Thoughts of one of the millions of genital herpes sufferers….

In my line of work, every now and then, I receive e-mails and letters from people with genital herpes.  This is the primary means by which I have come to gain some small,  limited appreciation of how HSV-2 infection and genital herpes affect people in ways that simply cannot be measured with an antibody titer, a PCR, or any other calipers that a scientist may have in their toolbox.

Below, I have copied (word-for-word) an e-mail I received from an anonymous individual seven years ago.  It forever changed how I looked at the problem of HSV-2 genital herpes, and made me realize that you have to think about this disease through the eyes of the individual to see its impact.  Looking at the HSV-2 genital herpes epidemic from 40,000 feet, as scientists are prone to do, is fine for understanding the epidemiology of HSV-2 spread.  However, such detached, sterile descriptions of the frequency of HSV-2 seropositive carriers simply does not lend itself to understanding why HSV-2 genital herpes is a big deal to people who carry the virus.

We possess the requisite knowledge and systems to deliver an effective HSV-2 vaccine to the human population.  E-mails such as the one below lead me to believe that it is time we did so.

– Bill Halford


I recently read an online article about your research into a potential vaccine against the herpes virus.  I wanted to thank you for your efforts in this field and, beg you to continue.  Society seems to reflexively associate the virus with promiscuity.  But, as I am sure you are already aware, this is not always true.  Some, after their marriage ended as a result of the rigors of graduate school, find out that their wife carried the virus, but never told them.  Such news can be paralyzing.  And it’s not just the fear that no one will ever want them.  That is a selfish fear. It is the fear that one could inflict that same feeling of shame and anger in another; which, in turn, prevents them from entertaining the notion of dating and possibly marrying again.

The virus may not be life threatening, but the emotional effects are nevertheless malignant.  It is not always secreted away in some back alley or brothel.  Sometimes it teaches Sunday school and gives money to charities.  Sometimes it practices a profession and leads a very healthy lifestyle.  And while its host participates in these activities, it authors silent words of despair and loneliness.  It wages war against the best days and amplifies the worst.  I ask of you two things: first, that you would keep the origin of this email absolutely confidential; and secondly, that you not give up in your pursuit for a vaccine.  It does matter.  It is important.  And it could very well save lives, in every possible sense of the word.



  1. Hi Georgia, did you have this typed during culture? My bets are that it’s HSV1 vs HSV2 and that you somehow autoinnoculated. It’s pretty important to know the difference.

  2. Hi Bill
    The facts and opinions you have addressed to all of us is indeed such a great help. I am only at the age of 17 and I have been infected with genital herpes HSV-2, and have had my first severe outbreak. It was extremely painful, and I could not last a second of it. I was not sexually active at the time, I don’t even know how I contracted it. Can you just randomly get it? And I’ve been reading about the vaccine of small pox to reduce the outbreaks, is it true that it might help? Its really hard for me to still understand all of this and I’m just trying to get additional information for HSV-2 since I’m looking for options in order to help get ride or atleast fight off the infection for a while. What do you recommend I should do ? And is it normal for me to get bruises on my legs which I can’t walk properly and sore ankles due to when I get my outbreaks?

    • Hi Georgia,

      Have you visited an infectious disease specialist to confirm your diagnosis of HSV-2 and seek professional medical advice on the available treatments? I think this might be very helpful if you have not already done so. Going to a general practitioner (i.e., regular doctor) is a start, but for the symptoms you describe, I would consult with a doctor who specializes in infectious disease as this may be a long-term condition and more information can only help.

      – Bill H.

  3. Just an FYI. I was born in 1948. In 1954 (age 6) I started to get oral herpes outbreaks. By the time I was eleven (1959) outbreaks occurred every 3 months, lasted 4 to 6 weeks, and extended from my lips, throughout my mouth, and down into my throat. Outbreaks affected more tissue and lasted longer with each occurrence. Scabs welded my lips together, and I couldn’t swallow. I received intravenous feedings. A Dr. Carl Johnson in Chicago began giving me IM injections of smallpox vaccine in increasing dosages several times a month for a year. Since then, I had only one outbreak, and that was in 1972 (age 24) because I simply didn’t take good care of my general health. I am now 66, and I have not had an outbreak since then.

