Dr. Anne A. Gershon will deliver the fifth annual NIAID Stephen E. Straus Memorial Lecture on Infectious Diseases. Her lecture, “A Tale of Two Herpesvirus Vaccines,” will be held on Thursday, Sept. 20, at 3 p.m. in Bldg. 40, Rm. 1201/1203. The lecture series honors Straus, who served NIAID for 30 years as a lab chief and senior investigator, continuing in the latter role after his appointment in 1999 as first director of NCCAM. He died in 2007.
Gershon is director of the division of pediatric infectious disease at Columbia University Medical Center. Her research has focused on the epidemiology, diagnosis, immunology, latency, prevention and treatment of the viral diseases varicella and zoster (commonly known as chickenpox and shingles, respectively). Her studies examining the safety and efficacy of the chickenpox vaccine in children and adults with leukemia were crucial to its licensure in 1995; the vaccine is now recommended for all healthy children in the United States.
Gershon’s lecture will compare successful varicella-zoster virus (VZV) vaccines to a potential herpes simplex virus (HSV) vaccine. For many years, these herpesviruses were known to have very similar biological and molecular properties and some researchers believed that knowledge about the viruses was interchangeable. However, Straus pointed out in 1989 that because VZV and HSV infections differ in the severity of symptoms and the nature of recurrences, the immune system must respond to the two viruses in different ways. While VZV vaccines against chickenpox and shingles have been licensed for medical use, no safe and effective HSV vaccine is available despite several initially promising clinical trials. Gershon’s lecture will include an overview of candidate HSV vaccines and predictions for their possible use.
Gershon was a member of the CDC’s working group on the chickenpox vaccine and played a major role in recommending a second routine dose of the vaccine for all children. She is a member of the Councils of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society. She was president of IDSA in 2009.