Objectives: Whether oral acyclovir (ACV) given in late incubation can prevent clinical varicella or not.
Materials and methods: Twenty-seven healthy infants and children susceptible to varicella received oral ACV (40 mg/kg daily in four divided doses) for 5 days, starting 9 or 11 days after exposure from the index case in the family (2 in the classroom). The clinical features were compared with 13 control children who did not receive ACV. Enzyme-linked immunoassay was used to detect varicella-zoster virus (VZV) antibody and, in follow-up immunologic studies, lymphocyte proliferative response was added. In some cases, blood culture and polymerase chain reaction with Southern hybridization were used for detection of viremia.
Results: Among the 27 children in the treatment group, two (7.4%) developed the disease and seroconversion was observed in 17 subjects (63%). Follow-up immunologic studies in 12 of these 17 seroconverted subjects 30 months later showed persistent cellular and/or humoral immunity to VZV. Only one subject, bled 11 days after exposure, had positive VZV DNA and blood culture for VZV. On the other hand 10 of 13 (77%) control subjects developed clinical varicella.
Conclusions: Oral ACV administration to healthy susceptible subjects at the beginning of secondary viremia in the late incubation period (9 days after exposure) can effectively prevent or modify clinical varicella.