Next time someone you know is ill, and say they feel like they're dying, you might have to believe them.
A new study published in Journal of the Neurological Sciences has identified a link between Acyclovir - also known as the common cold sore cream Zovirax, (which can additionally be used to treat herpes, chicken pox and shingles) - and Cotard's syndrome, a rare condition causing people to believe they have died, that parts of their body do not exist, or that they have 'lost' their blood and internal organs.
A link between using the drug, renal failure and Cotard's has now been found by pharmacologists after aggregating data from Swedish hospital admission records and drug databases, with 1% of users experiencing psychiatric effects. In rare cases, these may manifest as Cotard's.
Examples of the syndrome have included a woman who used acyclovir as a treatment for shingles, then became overwhelmed by a strong feeling that she was dead. Even when symptoms lessened, she was adamant that her left arm did not belong to her. Another sufferer in 1990 believed that he was dead and was in hell, after being taken to a warm South Africa from colder Scotland, in an effort to help him recover.
Analyses have revealed that acyclovir can leave low levels of a breakdown product CMMG after being processed by the kidneys; those who had Cotard's showed increased levels of CMMG. Lowering the dose or stopping the use of Zovirax appeared to halt symptoms.
Co-author of the study Anders Helldén commented that “several of the patients developed very high blood pressure, so we have a feeling that CMMG is causing some kind of constriction of the arteries in the brain.”
So, you might feel like you're dying after using Zovirax. But it could also be those 20 pints you drank. One of the two for sure.