A slight variation of a chicken pox vaccine gave good protection to those at high risk of shingles. The elder population, and those with impaired immunity because of cancer, have a high rate of shingles a viral infection caused by the same virus that gives rise to chicken pox. Most people recover from chicken pox, a common childhood infection, without incident. But the virus lingers in nerve cells, and may re-emerge years later to cause shingles.
Unlike chicken pox, shingles is a very troublesome disease, generally accompanied by excruciating nerve pain as well as a rash. Researchers at the University of Hokins have tested an inactivated chicken pox vaccine in a group of lymphoma patients about to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Such patients are at very high risk of shingles. One sub-group received the vaccine, the other the placebo. Only 10 per cent of the vaccine group went on to develop shingles, compared to the expected 20 per cent in the unvaccinated group. The vaccine then, could offer people with cancer and the elderly a good chance for protection against shingles.