Changing the way we look at viruses
Our cells and all the species that make up our microbiome are home to a wide diversity of viruses. Fortunately, the vast majority of these are beneficial components of our microbial composition (did you know that we swallow between 10 and 60 million virus particles every 24 hours?) Indeed, under normal conditions, a proper balance is found between these micro-organisms and they contribute to the vital operation of the body that hosts them.
Under “normal” conditions we live in “good harmony” with viruses, which actively contribute to our own evolution as a species. Indeed, our genome contains 5-10% of viral sequences that have enabled us to evolve as a human species. It is now clearly established that the placenta that protects the human foetus was shaped by the presence of a virus.
Thus we understand that the purpose of viruses is to ‘test’ our organism, which then strengthens its capacity to adapt and defend itself… This is a good way to change how we look at viruses!
However, herpes viruses, by testing our immune system over time, can also weaken it even more than it already is because of our “modern” lifestyle (excessive stress, energy imbalance, food deficiencies, sedentary lifestyle…). And this is indeed the case with the Epstein-Barr virus, which impairs the proper functioning of B lymphocytes and, it seems, of mitochondria (the “energy plants” of our cells). This is the hypothesis that is being put forward for a disease such as ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), which could be considered a disease of the immune system, the autonomic nervous system and the mitochondria, according to Dr Frédérique Retornaz, an internist and researcher at the European Hospital in Marseille (France).
Without an optimal immune system, the persistence and recurrence of this virus increases the risk of developing a related disease over time. Indeed, most of the serious diseases caused by EBV are due to its ability to establish a so-called “latent” infection, which unfortunately often goes unnoticed.
Conditions that can lead to EBV reactivation
People with impaired immune systems are at greater risk of EBV reactivation. And, of course, EBV’s mode of action favours impaired immune systems. Genetic factors do exist, but there is increasing evidence that epigenetic elements may also be involved, i.e. environmental influences.
So while the first infection with the virus is difficult to avoid, reactivation can be prevented by tackling triggers such as:
EBV reactivations are often linked to stressful life conditions such as intense work, lack of sleep, lack of physical activity, poor diet, surgery, etc.
Emotional stress is also an important risk factor, as shown by a 2014 report showing a link between anxiety states and the risk of EBV reactivation.
Bacterial, viral or candidiasis infection can stimulate EBV reactivation as latently infected B cells are also stimulated during another infection, this can promote viral replication of EBV in a process called transactivation.
This has been well documented with some bacteria such as Helicobacter Pylori or some viruses such as Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Papillomavirus (HPV) or recently Sars-Cov2 in the context of Covid-19 infection. It is essential to manage any infection by helping the immune system recover as much as possible.
All deficiencies that lead to a poor regulation of oxidative stress or a decrease in our immunity can influence the reactivation of EBV. The nutrients most commonly involved are deficiencies in zinc, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin C or vitamin A. For example, researchers have shown that a vitamin D deficiency decreases the activity of antiviral immune cells and therefore reduces the ability to control the EBV virus.
According to Dr. Anna Armengol, anaemia (iron deficiency) may be an indirect consequence of the action of persistent viruses such as EBV. In this type of viral infection, it is the iron-working organs such as the spleen and liver that are directly affected, resulting in poor iron utilisation. This is an indirect cause of anaemia.
Recent research seems to show that environmental pollutants may play a role in the reactivation of the EBV virus, e.g. cigarettes, certain diesel micro-particles, dioxins, heavy metals, etc.
Comme l’explique l’équipe espagnole de Xevi Verdaguer, expert en médecine intégrative et en psychoneuroimmunologie clinique, il est très fréquent que les personnes souffrant de gastrite ou de colite aient un excès de cellules B infectées par le virus d’Epstein Barr qui s’infiltrent dans la muqueuse de ces zones du système digestif (estomac et côlon), où il existe un risque accru qu’elles passent d’un état latent à un état lytique et initient la réactivation de l’EBV.
A dysfunction of our immune system is an opportunity for the EBV virus. People who are immunosuppressed (naturally or under immunosuppressive or corticosteroid treatment) are therefore at higher risk of reactivation.
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