More MS news articles for June 2001

WCN: No Benefit Found In Using Broad-Spectrum Antiviral For Multiple Sclerosis

By Richard Robins
Special to DG News

LONDON, ENGLAND -- June 22, 2001 -- Contrary to the results of a previous study, anti-herpes virus treatment provides no benefit in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study presented at the 17th World Congress of Neurology in London, June 17-22 2001.

"Viruses have been looked for as the agent possibly involved in the pathogenesis of MS," said lead author Jan Lycke of the Department of Neurology of Sahlgren's University Hospital, Goteborg, Sweden. "However, no specific agent has repeatedly and convincingly been identified." A previous double-blind trial with aciclovir in MS showed a 34 percent reduction in active lesions, although the probability value fell just short of significance.

Dr. Lycke and colleagues decided to test the prodrug of aciclovir, called valaciclovir, an agent with even broader action against the herpes viruses, the most commonly suspected candidates in MS pathogenesis. They enrolled 70 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, and randomized them to receive either placebo or 3 grams valaciclovir per day for 24 weeks. Patients underwent MRI imaging of active lesions every four weeks throughout the study.

At the end of the study, the mean total of new lesions per patient was 11.9 for the valaciclovir group, and 14.5 for the placebo group, an insignificant difference (p=0.71). Similarly, the number of new lesions per scan per patient was also not significantly different, with 1.9 for valaciclovir, versus 2.6 for placebo (p=0.44). Because the inter-patient variation was high though, Dr. Lycke retrospectively stratified patients into those with high and low baseline MRI activity. When grouped this way, the high-activity patients did seem to benefit from treatment, with significantly fewer lesions than placebo treated patients (p=0.025).

"Our results do not support a major role for aciclovir-susceptible viruses in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis," Dr. Lycke concluded, but he did suggest that further study of this treatment in high-MRI activity patients may be warranted.