The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is responsible for the cold sores and genital herpes that plague a great many people. Fortunately, the introduction of acyclovir in the 1970s has offered widespread relief for these conditions. Yet since that time, no new class of anti-herpes drugs has been created--until now.
In the April issue of Nature Medicine (Vol. 8, No. 4, 01 Apr 02, p. 386 & 392), two leading pharmaceutical companies report the development of new compounds to thwart the virus. Both of the new compounds target the virus in the same way, but one that is different to acyclovir. While all three block the synthesis of the virus’ DNA, the new compounds do so by inhibiting the action of a helicase-primase enzyme complex, whereas acyclovir blocks the polymerase enzyme. Because the new compounds work differently to acyclovir, they may be useful in cases of resistance against acyclovir.
Gerald Kleymann and colleagues at Bayer AG found that BAY 57-1293 speeds up the healing of herpes lesions in a mouse model of the disease and reduces the severity and frequency recurrent disease. Similarly, James Crute and colleagues of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals report that BILS 179 BS is highly effective against skin and vaginal herpes lesions in a mouse model of disease.
Both compounds are more potent than acyclovir and are orally active. In an accompanying News & Views article (p. 327), Priscilla Schaffer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center writes, “If helicase-primase drugs inhibit HSV infections more effectively than nucleoside analogs…they would represent a major advance in controlling HSV infections.” But she explains that compounds that can block the latent stage of the virus also need to be developed.
Dr. Gerald Kleymann
Bayer AG, Pharma research
PH R AI Virology
Aprather Weg 18a
Tel: +49 202 36 4056
Fax: +49 202 36 4162
Dr. James J. Crute
Research and Development Center
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Tel: +1 858 404 5411
Fax: +1 858 404 6719
Dr. Priscilla Schaffer
Departments of Medicine and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Harvard Medical School and Division of Infectious Diseases
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Ave, RN123
Tel: +1 617 667 2958
Fax: +1 617 667 8540
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza