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Herpes medication does not reduce risk of HIV transmission, UW-led international study finds
Date:1/20/2010

A five-year international multi-center clinical trial has found that acyclovir, a drug widely used as a safe and effective treatment taken twice daily to suppress herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), which is the most common cause of genital herpes, does not reduce the risk of HIV transmission when taken by people infected with both HIV and HSV-2. The results of the study are published in the New England Journal of Medicine online today, and will appear in the Feb. 4, 2010 issue of the publication.

Up to 90% of people with HIV infection also have HSV-2 infection. Most people who are infected with HSV-2 do not know they have the virus because symptoms can be mild or absent. HSV-2 infection can cause recurrent sores and breaks in the skin of the genital region, which can be mild and often go unnoticed. HSV-2 infection also attracts immune cells called CD4 T-cells to the genital region, which HIV uses to establish or pass infection.

Multiple studies have shown that frequent genital herpes recurrences increase the amount of HIV in the blood and genital tract. The HIV virus is also shed from genital herpes ulcers and persons with such ulcers transmit HIV to others more efficiently. Five preliminary studies showed that it is possible to decrease the amount of HIV in the blood and genital tract through treatment to suppress HSV-2, but these studies did not measure whether this translated into a reduction in HIV transmission. Researchers had hoped that acyclovir's ability to suppress the herpes virus, which causes symptomatic genital sores and breaks in the skin but also frequently is active without symptoms, could reduce the likelihood of sexual transmission of HIV from a person with HIV and HSV-2. The study is the first to determine whether twice daily use of acyclovir by individuals who are infected with both HSV-2 and HIV reduced the transmission of HIV to their sexual partners. The authors conclude that daily acyclovir therapy did not reduce th
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Contact: Clare Hagerty
clareh@u.washington.edu
206-685-1323
University of Washington - Health Sciences/UW News, Community Relations & Marketing
Source:Eurekalert

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