L-lysine: Its antagonism with L-arginine in controlling viral infection. Narrative literature review

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2022 Nov;88(11):4708-4723. doi: 10.1111/bcp.15444. Epub 2022 Jul 5.


Knowledge about viral characteristics, mechanisms of entry into the host cell and multiplication/dissemination can help in the control and treatment of viral pathologies. Several nutritional factors linked to the host may favour viral multiplication and their control, may lead to new prophylactic alternatives and/or antiviral therapies. The objective of this review is to discuss the relationship between the amino acid L-lysine and the control of viral infections, aiming at a possible therapeutic property. This research used databases such as PubMed, Web of Science, Scielo, Medline and Google Scholar, as well as searching for references cited by journals. The time frame covered the period between 1964 and January 2022. The observed studies have shown that the usual antiviral therapies are not able to interfere with the viruses in their latent state; however, they can interfere with the adhesion and fusion of viral particles or the production of proteins, which play an important role in viral epidemiology and control, particularly in the initial moment and in reactivation. Lysine is an amino acid that can interfere mainly in the formation of capsid proteins and DNA by a competitive antagonism with amino acid arginine, which is an essential amino acid for some viruses, and also by promoting the increase of arginase, increasing the catabolism of arginine. Although there is evidence of the importance of L-lysine in viral control, more studies are needed, with a view to new antiviral therapies.

Keywords: L-arginine; L-lysine; amino acids; human herpesvirus; virus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arginase
  • Arginine / metabolism
  • Arginine / therapeutic use
  • Capsid Proteins
  • Humans
  • Lysine* / metabolism
  • Lysine* / therapeutic use
  • Virus Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Virus Diseases* / prevention & control


  • Amino Acids
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Capsid Proteins
  • Arginine
  • Arginase
  • Lysine