Retroviruses in CFS/ME and more - think retrovirus when you get stuck.

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If you're "stuck" in your recovery, or lack of recovery, THINK retroviruses!


A retrovirus is composed of ribonucleic acid (RNA) rather than deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and it possesses an enzyme, called reverse transcriptase, that gives it the unique property of transcribing its RNA into DNA after entering a cell. The retroviral DNA can then integrate into the chromosomal DNA of the host cell, to be expressed there.

We all know of Human Immunosuppressive Virus (HIV) and its immunosuppressive disease, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), but retroviruses are common. They too are part of the arms race. The complete genetic code to make a human makes up 2% of the genome. Retrovirus comprises at least 8%. If you strung out the retrovirus of one normal human, it would encircle the Earth 150,000 times. There is a lot of retrovirus! Human retro virus is called HERV (Human Endogenous Retrovirus). Interested readers should see ‘Demystified – Human endogenous retroviruses’ Nelson et al, Mol Pathol. 2003 Feb; 56(1): 11–18.

'Deal(s) with the Devil(s)'

These viruses have been with us since early evolution (see below Note on Origins) and they have won their arms race! There they are comfortably ensconced with little to do except allow our DNA machinery to replicate themselves. We have done a deal with them – you leave us alone, please do not make us ill, and we will give you an easy life. However, if the immune defences go down, then HERVs will drive nasty diseases like motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and schizophrenia. See Nelson’s article as above for links regarding multiple sclerosis and cancer. Also see –

All living organisms, including plants, carry retroviruses. They too have done a deal. Problems arise when a retrovirus from one species gets into another – suddenly a new ecological niche has opened up and so there is an opportunity to colonise. But this comes at a price to the new host who may suffer terrible disease. Either the host will die and perhaps go extinct or again the host does another deal and adopts the virus as an evolutionary lifelong parasite.

This has already happened at least once in humans with HIV. There is powerful evidence that HIV jumped from chimps into humans when the CHAT polio vaccine was used experimentally in the late 1950s in Central Africa. This was the real start of the AIDS epidemic. If you doubt this then read “The River” by Edward Hooper – over 800 pages of investigation with over 180 pages of references. It convinced me. See Link for 'The River'

Note on Origins - A recent study, ‘Marine origin of retroviruses in the early Palaeozoic Era’,Nature Communications volume 8, Article number: 13954 (2017), Pakorn Aiewsakun & Aris Katzourakis concluded that retroviruses originated in excess of 450 million years ago in the Ordovician period, early Palaeozoic Era.

How do retroviruses enter the Human Body

Retroviruses cannot get into humans by humans eating or inhaling them. However, they can get in through the skin (insect bite, blood products, vaccination) or by sexual transmission. Viral vaccines are a particular concern. Viruses can only be grown in the tissues of mammals because they cannot self-replicate – they have to adopt the machinery of the cell. Hooper (and others) hypothesised that polio vaccine grown on chimp kidney cell culture was contaminated with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) which found itself able to colonise humans and created the new disease AIDS. See also ‘Experimental oral polio vaccines and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.’, Hooper, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2001 Jun 29;356(1410):803-14

The important feature of HIV is that it is not the HIV that kills – it is the other infections that move into the immunosuppressed patients that do that. The current killing epidemic of tuberculosis in Africa is HIV driven. Patients also die from rare infections like pneumocystis carinii. AIDs may lead to cancer (Kaposi’s sarcoma) and dementia. We can expect other retroviruses to produce a similar spectrum of disease.

Retroviruses driving Pathology

There is good evidence that other retroviruses increasingly inhabit humans and are driving pathology. The candidates are:

