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Herpes Drug Might Also Slow HIV Progression

But acyclovir is not a replacement for HIV-specific drugs, researchers say

MONDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that people who are infected with both HIV-1, a strain of the AIDS virus, and herpes simplex virus type 2 could benefit in more than one way by taking a herpes drug called acyclovir. In addition to treating herpes, the medication appears to also slow the progression of HIV.

"While the HIV-disease ameliorating effect we have observed is modest, it could add one more tool to help people with HIV infection stay healthy for longer," study co-author Dr. Jairam Lingappa, of the University of Washington, said in a news release from The Lancet.

The study, published online in the journal, analyzed what happened to almost 3,400 people in Africa who were infected with both diseases.

Half were assigned to take 400 milligrams of acyclovir twice a day, and the others took a placebo. Researchers tracked their progress for up to 24 months.

The risk of HIV progression was reduced by 16 percent in those who took acyclovir, the study found.

However, other research has suggested that acyclovir does not prevent transmission of HIV to heterosexual partners by people who take the drug, the scientists said.

The researchers said that other AIDS drugs would have a greater impact on the progression of HIV in those who were infected. But , acyclovir could be an option for people who had not progressed far enough to need antiretroviral therapy, they said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on herpes.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Feb. 14, 2010

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