Web Zap*Germs Archive

June 01, 2005

Experimental Chickenpox Vaccine Cuts Shingles Incidence in Half

If you've ever experienced the agony of shingles, or cared for someone suffering from it, you'll be very happy to learn that a new, experimental vaccine is being tested. If approved, this vaccine will reduce the incidence of shingles and lessen its severity in those who develop it.

Actually, this should be good news for everyone, because about half of all people who have live to age 85 will develop shingles at some point.
"For some people, shingles can result in months or even years of misery," comments study leader Michael N. Oxman, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at the San Diego VA Healthcare System and the University of California, San Diego.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. Once chickenpox infection has run its course, the virus is not eliminated; rather, it retreats to clusters of sensory nerve cells usually located near the spinal cord, where the virus persists in a dormant state. As immunity weakens with advancing age, the virus can reactivate, multiply in and damage sensory nerve cells to cause pain. It then migrates to the skin, causing the blistering rash of shingles.

Generally, shingles first manifests as pain, itching or tingling in an area of skin on one side of the body or face. Then a painful blistering rash develops in that same area of skin; the rash can take two to four weeks to heal.
More details available in this article.

Update 02 Jun 2005: Here's some additional detail on the vaccine study and shingles.


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