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Herpes. 2000 Oct;7(3):60-65.

History of Varicella Zoster Virus.

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  • 1Department of Infection and Tropical Medicine, Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham B9 5SS, UK.


The earliest reports of vesicular rashes of the type we now recognize to be caused by herpes simplex and zoster date to the ancient civilizations. It was not until 1888, however, that a relationship between herpes zoster and chickenpox was suggested. Establishing this link represented one of the major hurdles in the history of varicella zoster virus. There was no animal host and this meant that much of the evidence needed to be obtained by clinical and epidemiological observation. Since the link was proven, in the 1950s, the advent of the live attenuated vaccine virus, in 1974, and aciclovir in the 1980s, has had a huge impact on prevention and treatment, respectively. The complete DNA sequence of VZV was established in 1986. A more complete understanding of the VZV genome and its gene products may enable recombinant vaccines and specific therapies to be advanced. We also need to determine the long-term effects of the use of the varicella vaccine. The ultimate aim: to prevent VZV infection completely.

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