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ebv: the autoimmune virus


Last month the journal Nature Genetics published a study by an MD / Ph.D autoimmunity specialist named John Harley (Transcription Factors Operate Across Disease Loci, with EBNA2 Implicated in Autoimmunity).  How did he feel about his paper?  “I’ve been a co-author in almost 500 papers. This one is more important than all of the rest put together.”  What could possibly lead Harley, the Director of the Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE) program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, to make such a powerful statement?  It seems that his team has proven something that the natural health community has known for a very long time — that chronic infections with certain viruses (EBV or Epstein Barr and CMV or Cytomegalo Virus are two major offenders) are associated not only with CANCER but with a myriad of AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES.  Here is part of the study’s cherry-picked abstract.

“Using new computational methods, we show that transcription factors (TFs) occupy multiple loci associated with individual complex genetic disorders.  Strikingly, nearly half of systemic lupus erythematosus risk loci are occupied by the Epstein–Barr virus EBNA2 protein and many coclustering human TFs, showing gene–environment interaction. Similar EBNA2-anchored associations exist in multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and celiac disease. Instances of allele-dependent DNA binding and downstream effects on gene expression at plausibly causal variants support genetic mechanisms dependent on EBNA2. Our results nominate mechanisms that operate across risk loci within disease phenotypes, suggesting new models for disease origins.”

What Harley’s team is saying is that certain transcription factors have an affinity for genes associated with certain diseases — namely autoimmune diseases.  Transcription factors are proteins that control the rate of taking the genetic information contained in DNA and turning it into RNA, which will eventually be used to make proteins, among other things.  Transcription factors are critical because they can turn genes on or off so that they express themselves the right amount at the right time.   When this system works, PHYSIOLOGY & HOMEOSTASIS progress seamlessly.  However, when it does not, mutations of transcription factors can cause the diseases seen above, as well as any number of others.

When I’ve talked about the immune system in the past (HERE & HERE), I’ve discussed B-Cells — the part of your system that makes antibodies — the TH-2 portion of the system.  EBV has a mechanism that allows it to commandeer B-Cells, alter their transcription factors, and make them do its bidding, potentially leading to the problems mentioned in this NIH Press Release (Epstein-Barr Virus Protein can ‘Switch On’ Risk Genes for Autoimmune Diseases).  “Infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the cause of infectious mononucleosis, has been associated with subsequent development of systemic lupus erythematosus and other chronic autoimmune illnesses…  Many cases of autoimmune illness are difficult to treat and can result in debilitating symptoms.”   The NIH is not lying — the list of mentioned diseases (LUPUS, MS, RA, T1D, JRA, CELIAC, and IBD / IBS) is devastating; especially when attacking like autoimmunity tends to do (I’ve always said that A.I. diseases are like a ravenous wolf pack, frequently attacking en masse).

During the polio epidemic of the 1940’s and 50’s, a little known fact is that virtually everyone had the disease. 90% had no symptoms whatsoever, with most of the remaining 10% having symptoms of a cold.  However, for reasons not clearly understood, a small percentage came down with varying degrees of the paralysis we today call polio.  In some ways EBV is similar.  Although it’s the virus best known for causing mono, only a small portion of the population ever contracts mono, even though antibody titers show that virtually everyone has been exposed to the virus.  Furthermore, because CMV and EBV are both in the herpes family, in the same way that chicken pox can go dormant, hiding in nerve roots and then causing shingles later in life, these others can go dormant, potentially leading to autoimmunity.  Listen to what Cort Johnson wrote in an article from Simmaron Research called The Autoimmune Virus? Groundbreaking EBV Finding Could Help Explain ME/CFS.

“We’re well equipped to ward off EBV when we’re young – it usually produces only minor symptoms – but as our immune systems alter as we age, that changes.  Encountering EBV as an adolescent or adult (infectious mononucleosis, glandular fever)  – as increasingly happens in our germ phobic age – often means months of convalescence as our immune systems struggle to ward off this powerful virus. The problems don’t stop there. We know that infectious mononucleosis is a common trigger of ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) but coming down with IM/glandular fever in adolescence has also been shown to increase one’s risk of coming down with multiple sclerosis 2-4 fold and lupus by fifty percent.  Because of EBV’s ability to remain latent in the body, EBV reactivations are a huge problem for transplant patients with compromised immune systems.”

