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New Drug Could Treat Genital Herpes

Update Date: Jan 16, 2014 09:42 AM EST

In a new study, researchers reported that a new experimental drug could one day be used to treat genital herpes. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is caused by either the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Symptoms often include blisters that can be very painful. The STI is incurable so these painful sores can return randomly. The new drug from the small study aimed to reduce the transmission rate of the virus.

For this study, the researchers recruited 156 patients who they monitored for four weeks. Some of the participants were randomly given 75 milligrams of the experimental drug called pritelivir. People who received that drug had viral shedding on 2.1 percent of time spent in the study. When viral shedding occurs, it is a sign that the virus is active and replicating. People in the placebo group experienced viral shedding on 16.6 percent of the days.

The researchers also reported that the drug group had genital lesions only on 1.2 percent of the days. The people in the placebo group had genital lesions on nine percent of the days. Even thought this study's findings are promising, the researchers cautioned that all they identified was a "proof of concept." They reiterated that pritelivir has the potential to treat genital herpes. However, more research would need to be done before the drug can actually be prescribed for the STI.

"This is the first drug in 30 years that has a different mechanism of action," Dr. Richard Whitley, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham commented according to FOX News. Whitley was not a part of the study.

Although the researchers did not find any side effects of pritelivir, the development of the drug was previously halted by the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the drug caused toxic effects in monkeys.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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