Aciclovir, the active metabolite of valaciclovir, is active against most species in the herpesvirus family. In descending order of activity:
- Herpes simplex virus type I (HSV-1)
- Herpes simplex virus type II (HSV-2)
- Varicella zoster virus (VZV)
- Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
The drug is predominantly active against HSV, and to a lesser extent VZV. It is only of limited efficacy against EBV and CMV; however, valacyclovir has recently been shown to lower or eliminate the presence of the Epstein–Barr virus in subjects afflicted with acute mononucleosis, leading to a significant decrease in the severity of symptoms. It is inactive against latent viruses in nerve ganglia.
To date, resistance to valaciclovir has not been clinically significant. Mechanisms of resistance in HSV include deficient viral thymidine kinase, and mutations to viral thymidine kinase and/or DNA polymerase, altering substrate sensitivity.
It also is used for herpes B virus Tramadol postexposure prophylaxis.