Johnson went on to give some history, showing not only that peer-review has been nibbling around the edges of this link for over four decades, but that there are almost 100 other diseases being linked to EBV as well; likely to be proven in the wave of research this study will surely trigger.  As far as CHRONIC FATIGUE is concerned; I’ve discussed it’s relationship to glandular fever (mono) and numerous other chronic diseases HERE.  By the way, ME/CFS is widely thought to be an autoimmune disease and is intimately associated with FIBROMYALGIA (a form of SMALL FIBER NEUROPATHY / ADRENAL FATIGUE that is itself likely autoimmune).

I couldn’t possibly write about every health issue associated with EBV, but I am going to talk about just one in order to show you how easy it is to do your own research.  If I randomly pick a health problem (I chose ESTROGEN DOMINANCE from the health categories section of my blog) and then search it with EBV, the first thing that comes up is an article on the site Metabolic Healing called Estrogen Dominance: Viruses & Autoimmune Disease.  Although there has been a great deal of recent research on various autoimmune diseases as related to one’s sex, listen to what the authors say of this relationship…

  • 78% of people with autoimmune disease are women
  • The rate of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is 7X more likely to occur in women than men
  • Lower estrogen increases CD8 lymphocytes, which is central to activation of TH1 inflammatory immunity and viral defense
  • Evidence from mice suggests Estradiol medication can reactivate HSV-1 (herpes simplex-1)
  • EBV (epstein barr virus) can increase aromatization of testosterone into estrogens
  • DIM is both anti-estrogenic as well as anti-viral
  • Numerous botanicals participate in antiviral and anti-estrogenic effects

What have I shown on my site forever?  Women get autoimmune diseases at approximately three times the rate that men do (an even worse ratio with HASHIMOTO’S).  I’ve talked about AROMATIZATION, although not due to EBV (due to sugar consumption), and I’ve talked at length about the difference between the TH1 and TH2 systems.  In fact, in my search I found numerous articles on this subject, including a number of authors talking about the intimate relationship between EBV and autoimmunity — a relationship that as Dr. Nikolas Hedberg said in his article Epstein-Barr Virus and Autoimmune Diseases, “The first connection in the literature between EBV and autoimmune disease was actually in 1971. So a little over 40 years ago when they found that patients with Systemic lupus erythematosus had elevated antibody levels to EBV….  We talked about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis which is basically Fibromyalgia Chronic Fatigue Syndrome of viral origin.” Truth is, it’s easy to find info linking EBV to just about any chronic health issue you care to study.

Let me show you one other interesting tidbit I discovered.  Because many viruses have the ability to go dormant (herpes cold sores for instance), viral diseases have the ability to lie latent in your body for decades before being unleashed by STRESS, CHRONIC PAIN, CHRONIC ILLNESS, CHEMICAL EXPOSURE, etc, etc, etc.  This is exactly what happens with a disease like shingles.  Not surprisingly, one of the “Holy Grails” of VACCINE DEVELOPMENT is the EBV Vaccine. 

Writing for the January 2015 issue of Clinical & Translational Immunology (Epstein Barr Virus Vaccines), the author stated, “Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is the primary cause of infectious mononucleosis (IM) and is associated with epithelial cell malignancies such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma and gastric carcinoma, as well as lymphoid malignancies including Hodgkin lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder.  EBV is also associated with autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis. Primary EBV infection as well as IM is associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis. The mean time between EBV infection and development of multiple sclerosis was estimated to be about 6 years in one study EBV vaccines to prevent primary infection or disease, or therapeutic vaccines to treat EBV malignancies have not been licensed.”  Why do I mention this?  

A 2011 paper by Dr. Arifa S. Khan, writing for the FDA’s Vaccines, Blood & Biologics Division (Investigating Viruses in Cells Used to Make Vaccines; and Evaluating the Potential Threat Posed by Transmission of Viruses to Humans) revealed that viral latency in vaccines can be a problem.  For example, UCSF’s Elswood and Stricker published a study 25 years ago in Medical Hypothesis (Polio Vaccines and the Origin of AIDS) saying, “it is now known that the early polio vaccines were contaminated with at least one monkey virus, SV40. The transfer of monkey viruses to man via contaminated vaccines is particularly relevant to AIDS, since the causative agent of AIDS is thought to be derived from a simian precursor virus. Furthermore, human infection with this virus appears to be a relatively recent event. We hypothesize that the AIDS pandemic may have originated with a contaminated polio vaccine that was administered to inhabitants of Equatorial Africa from 1957 to 1959.”  I don’t even hope to know whether these researchers were / are correct, however the quote below from Dr. Khan’s article should send a shiver down everyone’s spine

“Virus-based vaccines are made in living cells. Some manufacturers are investigating the use of new cell lines to make vaccines. The continual growth of cell lines ensures that there is a consistent supply of the same cells that can yield high quantities of the vaccine.  In some cases the cell lines that are used might be tumorigenic, that is, they form tumors when injected into rodents. Some of these tumor-forming cell lines may contain cancer-causing viruses that are not actively reproducing. Such viruses are hard to detect using standard methods. These latent, or “quiet,” viruses pose a potential threat, since they might become active under vaccine manufacturing conditions.”  

