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New Microbiol. 2018 Apr;41(2):95-105. Epub 2018 Mar 2.

Varicella-zoster virus infection: natural history, clinical manifestations, immunity and current and future vaccination strategies.

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Retrovirus Center and Virology Section, Department of Translational Research and New Technologies in Medicine and Surgery, University of Pisa.
Virology Unit, Pisa University Hospital, Pisa, Italy.


Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is the etiologic agent of varicella (chicken pox), a childhood exanthematic disease that develops as a result of primary infection, and zoster (shingles), caused by reactivation of the virus persisting in a latent form in the dorsal sensory ganglia. Although varicella is generally a mild self-limiting illness, in immunocompromised subjects and adults it can have a serious clinical course that can lead to permanent damage of the central nervous system. In these and in most zoster cases, treatment with anti-herpetic drugs and/or immunotherapy is necessary. Because it is highly contagious, varicella is one of the most common exanthematic diseases. It is preventable by vaccination with an attenuated vaccine administered around the first year of age, and with a boost vaccination in school age. This article briefly describes the natural history and pathophysiology of VZV infection and its current epidemiology and provides an overview of current and future vaccine options to protect against varicella and/or zoster.


Chickenpox; OKA vaccine strain; VZV vaccine; Varicella-zoster virus; Zoster

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