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Dermatol Clin. 2003 Apr;21(2):349-69.

Vaccines for viral diseases with dermatologic manifestations.

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University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston, Department of Dermatology, Galveston, TX, USA.


Vaccines against infectious diseases have been available since the 1800s, when an immunization strategy against smallpox developed by Jenner gained wide acceptance. Until recently, the only vaccination strategies available involved the use of protein-based, whole killed, and attenuated live virus vaccines. These strategies have led to the development of effective vaccines against a variety of diseases with primary or prominent cutaneous manifestations. Effective and safe vaccines now used worldwide include those directed against measles and rubella (now commonly used together with a mumps vaccine as the trivalent MMR), chickenpox, and hepatitis B. The eradication of naturally occurring smallpox remains one of the greatest successes in the history of modern medicine, but stockpiles of live smallpox exist in the United States and Russia. Renewed interest in the smallpox vaccine reflects concerns about a possible bioterrorist threat using this virus. Yellow fever is a hemorrhagic virus endemic to tropical areas of South America and Africa. An effective vaccine for this virus has existed since 1937, and it is used widely in endemic areas of South America, and to a lesser extent in Africa. This vaccine is recommended once every 10 years for people who are traveling to endemic areas. Advances in immunology have led to a greater understanding of immune system function in viral diseases. Progress in genetics and molecular biology has allowed researchers to design vaccines with novel mechanisms of action (eg, DNA, vector, and VLP vaccines). Vaccines have also been designed to specifically target particular viral components, allowing for stimulation of various arms of the immune system as desired. Ongoing research shows promise in prophylactic and therapeutic vaccination for viral infections with cutaneous manifestations. Further studies are necessary before vaccines for HSV, HPV, and HIV become commercially available.

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