Ocular herpes simplex virus is a common eye disease affecting people worldwide. About 400,000 Americans have the disease, and about 50,000 new cases are identified annually. The disease is caused by the HSV-type 1 virus.
Most people who get the infection will have repeat infections. The recurrence rate is about 20 percent within two years, 40 percent within five years, and 67 percent within seven years.
Acyclovir, which is taken by mouth, has been shown to be effective in reducing the recurrence among people with the disease. A study was done to examine the ability of the drug to provide protection over a longer period. Two groups of patients were compared. The first received the medication for at least one year and then discontinued treatment, while the second remained on the medication for at least 18 months. Researchers then followed the patients for up to about four years, comparing recurrence rates for the two groups.
Among the 18 patients in the first group, six had a recurrence in the first year of use, compared with four among the 22 patients in the second group. During the follow up period, 14 patients in the first group (78 percent) and eight in the second group (36 percent) had recurrences.
Thus researchers conclude treatment with acyclovir continues to be effective over the long-term in patients with ocular herpes simplex virus.