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the interesting comment. I think there is considerable anecdotal evidence that a therapeutic vaccine to reduce the frequency and severity of HSV-1 and HSV-2 herpes outbreaks is feasible. In general, I would prefer to use a HSV-2-specific vaccine to achieve this goal in reducing the symptoms of HSV-2 outbreaks (and likewise would prefer a HSV-1-specific vaccine to reduce the symptoms of HSV-1 outbreaks), as I think a vaccine with the appropriate viral antigens would have a higher probability of success across a population of herpes sufferers. However, I am glad to hear that the smallpox vaccine reduced your frequency of HSV-1 oral herpes outbreaks, presumably by re-awakening your HSV-1-specific immune cells out of a non-responsive (anergic) state while the HSV-1 virus itself provided the correct antigens.

      I use to dismiss such claims because they do not neatly fit into a box of how we envision immune control of HSV-1 or HSV-2 working. However, the reality is that over time, I have probably heard or read case accounts from scores of people which are each completely different in the specific details, but which are similar to what you describe. That is, the generic pattern I note is that (1) People get a HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection and arrive at a steady-state (predictable) pattern of disease for better or worse (i.e., very few episodes of outbreaks, or outbreaks all the time that linger for too long); (2) a non-specific vaccine like smallpox (which is quite a harsh vaccine) or a traumatic illness like Lyme disease comes along; and (3) after the traumatic insult / stimulus to the immune system, they arrive at a new norm for how their body deals with HSV-1 or HSV-2 (e.g., outbreaks disappear or become very rare). A physician in the U.K. (Gordon Skinner) repeatedly reported similar effects against HSV-2 genital herpes with a variety of preparations including an inactivated HSV-2 vaccine in the 1980s and 1990s.

      We have no clear basis in immunological theory to explain how a therapeutic HSV-2 vaccine would work. However, in my opinion, there are too many reports suggesting a therapeutic HSV-1 or HSV-2 vaccine may reduce the suffering caused by recurrent herpetic disease to ignore this possibility.

      – Bill H.

  4. Is it possible that the vaccine could become a “functional cure” for those that already have the virus? I was, believe it or not, INTENTIONALY infected by another gay guy I picked up at a bar one night 13 years ago (he taunted me about it latter that month). Since, it has actually spread to my hand. I have what I call “low level” outbreaks from time to time that look like subtle rashes. I have heard that high school wrestlers sometimes get this under their fingernails (either HSV-1 or 2) and occasionally spread it to other wrestlers arms, hands back, etc. I am terrified that I could spread it to, for example, my friends children with just basic contact. Unfortunately suppressive therapy does not work for me. Do you have any thoughts on treatments that could protect other people in my life from catching this without my having to hide away from all contact with others. Creams, gels?? Functional cures???

    Thank you

  5. HI Corina, I suffer from almost constant low level irritation, not necesarily “prodrome” persay, but not normal either. I was swabbed positive for HSV1, but have been negative (out to a year) on the IgG and Western Blot. My uneducated “guess” on it is that the immune system has the antibody codes for other herpes family virus (chicken pox, Epstein Barr, etc) and rather than make new ones, uses what it has for the common proteins between the viruses. I believe the constant prodromes without outbreaks are adequate, but incomplete antibody function against the virus. Be aware that my take is simply a guess.

  6. Can you please explain the process of why some people have constant prodrome symptoms but no actual obs? Most people believe prodrome symptoms mean an ob is about to occur. But, Im sure millions of people suffer from prodrome symptoms only…

    • Hi Corina,

      I believe that the “constant prodrome symptoms” you describe are what I would consider a form of neuralgia; that is, (1) a sensation of pain, itching, or burning in the anogenital region that was infected with HSV-2, and (2) which is completely disproportionate to what you can see externally.

      I am no neuroscientist, but my best guess is that this chronic neuralgia (chronic prodrome) is caused by inflammation in the sacral ganglia coming off the lower backbone. This is where latent HSV-2 lives….in neurons of the peripheral nervous system, and typically in the sacral ganglia coming off the lower segments of the backbone.

