Research Study of Bipolar Mood Symptoms and Cognitive Problems

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT00428298
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : January 30, 2007
Results First Posted : April 11, 2017
Last Update Posted : April 11, 2017
Stanley Medical Research Institute
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Johns Hopkins University

Brief Summary:

This is a sixteen week, randomized, double-blind add-on study of valacyclovir versus placebo in approximately 60 outpatients meeting diagnostic criteria according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) -IV Bipolar I or II disorder, testing positive for HSV-1 and who have demonstrable cognitive impairment defined as a total score of less than 85 (one standard deviation from the normal range) on the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS). Each patient will be randomized to double-blind treatment with either valacyclovir or placebo for sixteen weeks. All subjects will be maintained on a stable regimen of psychiatric drugs prescribed by their treating psychiatrist. Patients will be evaluated every 2 weeks by the treatment team and mood rating scales will be administered at each visit including the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) and the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). The RBANS will be administered again at 8 and 16 weeks. Both the treatment team and the patient will remain blinded during the course of the study. Following the active treatment phase, patients will receive treatment as clinically indicated.

Primary Hypothesis:

Valacyclovir will be superior to placebo in reducing cognitive symptoms associated with bipolar disorder in subjects who have been previously infected with Herpes Simplex virus I (HSV-1).

Secondary Hypothesis:

Valacyclovir will be superior to placebo in reducing mood symptoms associated with bipolar disorder in subjects who have been previously infected with HSV-1.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Bipolar Disorder Drug: Valacyclovir Drug: Placebo Phase 2

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Detailed Description:


Herpes Viral Infections and Mental Illness. Recent studies have suggested that chronic, recurrent infections with the herpes family of viruses may play a role in chronic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Several studies have indicated that individuals with schizophrenia have evidence of increased exposure to Herpes virusesthough this has not been found in all studies . Leweke et al found that untreated individuals with recent first episode schizophrenia had increased levels of serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) immunogloublin G (IgG) antibodies to Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Toxoplasma gondii in comparison to controls without psychiatric illness. Notably, serum immunoglobulin M (IgM) levels were not increased indicating that infection had not occurred recently. Treated individuals with schizophrenia had similar antibody levels as controls. Finally, Dickerson et al have recently shown that previous Herpes Simplex Virus -1 (HSV-1) infection is associated with cognitive impairment in bipolar disorder, with a relative risk of 22.2 and that this risk was increased in the presence of the catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) 158 Val/Val genotype.

It is well known that active replication of herpes viruses may occur after extended periods of latency. It has also been shown active replication of the virus in the central nervous system may be triggered by environmental or psychosocial stressors and cause mood and even psychotic symptoms. Taken together with the evidence of increased exposure to Herpes viruses found in individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, one hypotheses that remains to be tested is that episodic reactivation of Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV-1) in the brain triggered by environmental stressors could be a pathogenic mechanism contributing to symptomatology in a subset of bipolar disorder and schizophrenic patients.

Cognitive Impairment in Bipolar Disorder

Cognitive, or neuropsychological, functioning is one of the major domains of symptomatology in major mental illness. While cognitive impairment in schizophrenia has been long established, neuropsychological functioning in bipolar disorder has been less extensively studied. Nevertheless, there is evidence that patients with mood disorders frequently manifest cognitive deficits in attention, executive and memory functions. While symptomatic bipolar disorder patients have been shown to have widespread cognitive abnormalities, evidence from many studies also supports the hypothesis that there are persistent residual cognitive impairments in patients in the euthymic phase of illness. As noted above, Dickerson et al have very recently shown an association between HSV-1 seropositivity and cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder (2006).

Valacyclovir in Schizophrenia

Recent studies have shown that herpes viruses may play an etiologic role in the cognitive impairments that occur in a subset of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Dickerson et al. found that serum antibodies to HSV1 were an independent predictor of cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. Similarly, Dickerson et al. found that serological evidence of infection with HSV1 was also predictive of cognitive impairment in bipolar disorder. This association was independent of other factors that could affect cognition including manic, depressive and psychotic symptoms, age of onset, education, or medications. A clinical trial using the antiviral medication valacyclovir in schizophrenia was recently conducted. This study found a significant improvement in psychiatric symptoms in individuals with schizophrenia who were seropositive for cytomegalovirus, another virus in the herpes family. This is the first evidence that an antiviral medication may be helpful in a psychiatric condition.

The study will be divided into two phases

Screening Phase. Subjects will initially be screened by telephone and, if they meet major inclusion and exclusion criteria, will then be invited for an in-person screening. After a consenting process, subjects will first under go RBANS testing. If they meet criteria for cognitive impairment (total score <85) subjects will then go one to have a rapid HSV1 test administered (result available in 1-7 days at Hopkins) and will undergo the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (SCID) conducted by a research assistant. Subjects who test positive for HSV-1 and who have a diagnosis of Bipolar I or Bipolar II disorder on the SCID will be invited back to meet with a team psychiatrist to complete the screening, including a psychiatric interview and examination, a medical history and physical examination, vital signs, and baseline laboratory tests including a complete blood count and blood chemistries as well as any other evaluation the treatment team feels is medically indicated. Subjects who are appropriate for the study will be invited to join the Active Phase of the study.

