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Chronic Fatigue Goes Retro?

While numerous causes of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are likely, viruses have long been suspected as one cause. Contributing to this theory is new research presented at the International Symposium on Viruses in CFS and Post-Viral Fatigue in June of 2008. The information presented suggests that an ancient, yet reactivated, retrovirus embedded in the human genome may explain why autoimmune conditions, such as CFS, worsen with viral infections.

This ancient retrovirus, known as HERV-K18, is actually part of the human genetic make-up. Normally dormant in healthy individuals, it can be activated by other viral infections, such as Human Herpes Virus-6 (HHV-6) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). HHV-6 and EBV are two of several viruses thought to be associated with CFS. While most humans are permanently infected with HHV-6, it remains in a "latent" or inactive state. Patients with CFS, however, have active HHV-6 infection more often than healthy people or those with other illnesses that cause fatigue. And some individuals with CFS trace the start of their symptoms back to a bout with mononucleosis, which is caused by EBV.

The research presented at the symposium shows that when these viruses activate HERV-K18, it then encodes a super-antigen. Antigens are often foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria that stimulate the immune system. Super antigens are powerful antigens that act as an antigen capable of stimulating much larger numbers of T cells (or a much greater part of the immune system) than an ordinary antigen. Super-antigens can induce stronger, more wide-spread responses that are believed to deregulate and deplete the immune system. One part of the immune system that gets disrupted by the strong response is natural killer (NK) cells. CFS is associated with reduced natural killer (NK) cell activity, a crucial part of the immune system.

Using natural supplements which increase NK cell activity may be an integral part of helping individuals with CFS. Using enzyme supplements which contain a variety of proteolytic (protein-digesting) and fibrinolytic (fibrin-digesting) enzymes may be particularly helpful. (Fibrin is a stringy protein in the blood that may increase as a result of inflammation from viral infections.) This can reduce viral infection in the body because proteases can target the protein coating on viruses, dissolving them. Proteases will also help break down inflammatory by-products in the body.

These enzymes may be a safe and natural way for many with CFS to turn this retrovirus back to its inactive state.

SOURCE: HHV-6 Foundation: www.hhv-6foundation.org


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