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New Experimental Shingles Vaccine is Shattering Expectations

RM Shingles


Our beloved aging population should be breathing sigh of relief, according a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month – and the buzz words are ‘new experimental shingle vaccine.

A vaccine for shingles is nothing new; in fact, since 2008 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been advising all adults over the age of 60 and older to take the existing shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they have had chickenpox or not.

As it stands, the existing vaccine, or Zostavax, cuts the risk of shingles by about half; however, the effectiveness of the vaccine begins to decline within about five years. Thankfully, if this study is as promising as it appears, that is all about to change.

For those of you who might be unaware, shingles is caused by the reactivation of the dormant virus that causes chickenpox. According to the CDC about one in three Americans will develop the disease at some point in their lives.

Shingles typically manifests in the form of a painful rash on one side of the sufferers body or face and typically clears up within a few weeks. However, in some cases, the sufferer can develop a complication called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), which causes severe pain in areas where the rash appeared.

PHN usually goes away in a few weeks or months, but it can last for years, the CDC says. The worst part is, treatments for the PHN compilation are not very effective, which, like many diseases, makes prevention the best medicine. Segway to a new vaccine.

Clinical trials have shown that this experimental vaccine protected 90 percent of adults over the age 70, with an effectiveness rate that didn’t show any diminishment after four years, which has been the duration of the trial.

“This will hopefully have a high level of efficacy [effectiveness] and a long duration,” said Dr. Len Friedland, vice president of scientific affairs at GlaxoSmithKline’s Vaccines North America, which is developing the vaccine.

“Shingles is a horrible disease. I’ve seen patients with long-term excruciating pain,” said Neuzil, who co-wrote an editorial published with the study.

“The experimental vaccine uses a weakened live virus to stimulate the immune response to the shingles virus,” Neuzil explained. The experimental vaccine — dubbed HZ/su — uses just a piece of the surface of the shingles virus, plus an “adjuvant” ingredient that encourages a stronger immune response.

While the vaccine did show some short-term side effects, such as pain around the injection site, fatigue and muscle pain, there have been no reports of serious complications. While it is unclear when and if this new vaccine will make its way to market, it certainly is a sign that the treatment and ultimate prevention of shingles is on the horizon.