June 16 (UPI) -- A National Institutes of Health study on mice and guinea pigs shows that glutamine supplements can suppress the reactivation of herpes simplex virus, or HSV.
Approximately 60 percent of people in the United States are infected with HSV-1 and 20 percent with HSV-2.
There is no known cure for the HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses that cause recurrent herpes outbreaks of cold sores on the mouth and genital area. Antiviral medications are used to shorten the length of herpes outbreaks, however, the virus can remain in the body and reactivate.
Previous studies have shown that HSV-specific T-cells are effective at controlling recurrent HSV outbreaks, but that activated T-cells need increased metabolism of glutamine, an amino acid produced by the body.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the NIH, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tested the effectiveness of the supplement glutamine, a nitrogen source for lymphocytes, on mice infected with HSV-1 and guinea pigs infected with HSV-2.
Some of the animals were given oral glutamine supplements two weeks after infection and others did not receive the glutamine.
Researchers found that mice that received glutamine were less likely to have HSV-1 reactivation than the control mice. The guinea pigs that received glutamine also were less likely to have recurrent outbreaks of HSV-2.