Treating Herpes Fails to Cut HIV Rate

Unexpected results stun scientists hoping for cut in transmission
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2008 11:01 AM CST
Treating Herpes Fails to Cut HIV Rate
George Williams and Trevor Stretton conducing research at the Royal Infirmary, Manchester, in 1991. Since then, many strides have been taken in HIV/AIDS research, though the field received a crushing blow when a recent herpes study brought no results.   (Magnum Photos)

An eagerly anticipated HIV study returned disappointing results yesterday, crushing scientists' hopes that targeting the genital herpes virus could help reduce the transmission of HIV. Although the reasoning seemed sound—having herpes boosts a person's contraction risk nearly threefold, so targeting herpes should combat HIV infection—the study found no benefit at all, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"This was a huge setback for HIV prevention," said one researcher. The 3-year clinical trial used the herpes drug acyclovir to suppress the disease in patients across three continents, then compared rates of new HIV cases to groups given placebos. "Many people thought this was going to be a slam dunk," said the study's leader. (More herpes stories.)

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