Background: The treatment of Herpes-simplex-virus-encephalitis (HSVE) remains a major unsolved problem in Neurology. Current gold standard for therapy is acyclovir, a drug that inhibits viral replication. Despite antiviral treatment, mortality remains up to 15%, less than 20% of patients are able to go back to work, and the majority of patients suffer from severe disability. This is a discouraging, unsatisfactory situation for treating physicians, the disabled patients and their families, and constitutes an enormous burden to the public health services. The information obtained from experimental animal research and from recent retrospective clinical observations, indicates that a substantial benefit in outcome can be expected in patients with HSVE who are treated with adjuvant dexamethasone. But currently there is no available evidence to support the routine use of adjuvant corticosteroid treatment in HSVE. A randomized multicenter trial is the only useful instrument to address this question.
Design: GACHE is a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group clinical trial of treatment with acyclovir and adjuvant dexamethasone, as compared with acyclovir and placebo in adults with HSVE. The statistical design will be that of a 3-stage-group sequential trial with potential sample size adaptation in the last stage.
Conclusion: 372 patients with proven HSVE (positive HSV-DNA-PCR), aged 18 up to 85 years; with focal neurological signs no longer than 5 days prior to admission, and who give informed consent will be recruited from Departments of Neurology of academic medical centers in Germany, Austria and The Netherlands. Sample size will potentially be extended after the second interim analysis up to a maximum of 450 patients.
Trial registration: Current Controlled TrialsISRCTN45122933.