Missouri: Joyner-Kersee Supports University's Efforts to Create Herpes Vaccine
July 14, 2003
Five-time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee has joined researchers at Saint Louis University to lend support to their efforts to eradicate genital herpes. Joyner-Kersee said she thinks efforts to educate about the disease and to create a vaccine ultimately can improve women's health and help protect babies. Infants who contract the disease from their mothers can suffer brain damage or die.
Researchers at the school are leading a national study into a possible vaccine to prevent genital herpes in women. The study will involve 7,550 women at 17 sites nationwide. The vaccine would not cure herpes for those already infected but, if successful, it ultimately could be administered to women before they become sexually active and prevent them from contracting the disease, researchers said. The vaccine would not protect men against the virus. Researchers will know the results of the trial in about four years.
Doctors said they have been having difficulties recruiting women to take part in the study. The school wants to enroll 500 uninfected, healthy women ages 18-30 in the clinical trial, but so far they have only been able to vaccinate about 30 women. Women cannot contract the disease from the vaccine, doctors at the school said. Dr. Thomas Heineman, the study's principal investigator, thinks herpes is not as familiar to people as many other illnesses.
CDC estimates that 45 million American teenagers and adults are infected with type 2 herpes virus, which is almost always spread by sexual contact. Dr. Robert Belshe, director of the school's center for vaccine development and the study's national chair, said barrier methods of contraception, like condoms, can provide some protection against the spread of genital herpes. Joyner-Kersee said she will record public service announcements to educate people about genital herpes.
07.09.03; Betsy Taylor
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.