Ordering online from eDrugstore also offers some added-value services that are not available from conventional retailers that operate brick-and-mortar stores. The drugs you order from eDrugstore will be shipped free of charge to your home or workplace, saving you the hassle of travel to and from the drugstore.

Both these drugs require a prescription, which you can get from your doctor or through a complimentary consultation that can be set up by eDrugstore. The latter will allow you to interact online with a licensed U.S. pharmacist who can authorize a prescription if appropriate. It can also save you plenty of valuable time and money. If eDrugstore’s services sound appealing to you, visit its Sexual Health page to learn more.

Generic Viagra, Cialis or Propecia