      An important thing to remember is that the neurons that HSV-2 infects are sensory neurons. The primary cell body of these neurons is in the sacral ganglia, but they send long thin axons (like a fiber optic cable) out to the anogenital region of your body and into the spinal column (where the signals are relayed to your brain). When you are healthy, these sensory neurons only send signals (i.e., fire off like spark plugs) when there is a legitimate sensory input from the skin / epithelium in your anogenital region. A “legitimate input” that should cause neuron firing is touch, pressure, heat, pain, etc. I believe that in people with HSV-2, prodrome / neuralgia are what happen when cells of the immune system attack the infected neurons in the sacral ganglia. These attacks and inflammation in the ganglia cause the neurons to “misfire” in a way that is completely disproportionate to what is happening on the outside. Nonetheless, your brain tries to interpret these neuronal misfirings, and I believe that it interprets them as pain, itching, and burning that is disproportionate to what is happening on the surface. In many ways I believe that this is similar to the post-herpetic neuralgia that people experience after shingles, but is not nearly as intense and debilitating as what happens after shingles (i.e., a recurrence of VZV infection).

      Not sure how much of that makes sense. The bottom line is that (1) constant prodrome symptoms probably means that your immune response is good enough to prevent HSV-2 reactivation events from causing recurrent lesions, a process that takes at least 5 days, but (2) your immune response is not good enough to immediately suppress HSV-2 reactivation events and the immune response that happens 3 or 4 days later drives inflammation in your sacral ganglia, and thus neuronal misfiring that tells your brain something itches or burns down there.

      Please feel free to tell me which parts of this explanation don’t add up, as my explanation is based on 25% facts and 75% inference.

      – Bill

  7. HI Erica, to clarify I believe what he’s saying is that your body needs time to ramp up in creating antibodies and T-cells. If you take antivirals it disrupts the viral replication chain and your body quits making those antibodies. It still remembers how, but it doesn’t have to make them. Without antivirals at least some HSV virus is always active somewhere so your body is on top of it and ready. If you take Valtrex and let your body shut down its defenses it will take a bit of time to ramp up again, thus making you dependant on Valtrex.

  8. Dear Bill,
    I have had HSV-1 since I was 15 years old. I never really thought about it too much because I only got a single blister or two from it maybe once every 8 months or so, sometimes longer. But right before I turned 21 I had a little one in the corner of my mouth and didn’t realize it. I put chapstick on before going to bed and woke up with tiny blisters literally covering my top and bottom lip. Ever since then I would get outbreaks that were in clusters all over my lips, I never had the single blister anymore, it was 10 times worse. Then frequency started changing. It went from once in a blue moon to once every few months. By the time I turned 22 I started looking into supplements to help with suppression, like L-Lysine. I took the Lysine but not religiously and if I got an outbreak I would get Valtrex. I had outbreaks so badly that it would spread to my chin, nose, and once it even was around my eyes! And when i turned 23? fooooorrggettt about it! I had to start taking 500mg of Valtrex once daily as a preventative. If I missed ONE day I would get a bad outbreak. I’m 25 now and have no change, its still just as bad. And now every now and then, if I forget to take the Valtrex first thing in the morning and wait until 4pm I may get one, or even if I dont miss a day it’s been happening occasionally.
    I have racked my brain, spent an ungodly amount of time desperately researching online about what can be done for prevention. I take multivitamins, B vitamins, D vitamins, Folic Acid, Selenium, 1500mg (sometimes 2000mg) of L-Lysine a day plus my Valtrex, I also have a list of L-Arginie vs L-Lysine ratios in foods so I’ve cut the worst ones out like nuts & grapes and always refer to this list if I’m unsure.
    Now I’m on a whole new level of desperate. I’m attempting to go gluten free in hopes that that is what is causing my stress, as I know stress can cause a greater frequency. And I also spent time getting blood tests run when I went to see a doctor 2 years ago because I was feeling depressed and tired all of the time and mentioned the frequency of the outbreaks and just generally feeling like something wasnt right. All of my blood work came back normal.

