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Are STI Vaccinations Coming Soon?

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Scientists have developed a promising new way of vaccinating against the most-common sexually transmitted infection.

Genital herpes, also known as herpes simplex virus or HSV, is a sexually transmitted infection with no known cure. It has been resistant to conventional vaccination techniques because our immune system’s built-in antibodies, T-cells—that circulate through the body and fight off invading viruses and bacteria—are restricted entry into certain organs, like the lungs, intestines, vagina, and nervous system.

The researchers at Yale developed a two-phase, “prime-and-pull” approach to vaccination that first creates a system-wide T-cell call-to-arms and then uses topically applied T-cell attracters called chemokines to encourage the T-cells to set up camp in tissue near the genital tract. Those antibodies thrived and reduced the spread of the HSV into the nervous system.

The new approach raises hope for not only a vaccination against herpes, but many infections—such as HIV—that invade all previously T-cell-restrictive zones.