Could Fibromyalgia Be Caused by a Virus?

by Karen Lee Richards Patient Advocate

Fibromyalgia was originally thought to be a rheumatological problem, possibly in the arthritis family, because patients primarily complained of painful muscles. Then more recent research seemed to indicate that it was more of a central nervous system problem involving pain amplification.

But what if fibromyalgia is actually caused by a virus? One researcher, Dr. William Pridgen of Innovative Med Concepts in Alabama, thinks that may indeed be true and is currently in the midst of a large antiviral trial to find out.

The Theory

Pridgen's theory, in a nutshell, is that the very common herpes simplex virus takes up residence in the nerves. Our immune systems are usually good at containing the virus but when the immune system is compromised by some physical, hormonal or emotional trauma (common triggers for FM), the virus is reactivated, traveling down various nerve pathways and resulting in the pain and other well-known symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Cort Johnson has been reporting on Pridgen's theory and the clinical trial on the Simmaron Research website and on his blog Health Rising. Cort and his guest blogger Albert Chang do an excellent job of explaining the theory, how Pridgen developed the theory and his proposed treatment ideas. I encourage you to read their articles and I will provide links to them at the end of this post.

Chang explains the herpes simplex virus: "Herpes Simplex is a dsDNA (double-stranded DNA) virus that belongs to the Herpesviridae family of human-infecting viruses. This virus subset comes in two forms: HSV-1, commonly referred to as "cold sores", and HSV-2, commonly referred to as "genital herpes". One of the distinguishing attributes of this virus is that it stays with the host for life by residing in the nerve ganglia, which are nerve clusters within the body that act as conduits between the central nervous system and the various functional components of our body: organs, glands, skin, blood vessels, and muscles."

He also notes, "Like other herpes viruses, HSV tends to reactivate during times of physical, hormonal and/or emotional stress."

The Treatment

Pridgen's proposed treatment involves a combination of two antivirals, one of which also has an anti-inflammatory component. Cort reports, "Pridgen proposes that the two drugs hit the virus at different stages of its life-cycle. Pummeling the virus with that one-two punch, he believes, will finally stop the virus from reactivating."

The drug combo passed Phase 1, where it was tested on lab animals and found to be safe. Phase II, which involves testing on a limited number of fibromyalgia patients, is nearing completion.

"We feel we are on the right track and feel this is a real game changer," Pridgen recently told the Tuscaloosa News. "We got 90 percent of the results back and they are very positive. In the next couple of weeks, we will see all the data."

Phase III of the drug trial will consist of two parts. First will be a thorough toxicology study to make sure the dosages of the drug combo are safe for FM patients. If the FDA approves the toxicology results, testing will begin on a much larger number of fibromyalgia patients. Phase III will probably take two or three years to complete.

My Thoughts...

I'm very excited about this study and anxious to learn the Phase II results. The theory makes sense to me and would certainly help explain why there are so many different symptoms in FM and why they vary so much from person to person. And if Dr. Pridgen's drug combo proves effective we could even - dare I say it? - be on the verge of a cure. I'm not quite ready to go that far yet, but this does give me hope! I'll let you know when I hear more.

For more information:

Big Antiviral Trial Could Usher in New Treatment Era for Fibromyalgia

The Devil is in the Details: Herpes Simplex Virus in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Pridgen Reports Fibromyalgia Antiviral Trial Results "Very Positive": Predicts New Approach Will Be "Game-Changer"


Image by "renjith krishnan" courtesy of


Karen Lee Richards
Meet Our Writer
Karen Lee Richards

Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She writes for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.