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N Engl J Med. 1991 Aug 22;325(8):551-5.

A controlled trial comparing foscarnet with vidarabine for acyclovir-resistant mucocutaneous herpes simplex in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. The AIDS Clinical Trials Group.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.



Most strains of herpes simplex virus that are resistant to acyclovir are susceptible in vitro to both foscarnet and vidarabine. We conducted a randomized trial to compare foscarnet with vidarabine in 14 patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and mucocutaneous herpetic lesions that had been unresponsive to intravenous therapy with acyclovir for a minimum of 10 days. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either foscarnet (40 mg per kilogram of body weight intravenously every 8 hours) or vidarabine (15 mg per kilogram per day intravenously) for 10 to 42 days. In the isolates of herpes simplex virus we documented in vitro resistance to acyclovir and susceptibility to foscarnet and vidarabine.


The lesions in all eight patients assigned to foscarnet healed completely after 10 to 24 days of therapy. In contrast, vidarabine was discontinued because of failure in all six patients assigned to receive it. The time to complete healing (P = 0.01), time to 50 percent reductions in the size of the lesions (P = 0.01) and the pain score (P = 0.004), and time to the end of viral shedding (P = 0.006) were all significantly shorter in the patients assigned to foscarnet. Three patients had new neurologic abnormalities while receiving vidarabine. No patient discontinued foscarnet because of toxicity. Although initial recurrences of herpes simplex infection after the index lesion had healed tended to be susceptible to acyclovir, acyclovir-resistant infection eventually recurred in every healed patient, a median of 42.5 days (range, 14 to 191) after foscarnet was discontinued.


For the treatment of acyclovir-resistant herpes simplex infection in patients with AIDS, foscarnet has superior efficacy and less frequent serious toxicity than vidarabine. Once the treatment is stopped, however; there is a high frequency of relapse.

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