    I’m married. It’s not about finding someone who will accept me, but having to worry daily about taking medications to hopefully prevent what is just waiting to rear its head. Just waiting to prevent me from being able to be affectionate with my husband. Waiting to ruin a vacation or family get together because if I get one its not just unsightly but I literally cannot smile or sometimes talk because of the severity of it. Not to mention my husband does not have HSV-1 so I worry about infecting him. It all just weighs so heavy on my mind that my stress/anxiety level is probably through the roof. Which are now causing me to have thoughts about looking into anti-anxiety medications but the last thing I want is to have to take more medications, I’m already concerned about having to take the Valtrex as my doctor says it’s hard on the liver.
    Now I’m looking into trying to find an immunologist to consult with. I’m willing to do anything. I saw in your previous post that you mentioned the live influenza vaccine. I have never had the flu vaccine, nor gotten the flu itself, but aren’t all of the vaccines that are given for the flu not live anymore? And is it theoretically possible that a dose of the chicken pox booster may help me? I had the chicken pox terrible as a child and did receive the vaccine when I was little. I do however understand your point, that a vaccine for HSV is what needs to be focused on rather than turning to other unrelated vaccinations.
    Also, what about immunization with autoleukocytes. I don’t really know what all of that means, and that may have been what you were talking about above, but I saw a few websites that talked about this kind of treatment for pregnancy and briefly mentioned HSV but not in any depth. I only found one site that talked about this specifically for HSV:,10,20088,0,1.html
    Do you have any advice on this?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Tiana,

      I can’t tell you what you can do differently, but perhaps I can provide some ideas for you to think about what might be going on. You indicated that you acquired HSV-1 oral herpes when you were 15 and for the first 6 years it was not too bad. Then when you hit 21, it spun out of control after you put chapstick on a cold sore. Two other factors that may have changed for you between 15 and 25 could be (1) the use of birth control pills, (2) pregnancy, and/or (3) use of valacyclovir as chronic suppressive therapy. In addition, if you are either (4) chronically anemic or (5) take immmunosuppressive medications to manage other health conditions, that could alter how your immune system is interacting with the HSV-1 virus.

      Having been through some of the potential complicating factors, allow me to explain. Birth control pills or pregnancy can have immunosuppressive effects…..not relevant to many people with HSV-1 or HSV-2, but a trigger for some. No two ways about it……people with latent HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection (i.e., everyone who is seropositive) relies on their immune system to reign these viruses in and “hold them at gunpoint” in a so-called latent state. When people die who are carriers of latent HSV-1 infection, what has been observed in numerous studies are T lymphocytes (cells of the immune system) literally encircling HSV-1 latently infected neurons. If you ever saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this is like the end of the movie where Butch and Sundance are “made latent” by virtue of having the entire Bolivian army firing on them as they come out of a doorway. So, make no mistake that the immune system plays a critical role in keeping your HSV-1 infection in a state of “latency” (i.e., at gunpoint due to the effects of virus-specific antibodies and T-cells).

      The scenario you describe brings to mind that of a person whose immune system has lost control of a HSV-1 virus that it used to control prior to the chapstick incident. If you are taking any drugs that have known immunosuppressive properties (corticosteroids, chemotherapy, etanercept to name a few), this could contribute to your body’s immune system not working so well against HSV-1. Just as important (but not widely appreciated) is that the standoff between the virus and your immune system is an equilibrium. When you start taking valtrex day-in and day-out, this suppresses viral replication and thus suppresses viral antigen production. When that happens, the viral antigens that were keeping your immune system engaged disappear and so your immunity to HSV-1 ERODES OVER TIME WHILE YOU ARE TAKING PROPHYLACTIC VALTREX. Thus, the valtrex replaces what your immune system used to do for you, and you become dependent on the valtrex to fulfill the same function. If your HSV-1 virus becomes resistant to valtrex (or you are simply someone for whom valtrex is only partially effective), then valtrex is only going to limit the symptoms but cannot do what your immune system used to……pin HSV-1 down to the point where the infection was asymptomatic.

      I agree with the part about seeing an immunologist to make sure that your immune system is functioning normally. Things you might consider are the VZV shingles vaccine…….certainly not a perfect solution, but perhaps worth a try if you are running out of options. That said, YOU HAVE TO STOP TAKING VALTREX at least 24 hours prior to receiving the VZV vaccine. It is a live-attenuated alpha-herpesvirus (just like HSV-1), and it is sensitive to inhibition by valtrex. If someone receives a VZV vaccine while taking valtrex, they are wasting their time. You would have to give the VZV vaccine at least one week (if not two weeks) post-vaccination if the VZV vaccine is going to help you.

      Tiana, now that I have outlined the generalities for you, please e-mail me directly if you wish to discuss further.

      Good luck and I hope that your doctors help you find an answer.

      – Bill H.

