If a pregnant woman has HSV or genital herpes, she may pass the virus to her child. Typically, children born with neonatal HSV are given a short course of treatment with oral medications. Neonatal HSV can cause brain damage and death so researchers took a look at how long-term treatment affected the outcome 12 months after treatment was completed.

The study included children given long-term HSV drugs for six months after birth or a placebo. The children given long-term treatment developed at nearly identical rates as children born HSV-negative. At one year of age, children were tested with the Bayley Scale of Infant Development. According to the test results, children given long-term oral treatment for HSV scored an average of 90. Children given a placebo scored an average of 68. A normal score is 100.

The study lasted 12 years because the rate of transmission of HSV to infant is extremely small. Finding enough study participants to make the study viable in the medical community took more than a decade, but researchers stayed dedicated.

Despite the positive outcome of the study, oral treatment of HSV in infants is limited. If the treated is started immediately after IV treatment concludes, the risk of developmental delay is reduced – if the infant has  no already suffered damage. Oral HSV treatment will not reverse damage it only works to prevent future damage. If damage has already occurred, the treatment will prove useless..

Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham participated in the study both directly, using patients at UAB Hospital, and indirectly as the study authors. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: David W. Kimberlin, M.D., Richard J. Whitley, M.D., Wen Wan, Ph.D., Dwight A. Powell, M.D., Gregory Storch, M.D., Amina Ahmed, M.D., April Palmer, M.D., Pablo J. Sánchez, M.D., Richard F. Jacobs, M.D., John S. Bradley, M.D., Joan L. Robinson, M.D., Mark Shelton, M.D., Penelope H. Dennehy, M.D., Charles Leach, M.D., Mobeen Rathore, M.D., Nazha Abughali, M.D., Peter Wright, M.D., Lisa M. Frenkel, M.D., Rebecca C. Brady, M.D., Russell Van Dyke, M.D., Leonard B. Weiner, M.D., Judith Guzman-Cottrill, D.O., Carol A. McCarthy, M.D., Jill Griffin, R.N., Penelope Jester, R.N., M.P.H., Misty Parker, M.D., Fred D. Lakeman, Ph.D., Huichien Kuo, M.S., Choo Hyung Lee, M.S., and Gretchen A. Cloud, M.S. New England Journal of Medicine. 6 October, 2011.

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