Herpes virus link to bipolar disorder and depression

Image of a Purkinje neuron. Researchers show human herpes viruses (HHV-6 ) are capable of infecting neurons, possibly leading to psychiatric disorders like depression and bipolar disorder: Frontiers in Microbiology

Purkinje neuron. Image: Shutterstock

Researchers show for the first time that type HHV-6 viruses are capable of infecting neurons and possibly causing cognitive disturbances leading to psychiatric disorders.

— University of Würzburg

Purkinje cells are a central part of the human cerebellum, the part of the brain that plays an important role in motor learning, fine motor control of the muscle, equilibrium and posture but also influences emotions, perception, memory and language.

Scientists from the Institute for Virology and Immunobiology of the University of Würzburg and their US colleagues have now made a surprising discovery in these nerve cells. They found a high infection rate of Purkinje neurons with the human herpes virus HHV-6 for the first time in patients with two types of psychiatric disorders: bipolar disorder and/or severe depression. The study was led by Dr. Bhupesh Prusty, group leader at the Department of Microbiology. The scientists published the results of their study in Frontiers in Microbiology.


Active HHV-6 Infection of Cerebellar Purkinje Cells in Mood Disorders
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Virus-related inflammation in the brain

“Inherited factors have long been known to increase the risk of developing several types of psychiatric disorders including bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia,” Prusty explains. But there is also strong evidence that environmental factors, particularly those that lead to neuroinflammation early in life, might play an important etiologic role in the pathogenesis of these disorders as well. Viruses are such an environmental factor.

“Pathogens may disrupt neurodevelopment and cross talk with the immune system at key developmental stages,” Prusty explains. Children that are infected at a young age usually recover without any late complications. However, the viruses lie dormant (latent) in various organs and tissues including the central nervous system and the salivary glands and can be reactivated under certain circumstances, even after years.


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Increased infection rate in two psychiatric disorders

Prusty and his team suspected the human herpes viruses HHV-6A and HHV-6B to play a key role in the genesis of psychiatric disorders. So they studied two of the largest human brain biopsy cohorts from Stanley Medical Research Institute (USA) and what they found confirmed their assumption.

“We were able to find active infection of HHV-6 predominantly within Purkinje cells of human cerebellum in bipolar and major depressive disorder patients,” Prusty sums up the central result of their study. The results show for the first time that type HHV-6 viruses are capable of infecting neurons and possibly causing cognitive disturbances leading to mood disorder.

According to the scientists, the study disproves the belief that viruses which lie “dormant” and hidden in organs and tissues never cause any disease. “Studies like ours prove this thinking as wrong,” Prusty says and he cites another study which shows that Alzheimer’s disease can also be caused by human herpes virus 6A.

In the next step, the Würzburg researchers want to figure out the molecular mechanisms behind HHV-6A mediated cellular damage to Purkinje neurons.


Original article: Active HHV-6 Infection of Cerebellar Purkinje Cells in Mood Disorders

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6 Comments on Herpes virus link to bipolar disorder and depression

  1. Muito bom. Obrigada

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aaron Lerner // November 3, 2018 at 10:43 am // Reply

    A very important observation. We have indirect data on yeasts in BPD
    Congratulations

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. Thanks for sharing the post. Most of the people
    who experience depression suffer with some
    or other type of anxiety.

    mental health first aid

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Most interesting. I am and have been a sufferer of cold sores since a young child and have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.

    Like

  5. Jacinta CORNEC // July 28, 2020 at 3:20 pm // Reply

    I agree with Sarah (above), I too contracted herpes labial at an early age, no exact idea when and was diagnosed with BD four years ago. I’ve been treated with lithium since then and I’ve never had a cold sore since.

    Like

  6. SarahrebeklahN. // October 13, 2020 at 2:02 am // Reply

    I have my breakouts and sometimes up t0 8 times a year, and am 33 years old. I’ve had them for around 5maybe more years now. I was given a medication to take right before a breakout, a 7 day treatment and was directed to use this medication only if my breakouts are minimal to 1/2 a year(otherwise there is a daily med that I could use to prohibit the more frequent breakouts.) There are breakouts where I held out and just let the process happen and they do heal up and go away. After reading articles linking alzheimers-herpes simplex2- is this including genital herpes[yes I’m sure] and why would this be terrible for me to continue to allow the herpes to take it’s natural course without medication which I’m not open to using monthly,even more so,daily. Please, any replies will be appreciated. Thank you.

    Like

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