      P.S. I forgot to mention that women are more prone to anemia than men (because of menstruation), and underweight women are especially vulnerable to anemia. Aside from the difficulties the bone marrow may have producing adequate numbers of red blood cells under these conditions, the bone marrow may also be compromised in its ability to produce adequate numbers of white blood cells (i.e., the mediators of immunity against HSV-1 and other infectious agents). In your case, I would focus on things that might help your immune system better combat the HSV-1 infection than valtrex can do on its own. Just my thoughts, and your doctors are likely in a better position to help you out.

      • Is it the same thing with acyclovir too? I recently started taking that 2 times a day for suppressive, but if it’s potentially making it worse by causing my body to not keep it in check, i might not want to do that from the sounds of it. Right?

        Not too many outbreaks, maybe 3 over the past 18 months, and who knows when it showed up in my life. :/

          • about valtrex/etc causing the body to not fight it off naturally. You said “Thus, the valtrex replaces what your immune system used to do for you, and you become dependent on the valtrex to fulfill the same function.”

            I have only had a couple outbreaks and they said i could take acyclovir to suppress it, but since the outbreaks are not frequent I’d rather let my natural immune system fight it off and take the acyclovir if an outbreak happens. that’s what I meant. :)

  9. Dear Bill,

    Thank you so much for the detailed response. I appreciate your thoroughness. What you have said does indeed answer many questions that I had and is also quite thought provoking.

    The main issue seems to be the inability to proceed with an attenuated live vaccine so either the FDA needs to change it’s rules or we need to find another country that does not have such stringent regulations. It is unlikely the FDA will relax it’s rules unless perhaps the CDC intervenes.

    I would think that the physicians and researchers at the CDC would at least be receptive to the concept of stimulating the immune system with a live attenuated herpes vaccine since we are in the midst of an epidemic. A person already inflicted with the disease would certainly not be at risk for getting the disease since they already have it. What’s the down side? I can’t think of anymore risks than might be associated with the flu vaccine.

    Are you aware of any countries that would allow the use of an attenuated live herpes virus vaccine?

    I apparently do not truly understand how other vaccines are made. I was under the assumption that flu, hepatitis, chicken pox, measles etc. all used some form of an attenuated live virus. Perhaps I am mistaken and if so I am having difficulty understanding why those vaccines are so effective and why a similar type of vaccine wouldn’t work for herpes.

    You have been so generous with your time and very kind and compassionate with your response. Thank you.


  10. A woman that I recently met said that she was treated in Australia for severe herpes (prior to 1971) with the small pox vaccine. Prior to being vaccinated she suffered from chronic severe herpes which has never recurred since that treatment. I thought this was crazy but I googled small pox vaccine being used for herpes infections and discovered that researchers in the US (CA & NY) in the 1920’s published a paper documenting that the small pox vaccine was very effective in treating a small number of patients with severe chronic genital herpes. Why has this not been revisited?

    • Hi Tanya,

      Yes, there is a long history of trying to reduce the frequency of HSV-2 genital herpes outbreaks by vaccinating people with unrelated, live-attenuated viral vaccines. The 2012 French study with the chickenpox / shingles vaccine is the latest of such studies. I provide the complete list of citations I have in my Endnote library that fall into this category. What I find so ironic is that the smallpox vaccine was really not a very safe vaccine at all, because it was derived from cowpox in the late 1700s and was passed in a very primitive fashion for nearly 200 years. So, it’s OK to run clinical trials with the not-very-safe smallpox vaccine, but now it is no longer OK to run clinical trials with a live-attenuated HSV-2 vaccine that is probably about 1,000 times safer than the smallpox vaccine ever was. The primary thing that has changed is how vaccine advancement to human clinical trials is regulated, and in particular this has become very stringent in the past 40 years.

      In fairness to the FDA, there were some legitimate human “patient” abuses in the realm of clinical research prior to 1960 that were nothing short of horrible. The derivation of HeLa cells from a cervical cancer patient named Henrietta Lacks is a case that straddles the line of what is ethical, and you could argue both sides of whether this is a true human rights abuse…..probably a better example of a case where they should have been informed consent. In contrast, the Tuskegee experiment (‎) was truly horrific and it is hard not to envision that Adolf Hitler’s long-lost brother was responsible for running this atrocity by which so-called “doctors” simply withheld treatment from syphilis patients to see what would happen as the horrible disease slowly progressed over years to decades.

