Acyclovir exerts its antiviral effect on herpes simplex viruses (HSV) and varicella-zoster virus by interfering with DNA synthesis and inhibiting viral replication. The exact mechanisms of action against other susceptible viruses have not fully elucidated. In vitro studies with herpes simplex viruses indicate that acyclovir triphosphate is the pharmacologically active form of the drug; the triphosphate functions as both a substrate for and preferential inhibitor of viral DNA polymerase.
Absorption of Acyclovir from the GI tract is variable and incomplete. It is estimated that 15-30% of an oral dose of the drug is absorbed . Acyclovir is widely distributed into body tissues and fluids including the brain, kidney, saliva, lung, liver, muscle, spleen, uterus, vaginal mucosa and secretions, CSF, and herpetic vesicular fluid. The drug is also distributed into semen, achieving concentrations about 1.4 and 4 times those in plasma during chronic oral therapy at dosages of 400 mg and 1 g daily, respectively.
Plasma concentrations of Acyclovir appear to decline in a biphasic manner. In adults with normal renal function, the half-life of acyclovir in the initial phase averages 0.34 hours and the half-life in the terminal phase averages 2.1-3.5 hours.