As we await the outcome of Pridgen’s antiviral herpes simplex trial in fibromyalgia, Albert Chang takes a deeper look at herpes simplex viruses.

Herpes simplex virus

Herpes simplex viruses have not generally been associated with ME/CFS or fibromyaglia,but that may change with the Pridgen study

Two herpesviruses, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and HHV-6, have been of interest in chronic fatigue syndrome for decades.  However, it was not until the Pridgen antiviral Fibromyalgia study put the spotlight on the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) that it has shown up in a big way.  Like other herpes viruses, HSV tends to reactivate during times of physical, hormonal and/or emotional stress.

Herpes Simplex is a dsDNA (double-stranded DNA) virus that belongs to the Herpesviridae family of human-infecting viruses.  This virus subset comes in two forms: HSV-1, commonly referred to as “cold sores”, and HSV-2, commonly referred to as “genital herpes”.  One of the distinguishing attributes of this virus is that it stays with the host for life by residing in the nerve ganglia, which are nerve clusters within the body that act as conduits between the central nervous system and the various functional components of our body: organs, glands, skin, blood vessels, and muscles.

Boring Away: A Termite Analogy

Let’s say that one day you and your friend (a termite expert) walk out into the backyard of your dream home, and notice some mud tubes running up the foundation of your home.  No big deal, you proclaim.  Your friend smashes one of the tubes and out come termites, but you’re not worried because your house was pre-treated with termite protection.

Your friend, however, wonders why the termites are traveling up into the walls of your home.  How would you know whether the termites are feasting on your home, and where?

What if it turned out, though, that more than 10 pockets spread out through your home PERMANENTLY housed termites that live virtually FOREVER, waiting for the opportune time to feast on unprotected lumber — and there is NOTHING you can do about them?

Let’s hope the pre-treatment lasts forever — with each piece of lumber.

Herpes Simplex

In truth it usually does.  Our immune systems are generally so good at bottling up herpes simplex viruses that we tend to associate them with unpleasant but mostly innocuous problems such as cold sores, fever blisters and genital blisters.

cold sores

Cold sores are just a more common manifestation of a herpes simplex virus infection; many other possibilities exist

But what if there was a really dark side to these viruses? What if these usually benign viruses were instead described as “permanently-infecting, neurotropic (nerve loving) viruses”.  How would you feel then?

Let’s get something straight: viruses INFECT! That’s their hallmark.  For the most part, they attach onto, and hijack, host cells, turning them into little factories to produce copies of themselves.  Of course, each virus has its own set of nuances: what kind of cells it can infect, where, etc.

Where's the ganglions?

Nervous system ganglia exist all over the body

Most people with canker sores probably don’t know that herpes virus infection in and around the mouth typically results in the virus establishing permanent residence in the three nerves that run from the ear across the face (trigeminal ganglia).

The same is true with a herpes simplex infection in the genital area and the associated nerves (the dorsal root ganglia).  Once you see evidence of a herpes simplex virus in the skin, it’s taken up permanent residence in the nerves associated with that area.

The skin is just the most outward manifestation of a herpes simplex infection, however.  Our esophagus, heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, gall bladder, lips, tongue, brain, eyeballs, throat… in fact, every organ in our body is associated with ganglia or nerve bodies that herpes simplex and other herpesviruses can permanently hang out in.

If herpes simplex comes out of hiding, travels down a nerve pathway, and reactivates in the mouth area, it produces canker sores. If it reactivates in the genitals it produces genital herpes, in the eye it produces ocular herpes, in the brain it produces encephalitis, and those are just the areas we know about.  Dr. Pridgen believes herpes simplex virus infections are causing gut and other symptoms in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), and irritable bowel syndrome.  Michael VanElzakker Ph.D. believes herpesvirus or other infections in nervous system ganglia are causing the flu-like symptoms in ME/CFS.

The Autonomic Nervous System

Autonomic nervous system (ANS) issues are rife in both ME/CFS and fibromyalgia, and herpes simplex viruses have long been known to the medical community One cadaver study found HSV scattered throughout the nerve ganglia of about a third of the cadavers, and a short report suggests autonomic neuropathy can result from an active HSV infection.

My Immune System Has Me Covered, Doesn’t It?

herpes simplex

We should know more about a possible connection between herpes simplex and fibromyalgia soon

Despite the small set of categorizations for the immune system (immunocompetent, immunosuppressed, immunocompromised), and the overwhelming claims from doctors that infection elsewhere in the body was unlikely unless a host was “immunocompromised”, I present the following cases:

1) Immunocompetent patients developing vocal cord-related paralysis following HSV infection:
2) Lower respiratory tract HSV infections even in  immunologically sound patients 
3) HSV Bronchopneumonitis infections in immunocompetent patients   
4 A hypothesis suggesting HSV infects  the smooth muscles of arterial walls:

The point is that there’s a lot we don’t know about the Herpes Simplex Virus.  Whether or not it plays a role in fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue ayndrome is simply speculation at this point.  We’ll find out more about HSV and Fibromyalgia in March, though, when Dr. Pridgen begins releasing information on the Fibromyalgia antiviral trial targeting Herpes Simplex.  This study includes examining gut tissues for evidence of the virus.

Update – in 2022 the gut study was published and HSV-1 was found in FM patient’s guts.


A Herpesvirus for Fibromyalgia? Active Herpes Simplex Virus Found in FM Patients’ Guts


Like the blog you're reading? Don't miss another one.

Get the most in-depth information available on the latest ME/CFS and FM treatment and research findings by registering for Health Rising's free  ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia blog here.

Stay on Top of the News!

Subscribe To Health Rising’s Free Information on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Long COVID and Related Diseases.

Thank you for signing up!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This