Study shows suppressing herpes virus may reduce infectiousness of HIV

November 15, 2007

A recent study of men co-infected with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and HIV revealed that drugs used to suppress HSV decrease the levels of HIV in the blood and rectal secretions, which may make patients less likely to transmit the virus. This study is published in the November 15 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Most HIV-infected persons are also infected with HSV-2, which is the major cause of genital herpes. Prior studies demonstrated that the risk of passing HIV to a sexual partner is greater when the HIV-infected person has genital ulcers caused by HSV. Previous studies among HIV/HSV-2 co-infected persons and test-tube research have also demonstrated that HIV levels are increased during genital HSV reactivation.

In a pilot study of the effect of HSV-2 suppression on levels of HIV infectiousness, Connie Celum, MD, MPH, Richard Zuckerman, MD, MPH, and a team of researchers at the University of Washington and the research organization Impacta, in Lima, Peru performed a randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over study of daily HSV suppressive treatment in a small group of HIV/HSV-2 co-infected men who have sex with men.

Twenty men aged 22 to 41 enrolled in this trial, which took place in Peru. The men studied had no prior antiretroviral therapy and were not currently receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection. Subjects were randomly assigned to the anti-HSV drug, valacyclovir 500 mg, twice daily or matching placebo for initial treatment. After eight weeks, subjects had a “washout period” in which they received twice daily placebo. Subjects then crossed over to the alternative treatment (placebo or valacyclovir) for eight weeks. Participants visited the clinic three times a week during each treatment arm. At each visit, rectal secretions were collected and weekly blood samples were obtained to determine levels of HIV.

Dr. Celum and her team of researchers found significantly reduced levels of HIV in blood by about 50 percent and rectal secretions by about 30 percent during the 8 weeks when the HIV/HSV-2 co-infected men received valacyclovir to suppress reactivation of HSV. This reduction in HIV levels could have a significant impact on transmission of HIV. Since the only intervention was daily valacyclovir to suppress HSV, this study adds weight to the other evidence that HSV-2 reactivation increases HIV replication. According to the researchers, additional “ongoing randomized trials will answer whether HSV suppression can reduce HIV transmission and address the potential for HSV suppression to delay anti-HIV therapy (antiretroviral) initiation.”

Source: Infectious Diseases Society of America

Explore further: Herpes medication does not reduce risk of HIV infection in individuals with HSV-2

Related Stories

Herpes medication does not reduce risk of HIV transmission

May 8, 2009

A recently completed international multi-center clinical trial has found that acyclovir, a drug widely used as a safe and effective treatment to suppress herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), which is the most common cause of genital ...

Herpes medication does not reduce risk of HIV transmission

January 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 ...

Help from herpes? Coinfection induces acyclovir to inhibit HIV

September 10, 2008

A surprising interaction may enable development of new HIV treatment strategies by exploiting infection with multiple pathogens. The research, published by Cell Press in the September 11th issue of the journal Cell Host and ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.