Valacyclovir Hydrochloride (Page 6 of 9)

12.4 Microbiology

Mechanism of Action

Valacyclovir is a deoxynucleoside analogue DNA polymerase inhibitor. Valacyclovir hydrochloride is rapidly converted to acyclovir which has demonstrated antiviral activity against HSV types 1 (HSV-1) and 2 (HSV-2) and VZV both in cell culture and in vivo.

Acyclovir is a synthetic purine deoxynucleoside that is phosphorylated intracellularly by the viral encoded thymidine kinase (TK; pUL23) of HSV or VZV into acyclovir monophosphate, a nucleotide analogue.The monophosphate is further converted into diphosphate by cellular guanylate kinase and into triphosphate by a number of cellular enzymes. In biochemical assays, acyclovir triphosphate inhibits replication of α-herpes viral DNA. This is accomplished in 3 ways: 1) competitive inhibition of viral DNA polymerase, 2) incorporation and termination of the growing viral DNA chain, and 3) inactivation of the viral DNA polymerase. The greater antiviral activity of acyclovir against HSV compared with VZV is due to its more efficient phosphorylation by the viral TK.

Antiviral Activity

The quantitative relationship between the cell culture susceptibility of herpesviruses to antivirals and the clinical response to therapy has not been established in humans, and virus sensitivity testing has not been standardized. Sensitivity testing results, expressed as the concentration of drug required to inhibit by 50% the growth of virus in cell culture (EC 50 ), vary greatly depending upon a number of factors. Using plaque-reduction assays, the EC 50 values against herpes simplex virus isolates range from 0.09 to 60 microM (0.02 to 13.5 mcg/mL) for HSV-1 and from 0.04 to 44 microM (0.01 to 9.9 mcg/mL) for HSV-2. The EC 50 values for acyclovir against most laboratory strains and clinical isolates of VZV range from 0.53 to 48 microM (0.12 to 10.8 mcg/mL). Acyclovir also demonstrates activity against the Oka vaccine strain of VZV with a mean EC 50 value of 6 microM (1.35 mcg/mL).


In Cell Culture: Acyclovir-resistant HSV-1, HSV-2, and VZV strains were isolated in cell culture. Acyclovir-resistant HSV and VZV resulted from mutations in the viral thymidine kinase (TK, pUL23) and DNA polymerase (POL; pUL30) genes. Frameshifts were commonly isolated and result in premature truncation of the HSV TK product with consequent decreased susceptibility to acyclovir. Mutations in the viral TK gene may lead to complete loss of TK activity (TK negative), reduced levels of TK activity (TK partial), or alteration in the ability of viral TK to phosphorylate the drug without an equivalent loss in the ability to phosphorylate thymidine (TK altered).In cell culture, acyclovir resistance-associated substitutions in TK of HSV-1 and HSV-2 were observed (Table 5).

Table 5. Summary of Acyclovir Resistance-Associated Amino Acid Substitutions in Cell Culture

Virus Gene Substitution
HSV-1 TK P5A, H7Q, L50V, G56V, G59R/V/W/A, G61A/V, K62I/N, T63A, E83K, P84L/S, R89W, D116N, P131S, P155R, F161I/C, R163H/P, A167V, P173L, R176Q/W, Q185R, A189L/V, G200S, G206R, R216S, R220H, L227F, Y239S, T245M, Q261stop, R281stop, T287M, M322K, C336Y, V348A
HSV-2 TK L69P, C172R, A175V, T288M
HSV-1 POL D368A, Y557S, E597D, V621S, L702H, A719V, S742N, N815S, V817M, Y818C, G841C/S
HSV-2 POL No substitutions detected

HSV-Infected Patients: Clinical HSV-1 and HSV-2 isolates obtained from patients who failed treatment for their α-herpes virus infections were evaluated for genotypic changes in the TK and POL genes and for phenotypic resistance to acyclovir (Table 6). HSV isolates with frameshift mutations and resistance-associated substitutions in TK and POL were identified. The listing of substitutions in the HSV TK and POL leading to decreased susceptibility to acyclovir is not all inclusive and additional changes will likely be identified in HSV variants isolated from patients who fail acyclovir-containing regimens. The possibility of viral resistance to acyclovir should be considered in patients who fail to respond or experience recurrent viral shedding during therapy.

