Van Andel Institute (VAI) researchers have found that curcumin, a component of the curry spice turmeric, blocks herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) infections that commonly result in facial cold sores. Finding out how curcumin blocks the infections will be key to developing a treatment for cold sore sufferers.

"We found that cells treated with curcumin did not support herpes simplex virus infections very well," said Michigan State University graduate student Sebla Kutluay, lead author of the findings published in Virology who is completing her thesis research at Van Andel Institute. "Now we need to determine how curcumin blocks the infections."

There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1, which commonly results in facial cold sores or fever blisters, and HSV-2, commonly associated with genital herpes. The VAI findings focused on HSV-1, which affects more than half of Americans. Resulting cold sores can be painful, unsightly, and recur frequently.

"This isn't a recipe for a remedy yet," said VAI Scientific Investigator and Graduate School Dean Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D., head of the laboratory that published the findings. "Applying turmeric or curry to cold sores won't have an effect. Once we determine what is happening to block the infections at the cellular level, we'll be closer to developing a treatment."

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute is an independent research organization dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process.

Van Andel Institute