Major Breakthrough in Life Sciences : Shingles Vaccine is a Step Closer to Approval

As the  recombinant gets approval from an advisory panel of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the medical fraternity celebrated the move towards finding a cure for shingles rash. Shringrix from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) got clear thumbs up from the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee for being effective and safe for shingles patients aged 50 and above. Regarded as a major improvement over the existing vaccine, the new vaccine consists of lyophilized recombinant varicella zoster virus (VZV) glycoprotein E antigen, which helps overcome age-related decline in immunity.

What causes shingles?

Also known as zoster, shingles is caused by the same virus which causes chicken pox. Usually in the form of a blistering rash, this skin disease is quite common among the older population suffering from weak immune systems caused due to stress and injury.

Typically, the virus which causes chicken pox remains dormant in the nerve system, long after recovery from the same. While in many cases, the virus lies dormant forever, there are situations when it “wakes up” either due to declining immune system or as a side-effect of some medication. The blisters can develop on any part of the body, but are typically found on one side of the forehead or around one eye.

Apart from having had suffered from chicken pox, the risk of developing zoster in higher among those who are above 50 years of age, suffer from HIV infection and/ or diabetes, or are on steroids due to which the immune system has weakened.

Till date the shingles vaccine has not proved to be 100% effective, yet doctors recommend the vaccine to those who are aged 60 and above.

How Shringrix is better than its predecessors?

Zostavax from MRK is the only vaccine which has been approved for use in the US. This vaccine can prevent shingles in around 70% of adults in the age group of 50-59; but its effectiveness in case of patients aged 80 and above has been dismal. Shringrix, on the other hand, has consistently been effective on patients regardless of their age group even after four years of administration. Another advantage of this vaccine from GSK is that it also reduces the incidence of postherpetic neuralgia – a nerve pain following a shingles outbreak.

One of the most important products in GSK’s pipeline, Shringrix will be available in Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan, after the pharma giant acquires the right to market them in these locations.