Do we really need yet another vaccine?  Those struggling with the aftermath of chronic EBV-related problems would certainly argue that we do.  As a huge proponent of GUT HEALTH and the HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS, I would dissent — at least as far as the vaccine being forced on me or my family is concerned (HERE).  Big Pharma and our government (which are all too often the same entity) are spending inordinate amounts of time, energy, money, and resources to do everything they can to attack various germs, both viral and bacterial in the form of VACCINES and ANTIBIOTICS (and OTHER DRUGS) instead of promoting real health.  Can we trust our government?  Let me answer that question with an example.

During the era our government was in the process of telling everyone how bad fat was for their health and likewise either silent on the detriments of sugar and junk carbs or in many cases actively promoting them (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE are some examples — remember that THESE ALL FEED INFECTION), their single most prominent form of medical treatment became IMMUNE SYSTEM SUPPRESSION.   This is a huge deal once you realize that 80% OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM RESIDES IN YOUR GUT.  If you are interested not so much in “BOOSTING” your immune system (clicking the link shows how dangerous this can be), but fine tuning it into a well-oiled disease-fighting machine, HERE are some tools that might prove helpful.  If you know people that need to be reached with this message, be sure to show us some love on FACEBOOK.


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2 Responses

  1. I do a lot of research on chronic fatigue and pain because I have been suffering for almost 15yrs now and I came across some of your blogs and I am completely blown away. I feel like you have been studying my life! I have always been extremely hypermobile. I’ve always been a 5/5 Beighton score. When I was 15 I was almost hospitalized with a severe case of mono and the doctors had not seen a case as bad. From there I never really felt like I had any energy at all and was sleeping so much for years after and then when I was 16 I had a rollover accident and was ejected and awoke in a field and had several injuries including a broken femur, skull fracture with epidural hematoma and spent 2 weeks in the ICU for 3 surgeries on my right leg. I never felt like myself again after that. I was dealing with serious fatigue and exhaustion. Almost 2 years later I got pneumonia pretty bad a spiked fever of 104.8 and was did not allow myself very much time to recover before going back to a new job with a long commute and a lot of stress. (I’m a bit Type A) That’s when I started noticing the terrible burning tearing pain in my trapezius and my health felt like it was just continuing to worsen. I had been seeing doctors for recurrent sinus infections, bronchitis, vertigo, exhaustion, neck pain, headaches, swollen neck glands, sore throat and eventually was told my EBV levels were showing reactivated and diagnosed with chronic mono. From there I went to a infectious disease specialist for a 2nd opinion and to continue to rule out other possibilities. The doctor felt I had chronic fatigue syndrome and needed to go to a university to receive the best care and to prevent wasting time and money with local family doctors. So I then went to IU Simon Cancer center and saw the head of hematology and I swear he too could tell my whole life story by just looking at my charts and shoulders. He said due to the EBV affecting my immune system and then the car accident affecting my spine that my body was in a constant state of flight or fight and that I was sleep deprived despite sleeping all the time and that my trapezius muscle was also all part of it and diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I have seen a local rheumatologist and was put on a few different SSRI’s before taking Cymbalta for years. I would say after 4 years of being nearly bedridden I started to feel well enough to have a few hours awake after work and felt like I was managing my symptoms a little better. I lately feel like I’m returning to the way I felt initially again and have been getting somewhat desperate enough to start going down the path of begging medical professionals to believe that this is real and to not be shuffled around from doctor to doctor to do the whole “your labs are fine” and no one knowing what is wrong or what to do. I just wanted to share all this info with you for some reason just to let you know how much I appreciate that you believe and that you care enough to write on these topics and work to help patients that are suffering. Thank you for what you do

    1. Wow Audra, I am both honored and humbled by your kind words. Continue searching for solutions and never give up. Read the first few articles in this link as they may be helpful for your constant state of fight-or-flight response (Sympathetic Dominance), which can be a huge part of the overall picture. https://doctorschierling.com/?s=sympathetic

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