Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 infection is associated with suicidal behavior and first registered psychiatric diagnosis in a healthy population

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 Oct;108:150-154. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.06.015. Epub 2019 Jun 28.


Increasing evidence shows that latent infections and inflammation is associated with cognitive and behavioral changes in humans. This case-control study investigates the association between Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) infection and C-reactive Protein (CRP) levels, and psychiatric disorders and suicidal behavior. Public health register data from 81,912 participants in the Danish Blood Donor Study, were reviewed to identify individuals registered with an ICD-10 code of any psychiatric diagnosis, or who had attempted or committed suicide. We found 1,504 psychiatric cases and 353 suicidal cases; for all cases, controls were frequency-matched by age and sex, resulting in 5,336 participants. Plasma samples were analyzed for IgG-class antibodies against HSV-1 and CRP. HSV-1 infection was associated with suicidal behavior (odds-ratio, 1.40; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.11-1.77). Accounting for temporality, HSV-1 infection was associated with having first psychiatric disorder after the date of blood collection (incidence rate ration, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.05-1.95). No association between CRP and psychiatric disorders or suicidal behavior was found. The finding that HSV-1 was associated with suicidal behavior and first psychiatric disorder indicates that infection may play a role in the etiology and pathogenesis of suicidal behavior and development of psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: C-reactive protein; Herpes Simplex Virus type 1; Infection; Inflammation; Psychiatric disorders; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Herpes Simplex / psychology*
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / metabolism
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / virology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Registries
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide / psychology*


  • C-Reactive Protein