Table 6. Summary of Acyclovir Resistance-Associated Amino Acid Substitutions Observed in Treated Patients

Virus Gene Substitution
HSV-1 TK G6C, R32H, R41H, R51W, Y53C/D/H, Y53stop, D55N, G56D/E/S, P57H, G58N/R, G59R, G61A/E/W, K62N, T63I, Q67stop, S74stop, Y80N, E83K, P84L, Y87H, E95stop, T103P, Q104H, Q104stop, H105P, M121K/L/R, Q125N, M128L, G129D, I143V, A156V, D162A/H/N, R163G/H, L170P, Y172C, P173L/R, A174P, A175V, R176Q/W, R176stop, L178R, S181N, A186P, V187M, A189V, V192A, G200C/D/S, T201P, T202A, V204G, A207P, L208F/H, R216C/H, R220C/H, R221C/H, R222C/H, E226K, D229H, L242P, T245M/P, L249P, Q250stop, C251G, E257K, Q261R, A265T, R281stop, T287M, L288stop, L291R, L297S, L315S, L327R, C336Y, C336stop, Q342stop, T354P, L364P, A365T
HSV-2 TK G25A, R34C, G39E, R51W, Y53N/D, G59P, G61A/E/W, S66P, A72S, D78N, P85S, R86P, A94V, L98stop, N100H, I101S, Q103stop, Q105P, A125T, T131P, Y133F, D137stop, F140L, L158P, S169P, R177W, S182N, M183Istop, V192M, G201D, R217H, R221C/H, Q222stop, R223H, D229stop, Y239stop, D231N, L263stop, R271V, P272S, D273R, T287M, C337Y
HSV-1 POL K532T, S559L, Q570R, L583V, A605V, V621S, A657T, D672N, V715G, A719T/V, S724N, F733C, E771Q, S775N, L778M, E798K, V813M, N815S, G841S, R842S, I890M, V958L, H1228D
HSV-2 POL E250Q, D307N, K533E, A606V, C625R, R628C, E678G, A724V, S725G, S729N, I731F, Q732R, D785N, M789K/T, V818A, N820S, Y823C, Q829R, T843A, M910T, D912N/V, A915V, F923L, T934A, R964H

Note: Many additional pathways to acyclovir resistance likely exist.


Cross-resistance has been observed among HSV isolates carrying frameshift mutations and resistance-associated substitutions, which confer reduced susceptibility to penciclovir (PCV), famciclovir (FCV), and foscarnet (FOS) (Table 7).

Table 7. Summary of Acyclovir Resistance-Associated Amino Acid Substitutions

Conferring Cross-Resistance to PCV, FCV or FOS

Cross-Resistant Drug Virus/Gene Substitution
PCV/FCV HSV-1 TK G6C, R32H, R51W, Y53C/H/N, H58N, G61A, S74stop, E83K, P84L, T103P, Q104stop, D116N, M121R, I143V, P155R, R163G/H, A167V, L170P, Y172C, P173L, A174P, R176Q/W, Q185R, A186P, A189L/V, G200D/S, G206R, L208H, R216C, R220H, R222C/H, Y239S, T245M, Q250stop, Q261stop, R281stop, T287M, L315S, M322K, C336Y, V348A
HSV-1 POL A657T, D672N, V715G, A719V, S724N, E798K, N815S, G841C/S
HSV-2 TK G39E, R51W, Y53N, R86P, Y133F, R177W, R221H, T288M
HSV-2 POL K533E, A606V, C625R, R628C, S729N, Q732R, M789K/T, V818A, N820S, F923L, T934A
FOS HSV-1 POL D368A, A605V, D672N, L702H, V715G, A719T/V, S724N, L778M, E798K, V813M, N815S, V817M, G841C/S, I890M
HSV-2 POL K533E, A606V, C625R, R628C, A724V, S725G, S729N, I731F, Q732R, M789K/T, V818A, Y823C, D912V, F923L, T934A, R964H

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