Early treatment with acyclovir for varicella pneumonia in otherwise healthy adults: retrospective controlled study and review

Rev Infect Dis. Sep-Oct 1990;12(5):788-98. doi: 10.1093/clinids/12.5.788.


The effect of early acyclovir therapy on the course of varicella pneumonia in previously healthy adults was assessed. Medical records from five university-affiliated medical centers were retrospectively reviewed; included were all immunocompetent adults with a clinical diagnosis of primary varicella, a chest radiograph consistent with varicella pneumonia, and an arterial blood gas measurement indicating significant hypoxia. Of the 38 patients who met the study criteria, 11 had had a course of intravenous acyclovir initiated within the first 36 hours of hospitalization; the mean time from admission to initiation of therapy in this early-treatment group was 9.6 hours. The group that received early acyclovir treatment had a lower mean temperature beginning on the fifth day of hospitalization (37.0 degrees C vs. 37.7 degrees C; P = .011) and a lower mean respiratory rate beginning on the sixth day of hospitalization (21 vs. 28 respirations per minute; P = .004). Early acyclovir therapy also resulted in a significant improvement in oxygenation beginning on the sixth day of hospitalization in patients with follow-up arterial blood gas measurements (P = .035). Thus, early institution of acyclovir therapy is associated with reduction in fever and tachypnea and improvement in oxygenation in otherwise healthy adults with varicella pneumonia.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Chickenpox / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Acyclovir