This suggests further enhancements guided by research may be successful. In particular, trialed vaccines have failed to stimulate CD8 T cells, which are important for the clearance of the virus. Dendritic Cells (DCs) are also thought to play a key role in the immune response to HSV, specifically in the ability of certain subsets of DCs to stimulate CD8 T cells.

Our lab has uncovered a “viral relay” whereby HSV is transferred between different DC subsets in human skin. Our research focuses on fully elucidating this pathway, particularly the signals involved in attracting and coordinating the various cellular interactions and the resulting T cell stimulation.

By understanding the key aspects of the HSV viral relay to various DC subsets, we can understand which DCs are crucial for CD8 T cell stimulation and how to target these cells with a vaccine. People with genital herpes are also at much higher risk of being infected with HIV, so an effective vaccine against HSV could also reduce HIV transmission. Our studies also aim to determine how HSV enhances HIV entry into the genital skin.