IMR Press / JIN / Volume 21 / Issue 2 / DOI: 10.31083/j.jin2102068
Open Access Review
Antiviral, immunomodulatory, and neuroprotective effect of lithium
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1 Department of Adult Psychiatry, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, 60-572 Poznan, Poland
*Correspondence: (Janusz K. Rybakowski)
Academic Editor: Rafael Franco
J. Integr. Neurosci. 2022, 21(2), 68;
Submitted: 22 February 2021 | Revised: 9 March 2021 | Accepted: 19 May 2021 | Published: 23 March 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation)
Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by IMR Press.
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Currently, in psychiatry, lithium is a drug of choice as a mood stabilizer in the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder for the prevention of manic and depressive recurrences. The second most important psychiatric use of lithium is probably increasing the efficacy of antidepressants in treatment-resistant depression. In addition to its mood-stabilizing properties, lithium exerts antisuicidal, antiviral, immunomodulatory, and neuroprotective effects. The goal of the review is to describe the experimental and clinical studies on the last three properties of lithium. Antiviral effects of lithium pertain mostly to DNA viruses, especially herpes viruses. The therapeutic effects of lithium in systemic and topical administration on labial and genital herpes were demonstrated in clinical studies. There is also some evidence, mostly in experimental studies, that lithium possesses antiviral activity against RNA viruses, including coronaviruses. The immunomodulatory effect of lithium can mitigate “low-grade inflammatory” conditions in bipolar illness. The neuroprotective properties of lithium make this ion a plausible candidate for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. A favorable effect of lithium was shown in experimental models of neurodegenerative disorders. On the clinical level, some preventive action against dementia and moderately therapeutic activity in Alzheimer’s disease, and mild cognitive impairment were observed. Despite promising results of lithium obtained in animal models of Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, they have not been confirmed in clinical studies. A suggestion for common mechanisms of antiviral, immunomodulatory, and neuroprotective effects of lithium is advanced.

Bipolar disorder
Herpes virus
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