GlaxoSmithKline presented detailed data showing vaccine candidate HZ/su as being effective in preventing shingles across age groups between ages 50 to 70 years old and up.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and discussed Tuesday at the 25th Scientific Congress of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the primary endpoint revealed that two-dose schedules of HZ/su resulted in a drop in herpes zoster risk by 97.2 percent in subjects at least 50 years old, compared with a placebo.

There were side effects reported but none of them were seriously adverse. Commonly reported local reactions to the vaccine were pain, redness and swelling at the site of injection. As for systemic reactions, subjects reported headaches, fatigue and muscle pain. These reactions generally occurred within 7 days of subjects receiving shots of HZ/su but did not last beyond three days.

Additional trials are being carried out to assess HZ/su's ability to prevent shingles in individuals 70 years old and up and in adults with weak immune systems. These should provide the additional information needed to determine if the vaccine candidate is safe and how it stimulates immune response in certain groups of people.

"We are extremely encouraged that the results may point out a health benefit in the prevention of shingles. We look forward to continuing the development of our Zoster program," said Dr. Moncef Slaoui, global vaccines chairman for GSK.

The phase III trial for HZ/su involved more than 37,000 individuals around the world, evaluating the candidate vaccine's safety, efficacy and immunogenicity, as well as its effects in individuals with compromised immune systems.

Shingles is characterized by painful and itchy rashes developing on just one side of the body when latent chicken pox virus is reactivated. Anyone that has been infected with the varicella zoster virus (VZV) is at risk of acquiring shingles, with immune system capacity and age factoring in as well. Complications arising from shingles include scarring, secondary infections, vision complications and nerve palsies.

According to data from many countries, adults aged 50 years old and up are at higher risk of a herpes zoster infection because over 90 percent of that age group have already been infected with a wild strain of VZV. Generally, one in every three people will develop herpes zoster. The risk grows to one in every two people in a population aged 85 years old and up. Every year, it is estimated that a million Americans suffer from shingles.

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