Viruses, Retrovirus and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A reader asked about retroviruses – these are virus that which  reproduces its RNA the opposite way of normal viruses (i.e. Retro). Antiretroviral drugs are medications for the treatment of this type on infection. Retroviruses are best known in connection with HIV infections.

The XMRV Hype

Due to lab errors, a lot of money and time was spent trying to show that XMRV (RV for retrovirus) was associated with CFS/ME. The titles of many recent studies say it all:

The last study had a bit wider scope on other virus associated with CFS/ME “We fail to demonstrate a difference in HERV-K18 envtranscripts, HHV-6 viral copy number, and HHV-7 viral copy number between CFS patients and healthy controls. Our data do not support the hypothesis of reactivation of HHV-6 or HHV-7 in CFS.” which is echoed in some studies:

And there are other older studies who speculateHHV-6 and HHV-7 may be involved in the pathogenesis of CFS and reactivation of both viruses may provoke changes in the phenotype of circulating lymphocytes.”[2006] and “These findings suggest that the amount of HHV-6 and HHV-7 reactivation can be an objective biomarker for fatigue.” [2007] “Parvovirus B19 may be involved in the pathogenesis of CFS, at least for a subset of patients.” [2009]

Anti-viral Drugs — works by side effects???

On the flip side, an antiviral drugs such as Valacyclovir have positive results on a subset of ME/CFS patients . “We concluded that the 16 CFS patients (included in both phases of this study) with EBV-persistent infection (EBV single-virus subset) are improved after 6 months of continuous pharmacokinetic dosing with valacyclovir.” [2002] [2007] Patients with multiple viruses did not benefit – even when one was EBV.

My  model of CFS is that it is a microbiome dysfunction, a major shift of bacteria types and volumes in the person. I was unable to find any studies on how antivirals shifts (or do not shift) the microbiome by the use of antiviral drugs. Drugs intended for one purpose often are later to have other consequences — for example, a drug  intended for the treatment of various cardiovascular disorders… is commonly known as Viagra.

Bottom Line

IMHO, retrovirus and virus are red-herrings in CFS/ME. They have been heavily studied “and found wanting” as explanations and models for treatment. Virus may become reactivated as a side effect of the bacteria shift is a small subset of CFS/ME patients, but it is not a global answer.

Two interesting studies

While these studies are not dealing with CFS patients — they are interesting because some of the conclusions / observations may be relevant.

Feed a cold (viral infection), starve a fever (bacterial infection)

This was reported in a NewScientist news story on 2002. “Dutch scientists have found that eating a meal boosts the type of immune response that destroys the viruses responsible for colds, while fasting stimulates the response that tackles the bacterial infections responsible for most fevers.” This was also reported in Opposing Effects of Fasting Metabolism on Tissue Tolerance in Bacterial and Viral Inflammation [Cell Sept 2016] – so both human and mice studies found the same thing.

Impact for CFS:

  • If you have a flare — then one time:
    • fast for 12 hours
    • take food (or capsules) high in glutamine amino acid (i.e. milk, meat, nuts)

If fasting make you better, faster than food then a bacterial infection is likely a significant factor.

If food makes you better, faster than fasting, then a vial infection is likely a significant factor. – for example a viral re-activation.

Bacteria lurking in blood could be culprit in countless diseases

This NewScientist Sept 14, 2016 article reported “A molecule made only by bacteria has been found to change blood proteins in a way that is common to a score of “non-infectious” conditions, from heart attacks to Alzheimer’s disease….. They need iron ions to grow, and iron is bound up by proteins that keep free ions at vanishingly low levels in our blood.”

What is very surprising is the impact “Just one molecule of lipopolysaccharides (LPS). mixed with 100 million fibrinogen molecules was enough to trigger these changes (Journal of the Royal Society Interface,” Fibrinogen can lead to thick blood.

In terms of treatment, “There could potentially be a link to cancer, too. Inflammation is seen in cancer and the anti-inflammatory drug aspirin is known to lower cancer rates. The pill is also reported to bind free iron, which together may suggest bacteria have a hidden role in this disease too.”


Aspirin has been a bit of a mystery drugs — I recall reading several years ago, a Scientific American article on Aspirin stating that they do not understand how aspirin works. “Although many of ASA’s pharmacological actions are related to its ability to inhibit prostaglandin and thromboxane biosynthesis, some of its beneficial therapeutic effects are not completely understood.” [1995]

During my second remission, I took the maximum daily dosage of aspirin for 10 days to see if hypercoagulation was indeed part of CFS. I made a dramatic improvement. My MD was now willing to explore hypercoagulation. In hindsight, aspirin may have been doing multiple things that resulted in the improvement.





Quick short term relief from CFS by Saline Solution

Health Rising had a recent post “IV Saline Solution For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)” with links to  The Nitty Gritty on IV Saline and POTS / Speed and frequency – Does it Matter? and Dr. David Bell “Intravenous Fluid as a Treatment for ME/CFS”.

A reader had to give a presentation and had a flare. An IV solution enabled the reader to proceed with an excellent presentation. “I was able to get a saline IV which helped a tremendous amount. I also took some aspirin. I still had aphasia on stage but it made it 10x more dramatic and well received. The talk was a smashing success.”

My read of saline solution impact was because it reduced coagulation, decreased blood viscosity (allow it to flow faster), in addition to increasing blood volume. Hypercoagulation (thick blood) is a very common problem with CFS, as well as low blood volume.

  • “The hypertonic saline solution therapy could significantly improve blood viscosity and reduced viscosity”[1997]
  • ““Even as late as World War II and the Vietnam Way, it was thought that adding isotonic fluids to replace blood lost on the battlefield would be good because it lowered blood viscosity, making it easier for the heart to pump.”[UCSD]
  • “At 10% blood volume replacement with hypertonic saline, reaction and coagulation times were significantly increased… We conclude that 7.5% hypertonic saline solution has anticoagulant effects if it replaces 7.5% or more of blood volume.”
    • Human blood volume is 4.7 liters, so 0.35 liters or 1 1/2 cup would have an impact