A new study shows the drug valacyclovir may significantly reduce the spread of the genital herpes virus.
Researchers studied more than 1,400 heterosexual couples. In each case, one partner was diagnosed with type 2 herpes and the other was susceptible to the virus. Type 2 herpes causes a chronic genital viral infection and is often contagious.
Participants with herpes were given either 500 milligrams of valacyclovir once a day or a placebo for eight months. Susceptible partners were evaluated monthly for symptoms of the virus. Both partners were counseled on safe sex and were offered condoms at each visit.
Results of the study show only four out of 743 of the susceptible partners who were given the drug developed clinically symptomatic herpes. However, 16 out of 741 participants who were given a placebo developed the virus. Overall, type 2 herpes was observed in 14 of the susceptible partners who received valacyclovir and 27 of the partners who received a placebo.
Researchers say transmission of genital herpes to others is the chief concern in patients with the virus. Authors conclude, "Our study demonstrates that oral valacyclovir taken by immunocompetent persons with recurrent genital HSV-2 infection significantly reduces the rates of HSV reactivation, subclinical shedding, and transmission of genital herpes to a susceptible partner.