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.
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