Case Western Reserve researchers are part of an international team that has discovered that a common herpes drug reduces HIV-1 levels — even when patients do not have herpes.
Published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the finding rebuts earlier scientific assumptions that Valacyclovir (brand name, Valtrex) required the presence of the other infection to benefit patients with HIV-1.
The result not only means that Valacyclovir can be used effectively with a broader range of HIV-1 patients, but also suggests promising new avenues for the development of HIV-fighting drugs. This insight is particularly significant given that some forms of HIV-1 have become resistant to existing medications.
…HIV-1 can lead to the immune deficiency known as AIDS. The herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) causes periodic recurrence of genital herpes lesions, which increase the likelihood that a herpes sufferer may contract HIV through intimate contact. HSV-2 outbreaks are treated with either Acyclovir or the newer generation Valacyclovir, which requires less frequent dosing.
Wouldn’t be the first time a drug showed this type of cross-reactivity. Lamivudine started as an anti-HIV drug and ended up being effective as an anti-HBV drug as well. HIV is a retrovirus and HBV is a pararetrovirus – both of which have reverse transcriptase but HBV exists as a DNA virus outside the host cell while HIV exists as a RNA virus outside the host cell. This is important because RNA is more prone to mutations (thus the viral proteins made from the viral RNA avoid the antibodies custom made by the immune system from vaccines) while DNA is more stable in structure (the antibodies are able to target the common motif of the viral proteins made from the viral DNA and kill them before they have a chance to infect the organism). This explains why we have a HBV vaccine, but not an HIV vaccine.
Recent research also suggests that the chickenpox vaccine may help with herpes. Which shouldn’t be much of a surprise – chickenpox is a form of herpes.