Expert Opinion on Emerging Drugs vol:16 issue:3 pages:507-535
INTRODUCTION: Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is the etiological agent of two distinct diseases, varicella (chickenpox) and shingles (herpes zoster). Chickenpox occurs following primary infection, while herpes zoster (usually associated with ageing and immunosuppression) is the consequence of reactivation of the latent virus. Post-herpetic neuralgia is the major complication of shingles. AREAS COVERED: This review will discuss vaccination strategies and the current status of antivirals against VZV. A live attenuated vaccine, Varivax, is available for pediatric varicella while Zostavax was developed to boost VZV-specific cell-mediated immunity in adults older than 60 years and, via this mechanism, to decrease the burden of herpes zoster and pain associated with post-herpetic neuralgia. Despite the availability of a vaccine, there is a need for new antiviral agents. Current drugs approved for the treatment of VZV infections include nucleoside analogs that target the viral DNA polymerase and depend on the viral thymidine kinase. Novel anti-VZV drugs have recently been evaluated in clinical trials, including the bicyclic nucleoside analog FV-100, the helicase-primase inhibitor ASP2151 and valomaciclovir (prodrug of the acyclic guanosine derivative H2G). EXPERT OPINION: New anti-VZV drugs should be as safe as and more effective than acyclovir and its prodrug valacyclovir (current gold standard for the treatment of VZV).