While there are some promising substances being investigated that can interfere with or kill the herpes virus, none are able to eradicate it from the body after it has been able to move into a latent state. So the potential for reactivation after treatment is always there. There is therefore no outright cure unless all the virus can be killed off during a primary infection.
It may be possible to get rid of all or most of the virus before the latent phase can begin, in which case the potential for recurrence could be removed or at least reduced. While possible, it is unlikely, since it takes a few days for symptoms to show after exposure. By then, the virus has had free play in the body for that period of time.
The largest impact can be obtained with a treatment during this primary episode. Once recurrences have developed it is a different story. The chance of eradicatin herpes from its dormant state is essentially zero. Hence there is no “one-shot” cure.
Medical treatments for recurrences have taken several directions:
- To kill or interfere with the virus after reactivation: has begun.
- To set up conditions in the body in a more generic way, that may help keep the virus dormant.
- Doing something to the body that helps nature healing processes and so shortens outbreaks.
- There is no “one-bullet” cure because nothing has been developed that can go in and snip the virus manufacturing source from its latent retreat.
There are very effective treatments for the control ocular herpes (of the eyes) and herpes reactivations suffered by people undergoing immune-suppressing treatment (for cancer or organ transplant rejection) that severely reduces normal immune responses to infection. These are of immense importance for organ-transplant recipient and cancer patients, but have little direct relevance to day-to-day problems of recurrent genital herpes. There are however, several substances which in some cases have apparently achieved the aims of reducing frequency and duration of recurrences.
This is a complicated issue with many factors involved in the mechanisms of virus reactivation and replication. We will run through the major treatments and the rationales behind them with the goal of understanding what is true and untrue about them so that y won’t hurt yourself physically with misapplication of substances, you won’t chase cures indiscriminately, and it; won’t worry about missing out on some “new cure.” Learn about dealing with herpes.
Antiviral agents serve to interfere in some way with virus production and thus are aimed at stopping the action of the virus in disrupting surface issue and causing the rash. Antiviral technology is the great new breakthrough in the world of infectious diseases in general. Herpes, however, is a more difficult virus to catch than most because of its latency factor. The list of products to help herpes includes the following:
ZOVIRAX (acyclovir). Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in March, a good antiviral ointment very useful in initial infections and for immune-compromised patients. Acyclovir in large quantities has been proven effective in control of the very serious herpes reactivations that can occur in these patients. The treatment regimen is not appropriate to ordinary cases of recurrent herpes since it often involves intravenous or continual application that can only be provided in supervised settings. The evidence from its use with recurrent genital herpes suggests that it might reduce viral shedding time by about one day during a recurrence. The manufacturers are now promoting a series array of clinical tests to see if it might further reduce viral shedding if applied early enough in an outbreak. The rationale is that if all the virus is caught as it is coming out of its dormant state, an outbreak may be aborted, or at least curtailed. There’s no way to know this yet. Reducing viral shedding by one day doesn’t help very much, since a rash is still present and it is impossible to tell when viral shedding has stopped without culture tests. Reducing the length of time that the rash is present is really what we’re after. Again, acyclovir cannot attack the dormant virus and so cannot prevent recurrences in and of itself. But at the moment, it appears that Zovirax might be one of those things to have on hand when a outbreak shows up, perhaps to supplement cleaning an drying. I expect it will help some people for a while. The long-term effect cannot be predicted since it cannot affect latency. Whether or not its use might contribute I speeding the adaptation process is another question that requires further research. Experimentation presently being done to develop an oral version of the drug.