Some Good News About Three Sexually Transmitted Viruses

Scientists are hard at work finding ways to improve your health!

With so much bad news emblazoned across headlines in every newspaper you look at, the world might seem like a gloomy place. So let’s take one depressing subject — disease — and peel away the sad outer layer to find silver linings of optimism.

When it comes to infections, a lot of us blame one thing: germs, also known as “bugs” — “pathogens” if we’re fancy. Some people might not think of infectious diseases as being that big of a deal — after a round of antibiotics, you’ll be on the mend. Unfortunately, antibiotics only work for bacteria, but a lot of diseases are caused by other types of germs — for which antibiotics are no match. One type of germ is called a virus, and they can’t be cured. Sometimes they can be prevented with vaccines or treated with drugs. For example, the major strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) can be prevented with a vaccine called Gardasil, herpes simplex virus can be suppressed with antiviral drugs, and HIV can be controlled with antiretroviral drugs — but none of these infections can be cured. HPV is usually defeated by the immune system, but herpes and HIV are with you for life.

But it’s not all bad. Around the world, individual scientists have picked their “favorite” viruses and are devoting their lives to finding better prevention strategies, better treatments, and even cures. Let’s check in with some of the latest headlines touting the successes of science.

New Hope for a Herpes Vaccine

A herpes vaccine would be a blockbuster — given how common this sexually transmitted infection is, a preventive shot could help a lot of couples discuss their herpes status without as much fear of judgment and stigma.

Herpes might cause an “outbreak” — unpleasant symptoms that include genital sores — but afterward the virus goes dormant in the nerve cells, hiding from the immune system. In some people, the virus can come out of its dormancy to cause flare-ups of symptoms, but once it’s had its fun it retreats back to the nerve cells.

Earlier this year, media reported on a promising new candidate for a herpes vaccine. Using a completely different strategy than previous, failed herpes vaccines, the researchers behind this breakthrough targeted the part of the virus that allows it to hide from our immune systems. If this vaccine works as hoped, recipients will be able to mount an immune defense when exposed to the virus, blocking it from establishing a permanent home in nerve cells. It might even suppress outbreaks in people who already have herpes. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • In a spectacular win for our collective uteruses (uteri?), President Obama has won re-election. He’s got a lot of single women to thank for that victory, too! (Today)
  • Also, he’s probably pretty thankful to “Jenni.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)
  • Hopefully with the loss of the election, the GOP has taken away a valuable lesson from their war on women. (Daily Beast)
  • Arizona might be on the losing end of their intended 20-week abortion ban. *crossing fingers* (RH Reality Check)
  • The folks who champion “illegitimate” and “unforcible” rape over a woman’s right to choose didn’t do so well in Tuesday’s election. Boo friggity hoo. (Jezebel)
  • Ever wonder why this country is still hung up on the abortion debate? This blog has an explanation from a bioethics perspective. (i09)
  • Montana just became the 38th state to pass a parental consent law for underage abortions. This is not a good thing. At all. (One News Now)
  • Birth control pills already do something awesome — prevent pregnancy! — but could they also prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? (Medical Daily)
  • Ohio anti-choicers just won’t let the “heartbeat bill” go. (Think Progress)