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Acta Microbiol Immunol Hung. 2013 Dec;60(4):379-96. doi: 10.1556/AMicr.60.2013.4.1.

Varicella-zoster virus vaccine, successes and difficulties.

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Division of Virology National Center for Epidemiology Albert Flórián utca 2-6 H-1097 Budapest Hungary.


Despite intensive efforts in recent decades to develop preventive or therapeutic vaccines against diseases caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV), or varicella-zoster virus (VZV), members of the Alpha herpes virinae subfamily of human herpes viruses,a safe and efficient vaccine has been approved for commercial development only against VZV. The VZV vaccine contains a live attenuated strain, OKA. It consists of amixture of at least 13 subpopulations of viruses, all with deletions, insertions or mutations in the genome; the most common mutations are observed in the open reading frame 62 (ORF62). Experience over more than 30 years in Japan, the USA and other countries where VZV vaccination is provided has demonstrated that the vaccine is safe and the effectiveness of two doses compared to unvaccinated children is 98-99%. When administered in a higher dose to stimulate the declining cell-mediated immunity, the same vaccine has been shown to reduce the incidence and severity of herpes zoster in immunocompetent individuals older than 60 years. Vaccination of immuno-compromised subjects with this VZV vaccine is problematic and various strategies need to be explored. Differences in the pathomechanisms of infection, latency and immune evasion of VZV and HSV, together with host genetic factors, may explain the availability of the successful VZV vaccine and the failures of the past HSV vaccine candidates.


HSV; VZV; immune evasion; immunocompromised subjects; vaccination

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