One in three Americans carry the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2), but while some people get severe recurring outbreaks of herpes blisters or cold sores, others have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. This article sheds some light on why this is and aims to provide information so that herpes and cold sore sufferers can get appropriate treatment. It is important to understand that there is no known cure for herpes. There are, however, treatments that are effective in managing the pain as well as minimizing and even preventing outbreaks from happening at all.
The relationship of iron to the herpes simplex virus
The “European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases” published a study in 1995 on the relationship between ferritin levels (iron stores) and recurring herpes outbreaks. The study compared patients with cold sores to patients without cold sores. It established that ferritin levels in patients with cold sores were lower than ferritin levels in patients without.
The role our genes play in iron metabolism
Results of a further medical study published in the journal “Cell Biochemistry and Function” in 2010 suggested that there is a genetic factor to cold sores and herpes outbreaks. Again iron is identified as playing a role. The study found genetic differences in the protein haptoglobin which is related to iron metabolism. There are three types of haptoglobin. Two of these types lead to lower levels of iron in the blood. If you have one of these two types of haptoglobin, you will be more prone to herpes outbreaks. For people who suffer from recurring herpes and cold sores this ground breaking news.
How iron can prevent herpes outbreaks in some people
The herpes simplex virus competes with our immune system (T-cells and B-cells) for iron. The enzyme ribonucleotide reductase, an essential component of which is iron, is needed by the herpes virus to cause an outbreak. Our immune system also needs iron to fight the virus, but it cannot bind iron as effectively as the virus can. This means that when ferritin levels are low, the more efficient herpes virus beats our immune system, infects cells and causes outbreaks.
Herpes and cold sore outbreaks can be prevented by maintaining sufficient ferritin levels. This can be done by eating iron rich foods and through supplementation. Your ferritin levels can be established by having a simple blood test done. Make sure that your ferritin tested as opposed to hemoglobin. Should your ferritin be very low your doctor may prescribe high dose iron tablets or even intravenous iron. High doses of iron should not be taken with prior consultation with your doctor.
If you suffer from recurring herpes or cold sore outbreaks caused by low ferritin levels, it is very likely that you will see a dramatic improvement when you improve your ferritin levels. If an outbreak does occur, taking iron will not relieve the painful symptoms, but it may speed up recovery. DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) can also be used to relieve pain and speed up recovery of herpes and cold sore outbreaks.
“Cell Biochemistry and Function”; Iron Metabolism Markers and Haptoglobin Phenotypes; Luisa Gennaro, Ph.D. et al.; Mar. 2010
“European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases”; Relationship Between Iron Status and Recrudescent Herpes Labialis; Philip-John Lamey, D.M.D. and Paul A. Biagioni, D.M.D.; Jul. 1995
(C) Brenda T. 2011