NIH forms Multi-Council Working Group for Herpes

person holding laboratory flask

Herpes Cure Advocacy celebrates a step forward on the path to the cure, treatment and prevention of Herpes. NIH has assembled a Multi-Council Working Group for Herpes Simplex Virus and are calling for input from field scientists and the general public. Herpes patients and field experts are excited to see this progress, an important win for advocates, who have been urgently calling on the federal government for a response. There is new momentum in the field of herpes, a common and important infectious disease area that has been stagnant for decades. There is currently an addendum for the cure treatment and prevention of Herpes being developed and incorporated into the 2020 National STI Strategic Plan at OASH. Additionally NIAID/CDC held a joint workshop for genital herpes in November 2022, the first federal meeting for Herpes in decades.

The new trans-NIH Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Working Group is engaged in the development of a strategic research plan on Herpes Simplex Virus. The working group is being led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and includes representatives from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The strategic research plan will be structured around four areas of research noted below. Working group leaders have also issued a request for information into the research plan from field experts and the general public.

Priority 1: Improve fundamental knowledge of HSV biology, pathogenesis, and epidemiology

  • Enhance fundamental knowledge of HSV biology, including but not limited to: viral interactions with host cells and mechanisms of replication and transport; fundamental aspects of innate and adaptive immune response to HSV; HSV disease pathogenesis in multiple organ systems, including the skin, reproductive tract, eye, and the peripheral and central nervous systems; and the key drivers of disease transmission.
  • Characterize host and pathogen drivers that underlie dynamics of HSV latency and reactivation
  • Improve understanding of diverse pathophysiology of HSV infection including neonatal infection and the role of mucosal immunity to reduce genital and orolabial infection and disease; and a deeper understanding of the neurologic impact of HSV infection, including herpes simplex encephalitis, post-herpetic neuropathic pain, post-herpetic autoimmune encephalitis (i.e., post-HSV NMDARE), and potential associations with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Explore epidemiology of and co-morbidities associated with HSV infection
  • Improve and develop new in vitro and in vivo models that reflect human disease

Priority 2: Accelerate research to improve diagnosis

  • Develop improved biomarkers and technologies for herpes diagnosis
  • Improve sensitivity and specificity of serologic tests that can be made commercially
  • Support research to improve point-of-care diagnostics

Priority 3: Improve strategies treat and cure HSV

  • Identify candidates for elimination of virus or functional cure
  • Advance the development of novel treatment strategies, including strategies for preventing HSV entry into the central nervous system and for reducing sequelae of HSV encephalitis.                                                           
  • Evaluate the safety and efficacy of treatment strategies in diverse populations and age groups
  • Optimize therapy to reduce shedding and transmission

Priority 4: Advance research to prevent HSV infection

NIH Request for Information

On April 21, a notice with a Request for Information (RFI) was shared, inviting comments and suggestions on National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) key strategic approaches to develop a Herpes Simplex Virus Strategic Plan.

This RFI seeks input from stakeholders throughout the scientific research community and the general public regarding the above proposed framework. Learn more and respond to the RFI here.

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