• Question: is there any way to stop[ major illnesses such as chicken pox for children , at a young age to prevent it in the future

    Asked by Akinfenwa the B3AST to Craig, Marta, Natalie, Nicholas on 15 Mar 2017.
    • Photo: Marta Varela

      Marta Varela answered on 15 Mar 2017:

      Hi Akinfenwa.

      Vaccines stop children (and adults) from getting some types of infectious diseases, by giving the immune system tools to help fight that disease’s virus if it happens to infect that person in the future. Is that what you are referring to?

      If you give vaccines for a given virus to (almost) everyone in the world, the virus may not have anyone else left to infect and the disease comes to an end. This is what happened to a diseased called smallpox (a relative of chicken pox) that killed lots of people in the past and does not exist any more.

    • Photo: Craig O'Hare

      Craig O'Hare answered on 15 Mar 2017:

      Chicken pox is caused by the Herpes Zoster virus. Herpes viruses are a type of DNA virus that causes use to break out in sores when the virus has hijacked our skin cells.

      We can stop people getting these viruses if we could make vaccines to the virus. A vaccine trains the immune system in how to fight the virus so we get a less severe form of the disease, get rid of it faster, or do get sick at all. The reason we don’t have vaccines for herpes viruses is because we’re still working out how these viruses are detected by the immune system. These viruses are also really good at switching the immune system off so we make need to design drugs to help our immune systems fight the viruses off better.

      My research is looking at how skin cells these detect these viruses and we hope that it will allow people to make better vaccines and to understand what strategies viruses use to switch off the immune system in the future.