Combating Pandemic Influenza By Stimulating Immune Function

Armen Hareyan's picture

People with defective immune function are at risk for adverse reactions to the pandemic influenza virus (HINI). Stimulating their immune function so that it can perform efficiently would be the logical approach to defeating the virus. Stimulating immune function is propagandized as unavailable, while in reality, the potent immunostimulating properties of lithium and antidepressants were initially documented in 1981, when I published the first of nine reviews on the topic.

A therapeutic claim is fortified when the mechanism is known. In this case, tiny molecules known as prostaglandins, when produced excessively, depress every component of immune function, and induce microbial replication. In the early nineteen seventies, my late colleague David Horrobin and others showed that antidepressants and lithium inhibit prostaglandins.

Lithium has immunostimulating, antiviral and antibacterial properties, antidepressants immunostimulating, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasite, and fungicidal properties. Lithium is often effective for paronychia, chalazions, bacterial skin infections, urinary tract infections, canker sores, cold sores and genital herpes, antidepressants for canker sores, cold sores, genital herpes, and probably T.B, malaria, and HIV. It appears that antidepressants can significantly reduce HIV viral load. Both lithium and antidepressants prevent recurrences of flu’ like colds, thus both could be effective for HINI. Lithium has untapped potential in methicillin-resistant staphylococcal infections, (MRSA) hospital acquired infections (HAIs) sepsis, and pressure ulcers (bed sores).

With the double threat posed by resistant T.B and the emerging resistance of the malaria parasite to artemisin, the availability of immunostimulation becomes all the more crucial. Government and private laboratories are pursuing immunostimulation in the context of infection and cancer; they are unlikely to succeed, because the problem was solved more than a quarter of a century ago. In a review published in 1983, I proposed that to stimulate immune function, an agent must have mood elevating properties.


Over the past quarter of a century, I appealed to more than a thousand prominent individuals or institutions to support the advance, none of whom obliged. While the inertia in implementing medical advances is often attributed to “resistance” or "prematurity," financial and nonfinancial conflicts of interest would seem to have been at play.

Both lithium and antidepressants prevent recurrences of flu’ like colds, thus one cannot be sure which to favor for HINI, the answer emerging were these agents used for the stricken. A few doses of lithium or an antidepressant could sufficiently stimulate immune function, and reduce viral replication, as to help some of the ailing turn the corner.

The availability of immunostimulation should be viewed not only in the context of HINI, but with reference to heath reform. One reads of patients, admitted to hospital for a surgical procedure, that upon contracting a hospital acquired infection spends weeks, or even months in a hospital, the cost in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Contrast that with lithium at less than a dollar a day.

My research drew on clinical observation, and the studies of many colleagues indexed in Current Contents, Medline and Pubmed. The contents of this article may be verified by searching these databases. Given the imminent perils, one should question the motives of diehards insisting on, “large scale randomized clinical trials” or “epidemiological studies.”

Author Julian Lieb, M.D was a Yale medical school psychiatrist, before switching to the immunopharmacology of infectious disorders and cancer. He is an authority on the role of prostaglandins in depression, infectious disorders, and cancer. Dr Lieb has authored or coauthored forty five articles and nine books.