Herpes simplex virus and varicella zoster virus: recent advances in therapy

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Purpose of review

The mainstay of antiviral therapy for the alpha-herpesviruses [herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1, HSV-2, and varicella zoster virus (VZV)] over the past 40 years has been the nucleoside analogues such as aciclovir. Although conventional antiviral therapy has reduced mortality in severe disease, novel agents are needed to address the emergence of resistance and toxicity associated with current second-line therapy. Treatment and prophylaxis of VZV and HSV reactivations remains a challenge.

Recent findings

A number of compounds have recently been evaluated in human clinical trials, amongst them brincidofovir, an intracellularly acting derivative of cidofovir currently undergoing phase III trials. The helicase–primase inhibitors are a new class of antiviral agent and may circumvent resistance to existing agents. Amenamevir and pritelivir are two examples of these agents that have been evaluated clinically along with novel nucleoside analogues such as valomaciclovir and FV-100. Tenofovir, an agent used in HIV and hepatitis B therapy, may also have a role in the prevention of HSV-2 acquisition and reduce viral shedding.


Although several novel antiviral agents have undergone clinical trials in recent years, all are yet to gain licensure. Brincidofovir appears to be the candidate with most promise for adoption into routine practice in the near future.

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