Epstein Barr Virus Infection Reactivation by James Okun

“Is Epstein Barr Virus Infection Reactivation a Trigger for the Autoimmune Diseases MS, Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis? What’s Stress Got to Do with It and How Does This Affect Millennials?”

In my book Erasing Scars: Herpes and Healing (https://amzn.to/2a2rVxQ) I describe how I came to an understanding of the relation of disease to an attitude to the world and how I was using my family to be in conflict. This conflict caused me to be constantly stressed out as I was unable to put together the desire to be angry and my grateful side. I was in conflict which is the same as being stressed.

This state of constantly being “stressed out” was lowering my immune system and causing structural changes in my corneas. In understanding how stress can lead to the reactivation of herpes family viruses like the Epstein Barr Virus, it is useful to remember that the original meaning of the word disease according to philosopher, poet, critic and founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism is “lack of ease” (Siegel, Eli. Self and World. New York: Definition Press 1981 An Approach to a Philosophy of Self and Disease p. 317).

Stress has long been known to have an adverse effect on health with both stress and depression directly linked to decreases in the body’s ability to fight infections (see Chapter 1 The Psychoimmunology of Herpes Virus Infections in Erasing Scars: Herpes and Healing https://amzn.to/2a2rVxQ).

As discussed in Erasing Scars: Herpes and Healing, Glaser and Glaser have documented decreases in peripheral lymphocytes in patients under stress and Kemeny and Cohen have also documented the lowering of CD4 (+) helper-inducer and CD8 (+) suppressor-cytotoxic t-cells in patients who are stressed and depressed with all this leading to higher rates of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)outbreaks (Erasing Scars: Herpes and Healing https://amzn.to/2a2rVxQ)

The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) also known as human herpesvirus 4 is one of the most common human viruses found worldwide and is one of the 8 members of the Herpes Hominis virus family (see Chapter 1 Erasing Scars: Herpes and Healing https:/zn.to/2a2rVxQ)si ns in Erasi gamzn.to/2a2rVxQ ). EBV is known to cause mononucleosis (the kissing disease) and has also been linked to a type of cancer known as Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Multiple studies have now linked EBV with several autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Therefore, it seems to make perfect sense that since the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) belongs to the herpes virus family and since stress and depression have been documented as causing HSV reactivations, then abnormal stress and depression leading to reactivation of EBV could certainly also be one causative factor/trigger in Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis. It is useful to define just what an autoimmune disease is.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s own immune system goes awry and begins to attack itself by attacking normal cells in various organs. In Lupus, antibodies that normally attack, isolate and destroy foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses attack the normal cells of the kidney, the heart, the lungs, the skin, the joints, the bone marrow and the nervous system.

In Rheumatoid Arthritis, in the same abnormal manner, antibodies attack the body’s normal cartilage cells which line the joint spaces and in Multiple Sclerosis the body’s antibodies attack the cells of the myelin sheath that covers nerves allowing for normal nerve transmission.

Per the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) autoimmune diseases comprise more than 80 separate illnesses that affect approximately 23.5 million Americans and “80 percent of that group are women” (www.swedish.org).

Risk factors for autoimmune diseases include being a women of childbearing age, having a positive family history of autoimmune diseases and being overly stressed. This does not bode particularly well for Millennial women of childbearing age who are often under never-ending stress (Millennials are defined as being born between the years 1980 and the early 2000s and so would be in the approximate age range of 18-35).

Approximately 90% of the 5 million people who have Lupus worldwide are women between the ages of 15 to 44. Nearly three times as many women as men have Rheumatoid Arthritis with 1.5 million Americans affected between the ages of 30 and 60. In addition, MS is at least “two to three times more common in women than in men” (www.nationalmssociety.org) and “most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50…”  The question then is could a common virus such as the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) be acting as a “trigger” that could be inducing these disabling conditions and steps can be taken to help reduce its reactivation.

In one study (James J.A., Kaufman K.M., Farris A.D., et al An increased prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus infection in young patients suggests a possible etiology for systemic lupus erythematosus. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1997;100: 3019-3026.doi:10.1172/JCI119856.) all of the 32 Lupus patients in the study tested positive for EBV. According to a review of the literature, “These results suggest a role for reactivation of EBV infection in SLE (Epstein-Barr Virus and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus http://dx.doi.org/10,1155/2012/370516).

In another study involving MS and EBV, 100% of the MS patients studied were found to have previous infection with EBV. According to the study’s authors, “In a recent meta analysis, previous EBV infection was actually found to be present in 100% of MS patients in studies using two independent methods of antibody detection.” (Mult Scler. 2013 Feb; 19 (2): 162-6.)

Finally, a study linking EBV and Rheumatoid Arthritis stated “In conclusion, we have demonstrated perturbations of EBV infection in patients with RA with another study indicating that epidemiological data suggest that EBV is associated with RA (www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/).

It is very hopeful that a change in attitude and perception can lead to reduced stress and a state of homeostasis that could help resist EBV reactivation and thus flare-ups of MS, RA and Lupus.

 

 

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4 replies »

  1. Hi Dani. Thank you for your very nice comment. I appreciate it. It is certainly a daily struggle to keep your faith when dealing with a chronic condition like RA. I think you might find Chapter 2 in Erasing Scars which explains Psychobioimmunology useful as the EBV has been linked to RA. All best regards, James D. Okun, MD.

    Liked by 2 people

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