      However, in typical federal fashion, everyone over-reacted and now it is all but impossible to test a new live-attenuated vaccine in humans to make sure that human rights are protected, and to make sure that the treatment is safe. As I have said elsewhere, the problem with the current formula for weighing the risks of new HSV-2 vaccines is that the question is (1) Is there any risk associated with a new HSV-2 vaccine at all? (there always is a risk in the absolute sense), whereas the medically relevant question is, (2) How does the risk of a new HSV-2 vaccine compare to the risk of doing nothing at all?

      The earlier studies on the smallpox vaccine and other non-specific live viral vaccines on the frequency of herpes outbreaks date back to a time where a majority of scientists used common sense to weigh the relative risk of trying the smallpox vaccine versus simply letting people with chronic herpes suffer.

      What I note is that it is interesting that a non-specific vaccine can have any effect on the progression of genital herpes and frequency of recurrent herpes outbreaks. While I could dismiss one study, it is hard to dismiss the myriad of investigators who have observed such an effect, as well as personal anecdotes from individuals who report a major decrease / disappearance of genital herpes outbreaks on the heels of a major stimulus that would be highly stimulating to the immune system (e.g., receiving a smallpox vaccine, or recovering from Lyme’s disease). Again, I cannot explain this phenomenon, but I have heard the same basic story described by dozens of papers and individuals…..too much evidence to simply dismiss without considering what it could mean.

      What these observations suggest to me is the possibility that it may be possible to “reprogram” a herpes carrier’s immune response such that it is more effective at doing its job. The lymphocytes that control HSV-2 infection have to make a choice when they see their cognate protein antigen expressed by HSV-2 infected cells…….like Shakespeare’s famous line……to respond or not to respond, that is the question. Just because a lymphocyte “sees” a HSV-2 antigen, there is nothing written in stone that it has to respond. It is well known amongst immunologists that (1) absence of adequate “danger signals” or (2) the repressive cytokines made by T-suppressor cells (now named CD25+ T-regulatory cells) can prevent other lymphocytes from responding to their cognate antigen. In general, this state of non-responsiveness to a lymphocyte’s cognate antigen is called “anergy.” Against this background, it is possible that people who experience frequent outbreaks of HSV-2 genital herpes (or frequent oral herpes) have too many virus-specific lymphocytes that are just laying around not doing their job (i.e., too many anergic HSV-2-specific lymphocytes). Under this scenario (and let me emphasize that this is PURELY SPECULATION at this point in time), it is possible that a smallpox vaccination or other insult (recovery from Lyme’s disease) could be sufficient to provide the necessary “danger signals” to call the body’s HSV-specific T-cells back into action…..yielding a sudden dramatic decrease in the frequency of herpes outbreaks due to an increase in HSV-specific lymphocytes called back into action. In particular, “danger signals” tend to boil down to pro-inflammatory cytokines and upregulation of co-stimulatory molecules on professsional antigen-presenting cells, which provide the essential “2nd signals” that kick T-cells in the arse and get them to respond productively to their cognate antigens.

      What I generally find important here is that such observations raise the possibility that a therapeutic HSV-2 vaccine may be possible, even if we do not currently understand the underlying mechanism by which this would work. However, it would make far more sense to manufacture a therapeutic vaccine from a live-attenuated HSV-2 virus (that encodes the same antigens as wild-type HSV-2) rather than pull random vaccines off the shelf like 1. the smallpox vaccine (which we no longer use), 2. live influenza vaccine, or 3. the live polio vaccine.

      Tanya, thanks for the interesting question. I provide references below to other papers that discuss similar phenomena to what you describe in your post.

      – Bill H.

      1. Anderson, F. D., R. N. Ushijima, et al. (1974). “Recurrent herpes genitalis. Treatment with Mycobacterium bovis (BCG).” Obstet Gynecol 43(6): 797-805.

      2. Bierman, S. M. (1978). “Sabin’s poliomyelitis vaccine in recurrent herpes simplex.” Arch Dermatol 114(7): 1094-5.

      3. Douglas, J. M., L. A. Vontver, et al. (1985). “Ineffectiveness and toxicity of BCG vaccine for the prevention of recurrent genital herpes.” Antimicrob Agents Chemother 27(2): 203-6.

      4. Fanta, D., V. Dostal, et al. (1977). “[BCG therapy of recurrent herpes simplex type 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and 2)].” Z Hautkr 52(21): 1099-104.

