Protection against acute lethal viral infections with the native steroid dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Roger M. Loria*, Thomas H. Inge, Sallie S. Cook, Andras K. Szakal, William Regelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A significant protective effect of a native adrenal steroid, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), was demonstrated in studies of two lethal viral infection models in mice: systemic coxsackievirus B4 and herpes simplex type 2 encephalitis. The steroid was active either by long‐term feeding or by a single subcutaneous injection. A closely related steroid, etiocholanolone, was not protective in these models. Histopathological analysis, leukocyte counts, and numbers of spleen antibody forming cells in the coxsackievirus B4 model suggests that DHEA functions by maintaining or potentiating the immune competence of mice otherwise depressed by viral infection. DHEA was not effective in genetically immunodeficient HRS/J hr/hr mice and did not demonstrate antiviral activity in vitro. While the molecular basis for DHEA's effect on the immune system is not known, studies by others suggest that it may counteract the stress related immunosuppressive effects of glucocorticoids stimulated by viral infection. Because DHEA is a native steroid that has been used clinically with minimal side effects, the utility of DHEA in the therapeutic modulation of acute and chronic viral infections including the acquired immune deficiency syndrome deserves intensive study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-314
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • coxsackievirus
  • DHEA
  • herpesvirus
  • immune up‐regulation
  • virus‐infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Protection against acute lethal viral infections with the native steroid dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this