Herpes 'Isolates People,' But A Vaccine May Be On The Way

03/03/2015 02:12 pm ET | Updated Mar 03, 2015

One in five Americans suffer silently from genital herpes, according to immunologist Dr. William Halford, an associate professor of microbiology at Southern Illinois University.

In a conversation with HuffPost Live on Monday, the doctor stressed that our inability to talk openly about herpes might be delaying a vaccine to eradicate the lifelong virus for all.

"We should have a vaccine for the disease, given its prevalence," he said. Globally, a staggering 500 million people carry the virus, though only about 40 million have chronic symptoms. "For people who have [herpes], it can devastate their lives: It cuts into people's ability to have sexual relationships... It isolates people."

Halford explained how attempts to create a subunit vaccine -- meaning a vaccine made from one component of the virus that stimulates immune response -- has largely failed in its mission to wipe out the virus. Instead, his team has developed a live, attenuated vaccine that could offer real hope for eradicating genital herpes.

"We have a lot of data that our approach works about 100 times better than a subunit vaccine approach," he said, likening it to the similarly structured Japan's chicken pox vaccine. "If I can take the vaccine approach that I have forward, I think we would have a way of ending genital herpes," he concluded. "It's that cut and dry."

Watch the rest of Dr. Halford's conversation with HuffPost Live in the clip above.

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