Current landscape in antiviral drug development against herpes simplex virus infections

Fanny Frejborg, Kiira Kalke, Veijo Hukkanen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Article or Literature Reviewpeer-review

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Herpes simplex viruses (HSV) are common human pathogens with a combined global seroprevalence of 90% in the adult population. HSV-1 causes orofacial herpes but can cause severe diseases, such as the potentially fatal herpes encephalitis and herpes keratitis, a prevalent cause of infectious blindness. The hallmark of HSV is lifelong latent infections and viral reactivations, leading to recurrent lesions or asymptomatic shedding. HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause recurrent, painful, and socially limiting genital lesions, which predispose to human immunodeficiency virus infections, and can lead to neonatal herpes infections, a life-threatening condition for the newborn. Despite massive efforts, there is no vaccine against HSV, as both viruses share the capability to evade the antiviral defenses of human and to establish lifelong latency. Recurrent and primary HSV infections are treated with nucleoside analogs, but the treatments do not completely eliminate viral shedding and transmission. Drug-resistant HSV strains can emerge in relation to long-term prophylactic treatment. Such strains are likely to be resistant to other chemotherapies, justifying the development of novel antiviral treatments. The importance of developing new therapies against HSV has been recognized by the World Health Organization. In this review, we discuss the current approaches for developing novel antiviral therapies against HSV, such as small molecule inhibitors, biopharmaceuticals, natural products, gene editing, and oligonucleotide-based therapies. These approaches may have potential in the future to answer the unmet medical need. Furthermore, novel approaches are presented for potential eradication of latent HSV.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20220004
Number of pages15
JournalSmart Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2022
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


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