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Herpes battle flurries.

The "herpes is forever" dictum is slowly being eroded. Following the FDA's approval of acyclovir for recurrent genital herpes (SN: 2/2/85, p. 68) come advances in the search for a treatment for herpes zoster and in a vaccine to prevent genital herpes.

Herpes zoster virus, which causes chicken pox, often reactivates in adutls, causing shingles--a painful, burning rash. The skin condition usually lasts five to 10 days and rarely recurs, but in some people the pain can continue for months or years.

S. Harvey Sklar of Englewood (N.J.) Hospital and colleagues tried adenosine monophosphate (AMP), which plays a key role in energy production and genetics. AMP eliminated the pain and speeded healing in 32 shingles victims, they report in the March 8 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION.

How AMP exerts its effect is unknown, but the treatment, Sklar told SCIENCE NEWS, "hasn't shown any side effects or toxicity." The best results come when treatment is instituted in the first few days of the shingles outbreak.

Henry H. Balfour Jr., a herpes expert at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, is concerned that AMP's exact mechanism of action is unclear, but says the research is worth pursuing. "The data look good but I would like to see more patients studied," he says.

With the idea that prevention may be better than treatment, the South San Francisco-based gene-splicing company, Genentech, Inc., has been pursuing a vaccine for another branch of the herpesvirus family, herpes simplex, whoe members cause genital herpes and cold sores. By splicing into bacteria a gene that produces a part of the herpes I virus coat, they produced a vaccine that effectively protected guinea pigs from herpes simplex I and II. They reported their work in the March 15 SCIENCE.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 6, 1985
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