      5. Gabrielson, D. A., J. J. Kelleher, et al. (1980). “Effect of Corynebacterium granulosum immunopotentiation on the pathogenesis of herpes simplex virus type 2 in BALB/c mice.” Infect Immun 30(3): 791-6.

      6. Garrel, J., P. Millet, et al. (1979). “[Recurrent herpes: treatment using trivalent oral polio vaccine (author’s transl)].” Nouv Presse Med 8(1): 47.

      7. Kern, A. B. and B. L. Schiff (1959). “Smallpox vaccinations in the management of recurrent herpes simplex: a controlled evaluation.” J Invest Dermatol 33: 99-102.

      8. Macotela, E., J. B. Alvarez-de la Rocha, et al. (1979). “[Management of recurrent genital herpes simplex with the Sabin triple vaccine].” Gac Med Mex 115(10): 461-3.

      9. Mihailescu, R., M. Vitzu, et al. (1990). “Treatment and prophylaxis of recurrent genital herpes using vaccinia immunostimulant (Antiherpin).” Arch Roum Pathol Exp Microbiol 49(4): 315-21.

      10. Miller, J. B. (1979). “Treatment of active herpes virus infections with influenza virus vaccine.” Ann Allergy 42(5): 295-305.

      11. Miller, J. B. (1984). “Herpes: rapid relief with influenza virus vaccine.” J Ala Dent Assoc 68(3): 17-23.

      12. Moller, A., P. L. Andersen, et al. (1997). “[Yellow fever vaccination as prophylaxis of herpes labialis].” Ugeskr Laeger 159(15): 2228-9.

      13. Mudd, S., E. D. Varnell, et al. (1975). “The effect of nonspecific immune stimulation on the recurrence rate of herpetic keratitis in rabbits.” Invest Ophthalmol 14(6): 469-71.

      14. Reich, P., W. Stocker, et al. (1985). “[Treatment of recurrent herpes simplex in medical personnel in a dermatology clinic using the trivalent poliomyelitis vaccine (Sabin)].” Z Gesamte Hyg 31(12): 708-9.

      15. Schoub, B. D. (1982). “Smallpox vaccine for the treatment of recurrent herpes infection.” S Afr Med J 62(7): 189.

      16. Schoub, B. D. (1991). “Polio vaccine for the treatment of recurrent herpes simplex infections.” S Afr Med J 79(10): 623.

      17. Skinner, G. R., A. Buchan, et al. (1991). “A virus-particle vaccine prepared from bovine mammillitis virus against herpes genitalis.” Comp Immunol Microbiol Infect Dis 14(2): 133-50.

      18. Skinner, G. R., A. Buchan, et al. (1987). “Role of bovine mammillitis virus towards preparation of an alternative vaccine against herpes simplex virus infections of human subjects.” Vaccine 5(1): 55-9.

      19. Smolin, G., M. Okumoto, et al. (1975). “Effect of immunization with attenuated Mycobacterium bovis (BCG) on experimental herpetic keratitis.” Can J Ophthalmol 10(3): 385-90.

      20. Starr, S. E. (1977). “Immunotherapy for recurrent herpetic infections.” Cutis 20(5): 596-8, 605.

      21. Starr, S. E., A. M. Visintine, et al. (1976). “Effects of immunostimulants on resistance of newborn mice to herpes simplex type 2 infection.” Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 152(1): 57-60.

      22. Tager, A. (1974). “Preliminary report on the treatment of recurrent herpes simplex with poliomyelitis vaccine (Sabin’s).” Dermatologica 149(4): 253-5.

      • So a good way to look further would be to ask anonymously military service personnel. Notibly they had been required to receive the smallpox vaccine. Being said at some point in my life I guess I contracted HSV2 and now fighting meningitis caused by it. Never had outbreaks etc., never even knew..crazy surprise but hence thought I may of had a false positive because of the vaccine and have found a lot of other related information. I was in the military and had the smallpox vaccine. Did it keep it at bay all these years and undetected.. Just some neat stuff to consider. I am an RN with a few degrees and never would have thought I would get meningitis from HSV2.. A VACCINE WOULD BE GREAT!!