Which RV (retro-virus) Host Pathology Notes
HIV Humans AIDS Acquired sexually, blood products or cross contamination
Human T cell leukaemia (HTLV) Humans Leukaemia, Tropical spastic paraparesis Ditto above
Some vaccines are grown on human aborted foetus cell cultures
Xenotrophic mouse RV (XMRV) Mouse Present in 30% of cases of prostate cancer After the HIV-polio concerns, other mammal cell cultures were used including mouse
Present in 85% of ME patients. See ‘XMRV, prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome’, Kenyon et al, British Medical Bulletin, Volume 98, Issue 1, June 2011, Pages 61–74 The immunosuppressive effects of RV allow other infections to flourish – such as EBV, Lyme, mycoplasma and so on. We know many cases of ME are infection driven
Feline leukaemia RV Cats Leukaemia and lymphoma Get into humans from flea bites
Bovine leukaemia RV Cows Breast cancer. 59% of breast cancer tests positive for bovine leukaemia compared to 29% of the normal population. See ‘Exposure to Bovine Leukemia Virus Is Associated with Breast Cancer: A Case-Control Study.’ Buehring et al,PLoS One. 2015 Sep 2;10(9) Up to the mid 1990s many viral vaccines were grown on cow cell culture. This was then banned in response to BSE as there were concerns that prion protein in the cells culture may be driving the epidemic of new variant CJD.
Avian leukosis RV, erythrocytosis RV, sarcoma RVB and many others Chickens Leukaemia, lymphoma and sarcoma in chickens. Effect on humans unknown Many vaccines are grown on egg
The bottom line is that no-one can guarantee that any viral vaccine is free from retro virus. Some would say that all viral vaccines are contaminated with RV since these form part of the genome present in all cell culture, without which the virus could not grow

See Table of Principal Retroviruses and Their Origins for an update of RVs and the diseases they drive. This lists 46 “simple” RVs and 14 “complex” RVs in humans, monkeys, apes, baboons, birds, cats, mice, horses and cows. This list is fast growing! These RVs drive a wide range of immuno-deficiency diseases including cancers, encephalitis and more.

The above table reference as linked is taken from ‘A Brief Chronicle of Retrovirology’ by Coffin et al. Coffin is perhaps aptly named!

Aside -- This phenomenon is known as an aptronym, aptonym or euonym whereby a personal name is aptly or peculiarly suited to its  
owner. For example, we have:
*Jules Angst, German professor of psychiatry, who has published works about anxiety  
*Sara Blizzard, meteorologist (and television weather presenter) for the BBC
*Thomas Crapper, sanitary engineer
*William Headline, Washington Bureau Chief for CNN
*Chris Moneymaker, American poker player and 2003 World Series of Poker champion
...and then we have those people whose name ‘becomes’ to mean something altogether unexpected, the best example of which is perhaps -
 Jaime Sin who in 1976 was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI, thus becoming known as "Cardinal Sin"

Do you carry a retro virus which is driving your disease?

At present we have no direct tests to look for RVs (except HIV). We have to infer a diagnosis from the following clues:

The Clinical Picture

  • ME- ie symptoms of poor energy delivery mechanisms and symptoms of inflammation
  • A tendency to carry other infections such as herpes infections (EBV, shingles, HHV 6), Lyme borrelia, mycoplasma, coxsackie and so on
  • Inexplicable pathology – cancer, encephalitis and dementia, arterial and heart disease, neurological degenerations
  • Treatment failures – such as failed antibiotic treatment for Lyme or mycoplasma and failed anti-viral treatment of EBV or other herpes viruses
  • A tendency to pick up any infection doing the rounds – and that infection takes an age to get rid of
  • Symptoms of hypercoagulability – chronic infection activates the coagulation cascade which means fibrin forms in the blood stream. This means that red cells and white cells get stuck in this sticky web, and so circulation and oxygen delivery are severely impaired. Poor circulation with cold hands results. Oxygen should diffuse into tissues within a few seconds – this may be extended to 300 seconds!
  • Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). Mast cells are one of the most primitive immune cells – they do it all, but not very wisely. They tend to blow up in response to almost any stimulation. This worked well in early evolution when the arms race was a relatively simple affair. It is now much more complicated, and we have evolved more sophisticated cells such as B and T lymphocytes and Natural Killer cells that are more selective in terms of what switches them on. MCAS occurs with multiple infections, allergies and toxicities.

