Are these common viruses behind the worst brain diseases?

When you hear the word “herpes,” you probably think of cold sores or STDs. Most people do. But herpesviruses are behind far more health problems than those two…

Chickenpox is caused by a herpesvirus. Mononucleosis is caused by a herpesvirus. Roseola is caused by a herpesvirus. The list goes on.

But the most surprising (and alarming) thing about herpesviruses isn’t the number of illnesses they cause. It’s that once you get one of these viruses, it stays with you for life. And it puts you at risk for far more serious diseases than the ones I just mentioned…

In fact, there’s mounting evidence that long after your herpesvirus symptoms pass, the virus could be putting you at a higher risk for major neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Case in point?

A new study shows one herpesvirus shows up in people with multiple sclerosis far more than anyone else.

This herpesvirus more than doubles MS risk

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden just pinpointed the herpes virus that could be driving multiple sclerosis risk.

Now, several other studies show that human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is linked to MS. But there are two different types — 6A and 6B.

HHV-6B is the virus that causes the childhood rash roseola. But HHV-6A doesn’t cause any diseases scientists are aware of.

In this study, researchers determined that HHV-6A infection more than doubles the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. They also found that people infected with the virus younger had an even greater chance of developing MS.

Unfortunately, there’s more bad news…

People infected with Epstein-Barr virus (the herpesvirus that causes mononucleosis) and HHV-6A had an even bigger risk of developing MS.

Why would these viruses cause a higher risk of MS?

Well, the theory is, they hide out in the central nervous system, which triggers the immune system to attack its own healthy tissue.

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How to defend yourself against herpesviruses

Like I mentioned earlier, MS isn’t the only central nervous system disease linked to herpesviruses.

Studies show that human herpesvirus-6A, human herpesvirus-7, human herpesvirus-3, human herpesvirus-1, and human herpesvirus-2 are all tied to an increased risk of dementia. In fact, human herpesvirus-1 and human herpesvirus-2 (the ones that cause cold sores and genital herpes) more than doubled the risk of dementia in one study.

Even worse, a 2018 study found a causal link between human herpesvirus-1 and Alzheimer’s. That means HHV-1 causes the disease. Scientists suspect it may even be responsible for as much as 50 percent of Alzheimer’s cases.

The good news?

A 2018 study showed that people with Alzheimer’s and severe human herpesvirus-1 infection can significantly improve their Alzheimer’s symptoms by taking antiviral medication. The same could be true for people with MS, so hopefully, researchers will start studying that stat.

In the meantime, we should all protect ourselves from herpesviruses more. There are many natural antivirals that are known to knock out herpesviruses. Talk to your doctor and/or herbalist about adding some of these to your regular routine:

  • Garlic
  • Zinc
  • Witch hazel
  • Manuka honey
  • Ginger oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Echinacea extract


  1. Multiple sclerosis linked to variant of common herpes virus through new method — MedicalXpress
  2. Increased Serological Response Against Human Herpesvirus 6A Is Associated With Risk for Multiple SclerosisFrontiers in Immunology
  3. What Is HHV-6? — HHV-6 Foundation
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and