  11. Thanks for all your work and I hope that soon you will be able to run a Phase I Clinical Trial of a live-attenuated HSV-2 vaccine.
    I do have a concern with your recommendation of the website:
    It is owned by John Spurge a Naturopath with a degree in Business Commerce from Australia (from which he operates). This website does offer a lot of information but not without a reason: If you search his name, you will find he has multiple websites to sell different “magical” products for herpes with wishfull words like: treatment, fighting, supress, etc. Nothing illegal, I guess, but not being illegal is not the same as offering scientific proof that something works. We need a real medicine to treat the outbreaks and real medicine to kill the virus. And we also need some website where the snake-oil sellers get exposed.

    • Dear Mary,

      Thank you for the clarification. I have heard of a few websites that tout “remedies” for herpes but are nothing more than scams intended to separate overly trusting people from their money. I certainly do not want to refer readers of this blog to websites that perpetuate such misinformation. I will be looking into this further.

      Thanks for the heads up.

      – Bill H.

  12. I can attest to the damage that can be wrought by this disease. Since I was infected by the first woman I’d ever had an intimate relationship with (20 years ago) I’ve never again really enjoyed sex. And, the more I actually care for a potential partner, the less appealing is the idea of potentially exposing them to an incurable disease. I’ve been celibate now for about 10 years now. Besides the lost joy of intimate relationships, I’ve also given up the joy of a future family. Very few people even know my reasons for this. It feels incredibly isolating.

    I think one of the main reasons that this disease is so under-funded is the social stigma. It is very easy to view people who have herpes as just less worthy of help in some way. I know my interactions with heath care professionals have many times reinforced this impression.

    So, thank you for your work. Keep it up. I’m afraid the results will likely be too late for me, but it is a real affliction that deserves attention.

    • Hi Anon,

      Regarding your point about people with herpes being treated as “just less worthy,” I have no doubt that some MDs / medical practitioners don’t really “get it” when it comes to HSV-2 genital herpes, and so they rush to judgment about what a HSV-2 diagnosis says about a patient’s moral compass (instead of actually listening to and understanding their patients). While I think that this is unfortunate and grossly unfair, I don’t think that this particular form of human ugliness is the root cause of why we lack a HSV-2 genital herpes vaccine.

      Rather, I think scientists as a rule are slow to change their thinking about how they approach a problem, and I am afraid that the direction of the past 30 years of HSV-2 vaccine research has been based on an inaccurate / incomplete idea of what a good HSV-2 vaccine “should” look like.

      The relevant question now is “Can we change course and find a different type of HSV-2 vaccine that actually works?” My answer is yes, but this is like trying to change the course of a supertanker that is fully loaded. A course correction is possible, but is going to take many years of continual pressure to make it happen. As with HIV vaccines, I am afraid that our failure to produce an effective HSV-2 vaccine does not reflect a lack of concern or effort, but rather simply reflects the fact that HSV-2 vaccine researchers have been barking up the wrong tree for 30 years. I hope that I can convince a few people that it is time to try a different type of HSV-2 vaccine approach that is more likely to succeed in human clinical trials.

      – Bill H.

  13. Thanks for giving a hope, dr. Halford. I’m write you from Russia and want to say that all world hope for vaccine, please help to stop that epidemic. Also, did you think to organise clinical trial not in US?
    We can’t wait for 6 years or more :( For example, in Russia clinical trials takes in 2-3 time faster.

    • Dear Ivan,

      I am willing to run a Phase I Clinical Trial of a live-attenuated HSV-2 vaccine in any country that is willing to host such a study. If I can identify a viable partner in Russia, China, or elsewhere, I will be happy to move forward with a Clinical Trial per the rules and regulations of that country.

      – Bill H.

      • Bill,
        Thank you for your research and being a proponent to keep going. I’m currently having the worst HSV-2 breakout I’ve had in the the 8 months since I got infected. I wanted to ask, have scientists ever just thought about a vaccine that will keep the virus from going back into hiding. My understanding is it comes out, irritates the skin and makes the sores, then goes back into hiding. It could be treated if it doesn’t go back into hiding with drugs that are already out there. So, trying to keep it out from hiding while other the other drugs defeat it would work? I’m sure there are millions of other things to think about but that’s the simplistic version.


        • Hi Mark,

          Please allow me to suggest that there are other websites that are already established, and much better set up to provide information and support for people recently diagnosed with genital herpes. These sites include, but are not limited to:


          If you join these groups, I think you will find the people there are far better equipped to address the many questions you may have.

          – Bill H.

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