A study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several other institutions in the US and abroad shows that valacyclovir, a drug commonly used to control the virus that causes genital herpes, appears to reduce the levels of HIV in patients who do not have genital herpes.


The study of 18 patients is the first to show that the drug does not require the presence of herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) to suppress HIV in patients. The researchers hope to confirm their results in a larger study.

“These findings are very encouraging,” said senior author Leonid Margolis, Ph.D., head of the Section on Intercellular Interactions at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “If valacyclovir’s effectiveness against HIV can be confirmed in a larger cohort, it could be added to the mix of drugs used to suppress the virus, and might prove especially helpful in cases in which HIV has developed resistance to other drugs.”

The study, published online today in Clinical Infectious Diseases,was supported by NIH’s Bench to Bedside Program, which funds research teams seeking to translate basic scientific findings into medical practice. The first authors of this paper are Christophe Vanpouille and Andrea Lisco, both with NICHD. Other authors are Michael Lederman (senior author) and Benigno Rodriguez of Case Western Reserve University and Case Medical Center and Hospitals; Leda Bassit, Robert Kauffman, and Raymond F. Schinazi (senior author), Emory University School of Medicine and Veterans Administration Medical Center in Atlanta; and Jorge Sanchez, of The Civic Association for Health and Education in Lima.

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These results follow a 2008 study by the same research team, which showed that acyclovir suppresses HIV in laboratory cultures of human tissues that were infected with various kinds of herpes viruses. Valacyclovir is referred to as a prodrug for acyclovir because it’s structurally similar to acyclovir, and is converted to acyclovir in the body.  For the current study, the researchers used valacyclovir because it remains in the blood longer than acyclovir and so would not need to be taken as often.

Read the rest of the NIH news release HERE

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