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Herpes Drugs Won't Raise Birth Defect Risk, Study Finds
Date:8/24/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women who take antiviral drugs against the herpes virus should not worry that their use will cause birth defects, Danish researchers report.

More than 1 percent of women develop herpes simplex during the first trimester of pregnancy. And while the use during pregnancy of antiviral drugs such as acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir (Famvir) are believed to be safe, data on their use in early pregnancy has been limited, the researchers noted.

But the new analysis suggests that "pregnant women needing treatment for a herpes infection in the first trimester can use antivirals without concern about birth defect risk," said lead researcher Dr. Bjorn Pasternak, from the department of epidemiology research at the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen.

Acyclovir was the most commonly used antiviral, and should be the antiviral drug of choice in the treatment of herpes infections in early pregnancy, Pasternak said.

"More research is however needed with regard to use of antiviral drugs in pregnancy and the risk of other adverse fetal outcomes, such as growth restriction, preterm birth and spontaneous abortion," he said.

The report, funded by the Danish Medical Research Council and the Lundbeck Foundation, is published in the Aug. 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Pasternak and colleague Dr. Anders Hviid, also from the Statens Serum Institut, collected data on almost 840,000 births in Denmark from January 1996 to September 2008.

The women in the study had no chromosomal abnormalities, genetic syndromes, birth defect syndromes, or congenital viral infections, the researchers noted.

Among the more than 1,800 women exposed to acyclovir, valacyclovir or famciclovir during their first trimester, 40 infants (2.2 percent) had a major birth defect,
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