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Can Herpes Virus Cause Bipolar Disorder?

Topic Overview

Researchers at the University of Wurzburg have come up with a surprising revelation that the HHV-6 virus of the herpes family has the potential to cause bipolar disorder. The virus does this by affecting the neuron which leads to cognitive impairments resulting in various psychiatric illnesses. The HHV-5 virus affects the Purkinje cells, which is a vital part of the cerebellum. The cerebellum plays an important part in muscle control, balance, and posture of an individual. It also is pivotal in influencing memory, language, and emotions of a person. The researchers at the University of Wurzburg came up with startling revelations as to how these Purkinje cells were vulnerable to various infections, especially with human herpes virus or HHV-6 [1].

This was especially seen in people with a known diagnosis of bipolar disorder or depression. The National Institute of Mental Health states that about 5% of the common population in United States had had bipolar disorder at some point or the other [1].

Additionally, approximately 6% of all adults in the United States experience at least a solitary episode of depression at some point in their lives. This article gives an overview of the details of the study and explains how Herpes Virus can cause bipolar disorder by affecting the neurons in the brain [1].

Can Herpes Virus Cause Bipolar Disorder?

Can Herpes Virus Cause Bipolar Disorder?

The root cause of bipolar disorder still remains a mystery, there is a firm belief among researchers that both environmental and genetics play an important role in the development of this condition. As an example, a recent study done on bipolar disorder identified around 40+ gene mutations that potentially increased the risk of depression in an individual substantially and another study suggested that around 80% of the overall risk for schizophrenia in people can be due to genetic abnormalities [2].

A latest research has shed more light on the role that environmental factors, especially viruses, play in the development of mood disorders like bipolar disorder. This has been highlighted in the journal Frontiers of Microbiology. A team of researchers led by Dr. Prusty from the department of Microbiology at the University of Wurzburg in Germany found out that people who had bipolar disorder or depressive symptoms had their neurons called Purkinje cells being infected by the HHV-6 virus. These neurons are found in the cerebellum and influence as to how an individual feels. It also controls the posture, balance, and motor function of the body [2].

The cerebellum also is involved with cognition, language, and mood of an individual. The question now arises how HHV-6 virus cause bipolar disorder. For this, Dr. Prusty conducted two large cohorts of brain biopsies. The biopsies revealed that there were active HHV infections in the Purkinje cells of people who had depressive and bipolar disorders. Certain inherited factors have always been known to increase the risk of various psychiatric conditions like depressive disorder and schizophrenia along with bipolar disorder [2].

In this latest study, it is now established that environmental factors like human herpes virus can also cause neural inflammation very early in life. These viruses interfere with the normal development of neurons and the overall immune system of the body at vital stages of growth of an individual. Dr. Prusty adds on that the study clearly indicates a stark contraindication that viruses that were considered to be dormant in various organs and tissues of the body do not cause any harm to the overall health of an individual in the long term [2].

Dr. Prusty also mentions that there is increasing evidence that the human herpes virus is also responsible for various other neurological conditions. Studies have identified that the HHV-6A and HHV-7 are known to increase the risk of causing Alzheimer disease. Studies conducted on the brain of people who have had these diseases have shown them to be infected with these viruses [2].

In the coming days, the research team led by Dr. Prusty is planning to study the molecular mechanism that can give information as to how these viruses damage the Purkinje cells causing bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions [2].


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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 3, 2020

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