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Antiviral drug limits heart disease.

A drug given to people who have recently received an organ transplant seems to thwart heart disease in later years among these patients, a study in the July 6 CIRCULATION indicates.

The drug, ganciclovir, is prescribed routinely for organ recipients because it controls cytomegalovirus, a form of herpes virus that can cause dangerous infections in people taking immune-suppressing drugs. Innocuous in healthy people, cytomegalovirus infection after transplant can lead years later to heart disease in heart recipients, says study coauthor Hannah A. Valantine of Stanford University School of Medicine.

In the test, 76 heart-transplant patients received ganciclovir for about a month after surgery, while 73 others received an inert substitute. During the first year, 14 were excluded from each group for reasons such as heart attacks and transplant rejection.

Ganciclovir had a long-term effect on patients who weren't getting drugs called calcium-channel blockers. These medications limit coronary artery spasms and slow progression of atherosclerosis. Of 28 who had received ganciclovir but not calcium-channel blockers, only 7 had heart disease 4 to 7 years after their operations. Of 25 patients who received neither, 13 had heart disease during those years, Valantine and her colleagues find. Ganciclovir seemed to impart little benefit for those who got calcium-channel blockers.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 7, 1999
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