A Possible Vaccine For Genital Herpes?

Web Producer: Jason Beisel

Every day, more than 200 Americans are diagnosed with genital herpes.

"About one in four adults over the age of 30 has been infected with the virus that causes genital herpes. Some people become infected and never know they're infected," infectious disease specialist Dr. Thomas Heineman says.

Dr. Heineman says that's one reason the infection is such a problem. "Even people with undiagnosed or asymptomatic herpes can spread it to people who've never been infected, and those people can then have symptoms," Dr. Heineman says

He's hoping to reduce the number of cases with a vaccine made from a protein that is part of the herpes virus. It stimulates the body's immune response to the virus. "This vaccine may prove to be the first vaccine of any sort to prevent a sexually transmitted disease," Dr. Heineman says.

Early studies suggest it only works in women and that it's effective 75% of the time.

Rachel Heacox is getting her 3rd and final shot to be fully vaccinated. She's glad to be part of this research. "Right now, there is no cure for it, so, it's important to find a vaccination in order to prevent the spread of the disease. I think it would just give you the peace of mind that you won't contact something that cannot be cured, and that you could spread to others," Heacox says.

Dr. Heineman is hopeful. "It's a lot of fun to participate in these big studies where you actually have a sense that what you're doing makes a difference," Dr. Heineman says.

To participate, women must have never been exposed to either genital herpes, or type one herpes, which is the more common type that appears as cold sores on the mouth. The study will enroll more than 7,500 women across the country.