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Green tea compound fights cold sores, Augusta University professor finds

Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015

An active ingredient in green tea appears to work on the virus that causes most cold sores and shortened their duration in a clinic trial, an Augusta University researcher said.

Hsu and colleagues in China conducted a clinical trial there on 40 people who had bouts of cold sores, half of whom got the EGCG compound and half who were controls. Those who got the compound had a 50 percent reduction in the duration of the sore, 4.5 days, versus nine days on average for the control group, according to the study, which was published online in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology.

More significantly, the painful blistering period was reduced from three days to one, according to the study.

“That’s a big, big improvement of the symptoms and the quality of life improved also,” Hsu said. The compound, which is sold under the name AverTeaX over the counter, is manufactured by a company Hsu helped found.

Recurrent cold sores are a common problem and some estimate they affect anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the population. Efforts to develop a vaccine against the virus have so far proven unsuccessful and most of the antiviral medications currently available shorten the duration of an episode by a day or less, Hsu said.

Exactly how the green tea compound may be combating the virus could be in one of two ways. Other research has shown that the compound has a high attraction to proteins on the surface of the virus cells and “those proteins were grabbed by EGCG very tightly,” keeping the virus from infecting the cells, Hsu said. Other research shows that the compound may be tying up receptors on the host cells that the virus needs to attach to the cell and infect it, he said.

Either way, “they see the same result,” Hsu said.

Future research may focus on a related virus that causes most of the genital herpes cases and Hsu thinks it may also work against the virus that causes shingles. Although there is a vaccine against the shingles virus, “still, a lot of people are getting shingles,” he said.

Another advantage of the green tea compound is that it is naturally occuring and is unlikely to add to the growing resistance problem that the antivirals seem to be creating, particularly among people with compromised immune systems.

“It’s nontoxic, it’s natural,” Hsu said.

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