PHOTO: An internet image showing a vaccine being administered to a patient. (source: huffingtopost.com)
By: Spokesman Newsroom
BASSETRERE, St.Kitts– An investigation has been launched by the government concerning an unapproved herpes vaccine trial that was carried out in St.Kitts-Nevis last year (2016) which was spearheaded by the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine located in the US.
On Wednesday 30th August, the Ministry of Health and Social Services issued a press release, without addressing the specifics of the trail, informing that the government was not made aware of such an exercise.
An article entitled ‘Game Changer – Herpes Vaccine Shows Promise’ found on the medical school’s website (www.siumed.edu) claimed that a trip to the Federation was aimed at stopping the pain of herpes.
“In the summer of 2016, twenty individuals traveled to the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a two-island, sovereign nation about 200 miles southeast of Puerto Rico. The trip was not a vacation, but an opportunity to make a wish come true: stop the pain of herpes,” it read.
It was further reported that: “A vaccine developed by SIU research scientist William Halford, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology at SIU School of Medicine, was being tested on a group of U.S. and British citizens. The results were impressive, suggesting a functional cure for the disease may be on the horizon.”
In regard to the public advisory put out by the Ministry of Health, it was disclosed that: “It has been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Health that certain clinical trials were being conducted in the Federation, with the support of Southern Illinois University in the United States of America (USA).”
That press release continued: “The Ministry of Health states categorically that neither the Cabinet, the Ministry of Health, the office of Chief Medical Officer (CMO) nor the St. Kitts and Nevis Medical Board has ever been approached on this project. By extension, none of these agencies has approved such a venture. As a result, an active investigation has commenced into this project.”
The release also informed about an Interim Ethics Review Committee has been set up.
The Ministry of Health will always ensure that all research involving human participants follow international standards which protect the safety and security of persons involved. In order to help fulfil this mandate, the Chief Medical Officer convened an Interim Ethics Review Committee (IERC) to vet all medical research protocols in the Federation in keeping with international best practices. The role of the IERC is to ensure that the basic ethical principles and guidelines that govern the conduct of research involving human beings are maintained at all times.”
The Health Ministry has promised that an update will be provided to the public once the investigations by the Ministry of National Security have been concluded.
On Monday this week (28th August), in response to the news surfacing about the controversial herpes vaccination trial, the immediate past Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Patrick Martin, issued a statement indicating that the trial did not come to his attention.
“This statement is in response to a number of inquiries about a herpes vaccine trial that recently made the news. It is reported that several persons travelled to the Federation between April and August 2016 as part of the said trial.I was active as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) from 1st October 2004 to 16th June 2016. During the period, no vaccine trial in the Federation came to my attention,” Dr. Martin said in part.
Information gleaned from the school’s website states that there are two serotypes of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2 which are subtle variations of a single virus.
As reported: “HSV-1 causes oral and ocular herpes, as well as genital herpes, and infects about one-half of the world’s population, an estimated 3.5 billion people. Most people acquire HSV-1 as infants and don’t know they carry HSV-1. Only 2 to 5 percent of HSV-1-infected persons experience recurrences of cold sores, ocular herpes or genital herpes. Rare, but unfortunate, complications of HSV-1 infection do occur: HSV-1 is the leading cause of fatal encephalitis and infectious blindness in the United States.”
In addition, it was revealed that: “HSV-2 is a more aggressive virus, and predominantly causes genital herpes, the infamous sexually transmitted disease. HSV-2’s ability to spread faster allows it to superinfect people who already carry HSV-1. Lifelong HSV-2 infection can cause recurrent outbreaks of embarrassing and painful genital sores. An estimated 700 million people worldwide carry HSV-2, and 3 to 4 percent (30 million) live with recurrent genital herpes disease caused by HSV-2. The Centers for Disease Control reports that genital herpes doubles a person’s risk for acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”