Discovery and development of BVDU (brivudin) as a therapeutic for the treatment of herpes zoster.


This Commentary is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jacques Gielen, the ...
This Commentary is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jacques Gielen, the late Editor of Biochemical Pharmacology, whom I have known as both an author and reviewer for the Journal for about 25 years. This is, quite incidentally, about the time it took for bringing brivudin (BVDU) [(E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)-2'-deoxyuridine] from its original description as an antiviral agent to the market place (in a number of European countries, including Germany and Italy) for the treatment of herpes zoster in immunocompetent persons. BVDU is exquisitely active and selective against varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). BVDU owes this high selectivity and activity profile to a specific phosphorylation by the virus-encoded thymidine kinase, followed by a potent interaction with the viral DNA polymerase. The (E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)-substituent can be considered as the hallmark for the activity of BVDU against VZV and HSV-1. Extensive clinical studies have indicated that BVDU as a single (oral) daily dose of 125 mg (for no more than 7 days) is effective in the treatment of herpes zoster, as regards both short-term (suppression of new lesion formation) and long-term effects (prevention of post-herpetic neuralgia). In this sense, BVDU is as efficient and/or convenient, if not more so, than the other drugs (acyclovir, valaciclovir, famciclovir) that have been licensed for the treatment of herpes zoster. There is one caveat; however, BVDU should not be given to patients under 5-fluorouracil therapy, as the degradation product of BVDU, namely (E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)uracil (BVU), may potentiate the toxicity of 5-fluorouracil, due to inhibition of dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase, the enzyme involved in the catabolism of 5-fluorouracil.




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