Modelling the genital herpes epidemic

TitleModelling the genital herpes epidemic
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsBlower, S
Volume11 Suppl 3
KeywordsApplications, Herpes Simplex Virus

Mathematical models are useful tools for summarizing and testing current knowledge about a system and predicting trends. Models have shown that medical and behavioural changes can substantially affect herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) transmission and can be used to develop rational epidemic control policies. The spread of the genital herpes epidemic and the potential impact of HSV antiviral treatment in the immunocompetent population have been addressed by four models. HSV drug resistance to antiviral drugs is predicted to be minimal. Assuming that drug-resistant mutants are attenuated both in infectivity and reactivity, one model predicted that even after 25 years, only 5 in 10,000 individuals will shed drug-resistant virus, even if rates of usage of antivirals are high. The models show that increased usage of episodic antiviral therapy will be beneficial in reducing the herpes epidemic. Results also show that the transmission rate can be reduced by preventing infection (safer sex), reduced time spent in non-monogamous relationships or the advent of effective therapeutic HSV vaccines. One model has indicated that suppressive therapy will have only a minimal impact on HSV prevalence; however, the results of this modelling study are limited as it assumed that suppressive therapy would only be given to incident infections. More recent research using a model based upon virological core groups (and treating both incident and prevalent infections) shows that suppressive therapy could cause a substantial reduction in HSV-2 incidence rates. Current modelling is also focused on modelling how HSV-2 antiviral treatment will impact the HIV epidemic.