Herpes Drug May Lower HIV Levels

March 17, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

A drug typically used to treat herpes may reduce HIV-1 levels, even in those who don't have herpes.

A drug typically used to treat herpes may reduce HIV-1 levels, even in those who don’t have herpes.

The research findings, which were published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, demonstrated that patients’ plasma HIV-1 viral loads were reduced after taking valacyclovir (Valtrex) 500 mg twice daily for 12 weeks. Since previous studies suggested that valacyclovir would only benefit HIV-1 patients co-infected with herpes, these new results are of particular interest to health care professionals.

The study included 18 individuals infected with HIV-1 who did not have herpes simple virus type 2 (HSV-2) and were not taking antiretroviral therapy. They were randomly assigned to 2 groups.

Those in group A took valacyclovir 500 mg twice daily by mouth for 12 weeks. They then had 2 weeks of no treatment, followed by 12 weeks of placebo. Those in group B received a placebo for 12 weeks, no treatment for 2 weeks, and then valacyclovir 500 mg twice daily for 12 weeks.

The results showed that HIV-1 viral loads decreased by 0.37 log10 copies/mL, on average, with valacyclovir treatment and increased in patients taking placebo.

“These results demonstrated that the mechanism by which valacyclovir acts against HIV is not only through the presence of HSV-2,” said senior author Benigno Rodriguez, MD, associate professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in a press release.

The researchers stated that they believe the results can help inform new drug development in continuing efforts to combat HIV.