A solution to the acute pain of shingles may have been found by Scottish scientists who have developed a vaccine for people who have had chicken pox and are at risk of developing the condition.
Shingles is a reactivation of the virus infection that causes chickenpox. The virus causes a painful rash with fluid-filled blisters. It affects men and women equally. While more common in older people, it can also occur in younger people and those with a weakened immune system.
Pregnant women and cancer patients particularly stand to benefit from this breakthrough, in case they develop the condition. It could also help many people who are unaware they had chicken pox, which can lead to shingles, while young or had such a mild dose it was not on their medical records.
The researchers were able to separate the virus into its constituent proteins and then print them on to a biochip, before incubating the chip with blood from people who had previously had the infection. Next, they found the proteins in the virus, which triggered a reaction in the body's immune system, giving scientists clues about how best to design a vaccine or blood test.
The results may help create a test that offers improved sensitivity and earlier detection of infection.
"This study has allowed us to look in great detail at the virus which causes chickenpox and we now know enough to design a better blood test than those currently available," The Scotsman quoted Dr Colin Campbell of the University of Edinburgh, as saying.
According to the doctor, while the booster vaccine may take up to five years to be developed, the research could also be used to examine other conditions such as the human papilloma virus associated with cervical cancer.