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Drugs. 1989 Mar;37(3):233-309.

Acyclovir. An updated review of its antiviral activity, pharmacokinetic properties and therapeutic efficacy.

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ADIS Drug Information Services, Auckland, New Zealand.


Acyclovir (aciclovir) is a nucleoside antiviral drug with antiviral activity in vitro against members of the herpes group of DNA viruses. As an established treatment of herpes simplex infection, intravenous, oral and to a lesser extent topical formulations of acyclovir provide significant therapeutic benefit in genital herpes simplex and recurrent orofacial herpes simplex. The effect of acyclovir therapy is maximised by early initiation of treatment, especially in non-primary infection which tends to have a less protracted course than the primary episode. Long term prophylactic oral acyclovir, in patients with frequent episodes of genital herpes simplex, totally suppresses recurrences in the majority of subjects; as with other infections responding to acyclovir, viral latency is not eradicated and pretreatment frequencies of recurrence return after discontinuation of treatment. Caution should accompany the prophylactic use of acyclovir in the general population, due to the theoretical risk of the emergence of viral strains resistant to acyclovir and other agents whose mechanism of action is dependent on viral thymidine kinase. Intravenous acyclovir is the treatment of choice in biopsy-proven herpes simplex encephalitis in adults, and has also been successful in the treatment of disseminated herpes simplex in pregnancy and herpes neonatorium. Intravenous and oral acyclovir protect against dissemination and progression of varicella zoster virus infection, but do not protect against post-herpetic neuralgia. In immunocompromised patients, intravenous, oral and topical acyclovir shorten the clinical course of herpes simplex infections while prophylaxis with oral or intravenous dosage forms suppresses reactivation of infection during the period of drug administration. Ophthalmic application of 3% acyclovir ointment rapidly heals herpetic dendritic corneal ulcers and superficial herpetic keratitis. Thus, despite an inability to eradicate latent virus, acyclovir administered in therapeutic or prophylactic fashion is now the standard antiviral therapy in several manifestations of herpes simplex virus infection, and indeed represents a major advance in this regard. With the exception of varicella zoster virus infections, early optimism concerning the use of the drug in diseases due to other herpes viruses has generally not been supported in clinical investigations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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