UV light-induced reactivation of herpes simplex virus type 2 and prevention by acyclovir

J Infect Dis. 1992 Sep;166(3):500-6. doi: 10.1093/infdis/166.3.500.


UV B light is a potent stimulus for inducing reactivation of latent herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections. Patients were enrolled in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial to determine whether acyclovir can prevent UV light-induced HSV-2 recurrences. Twenty-four patients with a history of recurrent infection of perigenital sites (e.g., buttock, thigh) were exposed one to four times with 4 minimum erythema doses of UV light. Patients were given acyclovir 200 mg orally five times daily or matched placebo beginning 1 day before each exposure and continuing for 5 days after exposure. There were 13 UV-induced recurrences among 36 placebo treatments and 3 after 38 acyclovir treatments (P = .004). The mean time to recurrence (+/- SE) was 4.8 +/- 0.3 days. HSV-2 lesions developed primarily at the site of UV exposure. The cutaneous distribution and timing of UV-induced recurrences was consistent with a neural localization (dorsal root ganglia) of latent viral infection. This UV light model permits direct examination of events leading to HSV-2 recurrences in humans and can be used to evaluate approaches to prevention.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Herpes Simplex / drug therapy*
  • Herpes Simplex / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Simplexvirus / growth & development*
  • Simplexvirus / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Virus Activation* / drug effects
  • Virus Activation* / radiation effects


  • Acyclovir