THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE
Acyclovir for the Prevention of Recurrent Herpes Simplex Virus Eye Disease
Background: Long-term treatment with antiviral agents has been shown to prevent recurrences of genital and orofacial herpes simplex virus (HSV) disease, but it is uncertain whether prophylactic treatment can prevent recurrences of ocular HSV disease.Methods: We randomly assigned 703 immunocompetent patients who had had ocular HSV disease within the preceding year to receive 400 mg of acyclovir or placebo orally twice daily. The study outcomes were the rates of development of ocular or nonocular HSV disease during a 12-month treatment period and a 6-month observation period.Results: The cumulative probability of a recurrence of any type of ocular HSV disease during the 12-month treatment period was 19 percent in the acyclovir group and 32 percent in the placebo group (P<0.001). Among the 337 patients with a history of stromal keratitis, the most common serious form of ocular HSV disease, the cumulative probability of recurrent stromal keratitis was 14 percent in the acyclovir group and 28 percent in the placebo group (P = 0.005). The cumulative probability of a recurrence of nonocular (primarily orofacial) HSV disease was also lower in the acyclovir group than in the placebo group (19 percent vs 36 percent, P<0.001). There was no rebound in the rate of HSV disease in the six months after treatment with acyclovir was stopped.Conclusions: After the resolution of ocular HSV disease, 12 months of treatment with acyclovir reduces the rate of recurrent ocular HSV disease and orofacial HSV disease. Long-term antiviral prophylaxis is most important for patients with a history of HSV stromal keratitis, since it can prevent additional episodes and potential loss of vision.
Arch Ophthalmol 1998;279:1820-1825.