Active Phase

A second consenting process will be conducted for entrance into the active phase of the trial. Subjects will enter this phase within 14 days of the RBANS testing of the screening visit. During this phase the patients will be randomly assigned to receive either valacyclovir or placebo in addition to their standard psychiatric medications. The patients will receive capsules containing valacyclovir or placebo and will be blinded during the course of the study. Valacyclovir will be started at a initial dose of 1000mg twice daily. At the baseline visit, mood rating scales including the YMRS, MADRS, and PANSS will be administered. Subjects will then meet with the treatment team every 2 weeks for rating scale measurements and assessments for side effects. At the end of 8 and 16 weeks, subjects will again undergo RBANS testing. Both subjects and raters will remain blind during the trial

Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 60 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Quadruple (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Study of Valacyclovir in Cognitive Impairment and Mood Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Study Start Date : March 2007
Actual Primary Completion Date : August 2012
Actual Study Completion Date : October 2012

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

MedlinePlus related topics: Bipolar Disorder

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: Active Treatment Valacyclovir
Subjects dispensed 500 mg capsules. Subjects take two 500 mg capsules twice daily for 16 weeks.
Drug: Valacyclovir
Subjects take two 500 mg capsules twice daily for 16 weeks.
Other Name: Valtrex

Placebo Comparator: Placebo Treatment
Subjects dispensed 500 mg capsules. Subjects take two 500 mg capsules twice daily for 16 weeks.
Drug: Placebo
Subjects take two 500 mg capsules twice daily for 16 weeks.

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Percent Change From Baseline in Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status at 16 Weeks [ Time Frame: 16 weeks ]

    The RBANS is a brief, independently administered measurement of cognitive decline or improvement.

    The test is comprised of 12 subtests which comprise 5 domains. The age of the participant and the scores from each domain inform the total RBANS score (Index Score) analyzed in this study. The range for total score is 40-160. If the total score for a subject increases this denotes improved performance on the RBANS.

    The RBANS was administered at baseline and 16 weeks.

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Change From Baseline in Montgomery Asberg Depression Score at 16 Weeks [ Time Frame: 16 weeks ]
    The MADRS is a 10 item depression rating scale administered by a research team member. The MADRS is composed of 10 items with a 7 point fixed rating scale (0-6). A higher score indicates the presence of depressive symptoms.

Other Outcome Measures:
  1. Change From Baseline in Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) at 16 Weeks [ Time Frame: 16 weeks ]

    The Young Mania Rating Scale has 11 items that rate the subject's subjective experience and clinician observation. Four items are rated 0-8, the remaining are rated 0-4.

    The score can range from 0 to 60. A higher score indicates the presence of manic symptoms.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 65 Years   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Be between the ages of 18-65
  • Have a diagnosis of Bipolar I or II disorder (as defined by DSM-IV)
  • Be in active treatment with an outpatient psychiatrist
  • Test positive for HSV1
  • Demonstrate cognitive impairment on the RBANS as defined by a total score of less than 85 (i.e. greater than one standard deviation below normal).

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Either pregnant or nursing
  • Have been diagnosed with any serious, unstable illnesses including HIV infection or other immunodeficiency condition, hepatic, renal, gastroenterologic, respiratory, cardiovascular (including ischemic heart disease and hypertension), endocrinologic, neurologic, immunologic, or hematologic disease. Illnesses that are currently well controlled and being treated are not grounds for exclusion.
  • Have a history of hypersensitivity or intolerance to valacyclovir or acyclovir
  • Meet criteria for DSM-IV substance abuse (except nicotine and caffeine) within the past 90 days
  • Had Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) within three months prior to randomization
  • Judged to be at serious suicidal risk; inability to provide informed consent.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT00428298

United States, Maryland
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry
Baltimore, Maryland, United States, 21207
Sponsors and Collaborators
Johns Hopkins University
Stanley Medical Research Institute
Principal Investigator: Jennifer L Payne, MD Johns Hopkins University

Additional Information:
Responsible Party: Johns Hopkins University Identifier: NCT00428298     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 00009034
First Posted: January 30, 2007    Key Record Dates
Results First Posted: April 11, 2017
Last Update Posted: April 11, 2017
Last Verified: February 2017
Individual Participant Data (IPD) Sharing Statement:
Plan to Share IPD: No

Keywords provided by Johns Hopkins University:
Manic Depression

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar and Related Disorders
Mental Disorders
Antiviral Agents
Anti-Infective Agents