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Physicians at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif., have discovered a drug treatment that speeds the recovery of adults who contract chicken pox.

Though usually a benign illness, chicken pox occasionally causes life-threatening pneumonia, particularly in adults.Using the drug Acyclovir - an anti-viral medication commonly prescribed for genital herpes - researchers led by Dr. Mark Wallace have reduced chicken pox's severity and impact.

Sailors and Marines who received Acylovir shortly after their illness were diagnosed as recovered five days after the onset of the illness. Those whose treatments were delayed for a day or two didn't recover until seven days after their rashes erupted.

Those who received the drug promptly also had briefer fevers and 46 percent fewer skin pocks than those whose treatments were delayed.

The patients were given five oral doses of Acyclovir daily for seven days. In all, the treatment cost about $100 per patient, the researchers reported.