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A study out of the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern is the first large-scale confirmation that the antiherpes drug valacyclovir hydrochloride (Valtrex) effectively reduces the need for Cesarean sections (C-sections) in pregnant women with genital herpes. C-sections prevent the virus from being passed on to infants of infected mothers. The randomized, double-blind study included 338 pregnant women with a history of genital herpes; 170 received valacyclovir and 168 received placebo. Because of active lesions, C-sections were performed on 28 women. In the valacyclovir group, 7 women had C-sections (4%), while in the placebo group, 21 women had C-sections (13%). Researchers also noted that, at the time of delivery, the rate of herpes simplex virus was reduced by 69%. There were no complications in either the valacyclovir or the placebo group, and none of the babies were born with the virus. Lead author Dr. Jeanne Sheffield, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern, said, "Besides reducing the number of herpes outbreaks at birth, we also dropped the numbers of women without symptoms who were shedding the virus into the birth canal." The study was published in the July 2006 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.