Tests showing indirect evidence of poor immune function

  • A low white cell count
  • High IgG titres against EBV, CMV, HHV 6, herpes simplex and other herpes viruses indicating multiple past or possibly current infection.
  • Tests showing that more than one other chronic infection is present (Armin labs offer a range of tests: EliSpot, ELIZA, PCR, seraspot and antibodies)
  • Natural killer cell counts (CD 57 and NK cells) showing immune suppression (available through Armin labs)
  • Raised RANTES (Regulated on Activation of Normal T cell Expressed and Secreted) – this is a measure of chronic inflammation (not currently available in UK)

You can access Armin tests through their UK distributor, AONM [Academy Of Nutritional Medicine]. See Natural Health Worldwide’s Labs page - Natural Health Worldwide Labs Page

Other markers

My guess is that there are other markers that may help vis:

  • A poor HDL/total cholesterol % ratio that persists despite a PK diet and normal homocysteine. I like to see the HDL around 40% of the total. Any less than this implies arterial damage due to inflammation of chronic infection
  • A very low ESR (less that 3mm/hr) – this occurs where there is hypercoagulability. The sticky fibrin net which results prevents red cells settling
  • Haematology showing red cells sticking to each other such - such as “rouleaux”
  • Slightly raised D-dimer (a measure of cross-linked fibrin). This is a standard test for clot formation and will be raised when fibrin forms. There are markedly raised levels (>500 ng/ml) with any clotting such as a myocardial infarction, stroke, pulmonary embolus, DVT and of course with bruising! It increases in pregnancy, cancer and with age and my guess is this too reflects an infectious burden since all these clinical situations are associated with lowered immunity. Infection drives fibrin formation. The higher the result the greater the hypercoagulability and the greater the inflammation/infection.

Treatment of RV Infection

In the early days of HIV and AIDs, before effective retroviral drugs, the patient’s prognosis was determined by their state of health. Intravenous drug users who were unloved, living rough and eating poorly succumbed rapidly. Even then it was clear that immune defences were vital!

So the starting point to treat all RV infections is Groundhog CHRONIC. Yes, I know it is difficult! But for many, done well, this is all they have to do to recover. Those parts of Groundhog CHRONIC that are most often overlooked include:

  • Avoiding glyphosate – eating organic food has never been more important!
  • Mycotoxins (you will not recover if you continue to live in a mouldy environment)
  • Electromagnetic radiation - wifi, mobile phones, cordless phones and the much dreaded 5G.

For those who do not see a result from Groundhog CHRONIC, read on

  • FIRST avoid re-infection! Think vaccination (choose your holidays wisely), blood products and insect bites.
  • THEN

Plants and fungi preceded animal life by 350 million years. They too have been chronically attacked by retro viruses and so are subject to the arms race. Their defence is not immunological but biochemical – they make toxins that at best kill and at worse keep in check RVs. Already many have been of proven clinical benefit, perhaps without clinicians realising the mechanism of such. In order of benefits already seen I suggest:

Cistus incanus

See Klinghardt Institute - Sardinian Cistus Incanus

A colleague of mine Katharina Voss has a blog on cistus incanus - see ME remission Antiretroviral therapy. Please also see A Regime for Antiretroviral Treatment of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis by Katharina.

The treatment involves making cistus tea and drinking this through the day. Some add stevia which sweetens the tea and is anti-RV in its own right. I suggest organic cistus. A teaspoon of the herb infused in hot water for at least 2 minutes, leave the herbs in and slurp away! If bitter, add a leaf of stevia. Start low dose and build up to several cups per day. You can buy a good organic source here: Shelgo Tea - CISTUS INCANUS TEA (ORGANIC)

CBD (cannabinoids)

I have been instinctively wary of CBD on the grounds that it may simply be symptom suppressing. However, there is increasing evidence that CBD has antiviral properties. It is increasingly used in HIV. See HIV ATIS webpage - CBD: A Promising Aid for HIV Patients?

Some good trials are being set up to investigate this further using 2.5 mg dronabinol capsules taken three times daily – see ‘Oral cannabinoids in people living with HIV on effective antiretroviral therapy: CTN PT028—study protocol for a pilot randomised trial to assess safety, tolerability and effect on immune activation’, BMJ Open. 2019; 9(1): e024793., Costniniuk et al

Chinese Skullcap

This is of proven benefit in the treatment of many viral diseases and it may be that this is because it also deals with the under-lying, hitherto undiagnosed RV infection. The dose is up to 10 grams daily. See Skullcap Extract (10:1 Equivalent to 3,500mg) Vegetarian Capsules or Swanson's 400mg capsules

Many other herbs may also be used, and these include green tea, bitter melon, stinging nettle, olives, saffron, lomatin, licorice and the reishi mushroom. Watch this space!

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