Close

Lysine and herpes recurrence

L-lysine (lysine), is an essential amino acid which means our body is unable to produce it. One has to ingest lysine from foods or dietary supplements. Besides regular protein synthesis, lysine is important for proper growth, and it plays an essential role in the production of carnitine, a nutrient responsible for transferring fatty acids into energy and consequently helping lower circulating cholesterol.

Some studies suggested that taking lysine on a regular basis may help prevent outbreaks of cold sores and herpes simplex. Herpes simplex is a common viral infection of the skin or mucous membranes. The lesions caused by this infection are often painful, burning and tend to recur in most patients. Experts generally agree that lysine supplementation may not prevent herpes, but may reduce recurrences or severity of recurring outbreaks. Several well-controlled clinical studies reported that lysine was an effective agent for reduction of occurrence and also healing time of recurrent herpes infections (i.e., www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3115841 ). In the last specific report, three grams of lysine taken during 6-month-long test period were significantly effective in reducing both occurrence and severity. A comparable outcome was reported in a longer (12 months) double-blind cross-over study with as little as one gram lysine per day (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6438572 ), but not with lower doses (< 0.62 g per day) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6435961 ).

Initiation of herpes simplex virus infection and reactivation from latency is dependent on a transcriptional coactivator complex that contains two required histone demethylases (enzymes), one of them being lysine-specific demethylase 1. Basically, inhibition of one of those enzymes results in blocking infection and reactivation of the disease. The mechanism of lysine action is not clear yet, but it may involve the above pathway and/or antagonism of arginine pathways.

Finally, assuming that daily supplemental dose of 3 grams of lysine per day is effective in herpes simplex; it is important to note that at that dose (and at much higher ones), lysine is a safe amino acid (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9013429 ).

Besides its prophylactic effect in herpes, it helps the body in absorbing calcium, and it plays a role in the formation of collagen, which would suggest that some caution would be warranted in the cases of co-administration of very high doses of calcium and lysine.