(HealthDay News) — New research links the varicella zoster virus to giant cell arteritis. The study was published online February 18 in Neurology.

Study author Don Gilden, MD. a professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, said the findings suggest that the standard treatment of steroids isn’t enough on its own. “You need to treat the virus and the inflammation that goes along with it,” he told HealthDay. “This is totally new.”

The researchers examined biopsies of arteries from 95 people who had died. Varicella zoster virus antigen was found in 74% (61 of 82) of people who’d also had giant cell arteritis, but the virus was present in just 8% (one of 13) of those people without the condition.

Gilden said patients with giant cell arteritis should take antiviral medication in addition to steroids. He noted that antivirals are safe overall, although they cost about $150 a week.

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