Study: Glutamine suppresses herpes in mice and guinea pigs

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Media Release
Results suggest possible new
treatment approach.
Glutamine supplements can
suppress reactivation of herpes simplex virus (HSV) in mice and guinea pigs,
according to findings recently published in the Journal of Clinical
Investigation. The research was conducted by scientists at the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National
Institutes of Health, and at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
There is no cure for infection
with HSV-1 and HSV2, viruses that can cause recurrent outbreaks of cold sores
and genital sores in humans. Although antiviral medications can help shorten
outbreaks, the virus persists in the body and can reactivate, which underscores
the need for new treatment approaches. Prior research demonstrated the
importance of HSV-specific T cells for controlling recurrent HSV outbreaks, and
that activated T cells require increased metabolism of glutamine (an amino acid
produced by the body and found in food). Therefore, the authors speculated that
glutamine supplementation might increase T-cell function and improve infection
To test this hypothesis,
scientists infected mice with HSV-1 and guinea pigs with HSV-2 and randomly
assigned the animals to different treatment groups. Two weeks after infection,
some animals received an oral glutamine supplement and others did not. Results
showed that mice that received glutamine were less likely to have HSV-1
reactivation than those that did not, and similarly, guinea pigs that received
glutamine were less likely to have recurrent outbreaks of HSV-2 than those that
did not receive the supplement.
Evaluation of host cellular
gene expression in mice treated with glutamine showed that several genes
inducible by interferon gamma (IFN-γ) had an increased response. IFN-γ is
produced by virus-specific T cells and can inhibit viral reactivation. Mice
treated with glutamine also had high numbers of virus-specific T cells in infected
nerve tissues. Together, the results suggest glutamine may reduce HSV
reactivation by improving the T-cell response to infection. Clinical trials are
needed to determine whether this novel treatment approach would effectively
treat HSV in humans, according to the authors.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.