Herpes Medication Produces “Walking Corpse Syndrome”

pillsVia New Scientist, the bizarre, unintended side effect of a cold sore medication suggests that it may be possible to engineer a drug that induces the living-dead mental state:

Pharmacologists have discovered a mechanism that triggers Cotard’s syndrome – the mysterious condition that leaves people feeling like they, or parts of their body, no longer exist. With the ability to switch the so-called walking corpse syndrome on and off comes the prospect of new insights into consciousness.

Acyclovir – also known by the brand name Zovirax – is a common drug used to treat cold sores and other herpes infections. However, about 1 per cent of people who take the drug orally or intravenously experience some psychiatric side effects, including Cotard’s. These occur mainly in people who have renal failure.

One woman with renal failure began using acyclovir to treat shingles. She ran into a hospital screaming. After an hour of dialysis, she started to talk: she said the reason she was so anxious was that she had a strong feeling she was dead.

Blood analysis suggests an explanation. When someone takes acyclovir, it is broken down in the body before being removed via the kidneys. One of these breakdown products, CMMG, is usually found at very low levels. But those who had symptoms of Cotard’s had much higher levels. All but one of these eight people had renal failure.

There may be a genetic link between how people metabolise acyclovir and the symptoms they get. What’s fascinating is that there is now, in theory, a way to turn Cotard’s on and off.

9 Comments on "Herpes Medication Produces “Walking Corpse Syndrome”"

  1. Cortacespedes | Oct 25, 2013 at 9:51 am |

    Who needs a drug to achieve a “living dead mental state”. That’s just a byproduct of having a job.

  2. DeepCough | Oct 25, 2013 at 9:54 am |

    So the same state produced by television can now be replicated in the form of a pill.
    I don’t like where this is going.

  3. Damn this title. I read walking corpse syndrome I want legitimate zombie theories. Stop playing with my emotions interwebs.

    • InfvoCuernos | Oct 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm |

      Better than the one they were going to go with -“Herpes Zombies Invade the Hospital!”

  4. Great, more feeding the stupid zomie fad/trend. Disco, pet rocks, air hockey, now zombies.

  5. that’s odd, I used part of a large tube of acyclovir cream on myself, nothing happened. At all, the next doctor who looked at me said it was bacterial, not viral, the antibiotic cleared the infection up almost immediately. No corpse-like feeling, no urge to eat other people’s BRAINZ!!!

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