It seems like a number of autoimmune diseases are adding each year, but there are so many unknown causes for autoimmune diseases. I think that many diseases that scientists and doctors have no clear understanding of how they start, fall into the “Autoimmune Disease” category. However, there is some research that demonstrates the link between autoimmune disease and Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), knows as “kissing disease” or “mono”. You might be surprised to learn that by age 35, almost everyone is infected with EBV because EBV is spread by saliva through kissing, sharing drinks and food, and using the same cups and/or toothbrushes. So, it is not realistic to avoid getting infected with EBV.
Epstein-Barr Virus is part of the herpes virus family, a classification of related viruses (such as the virus that causes chickenpox, cold sores, genital herpes, and shingles) that cause mononucleosis and is never eradicated or cured from the body. Many people don’t realize they have been infected because they never feel sick. Once infected however, you harbor the virus for good.
The virus generally doesn’t cause any significant problems as long as your immune system functions are robust. However, if you allow your immune system to become disrupted by stress, poor diet, and other key factors, EBV can reactivate, causing symptoms similar to the mononucleosis, but much worse.
The New Research
When you search “Autoimmune and EBV”, you will find a study from the journal, Nature Genetics online. The study found that a protein produced by the Epstein Barr virus interacts with a number of genes that are associated with 7 autoimmune diseases. They are Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Multiple sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, and Type 1 diabetes.
Many cells and organs work together to protect the body, and white blood cells play an important role in the immune system. One of the white blood cells, called lymphocytes help the body remember the invaders and destroy them. There are two kinds of lymphocytes; B cells and T cells. B cells are responsible for creating antibodies, unique proteins designed to match and mark the specific antigens of every cell. When viral and bacterial infections strike, our bodies respond by commanding B cells within our immune systems to crank out antibodies to battle the invaders. However, when EBV infections occur, something unusual happens.
This study found that EBV takes over B cells and their normal operations. This includes your genes that dictate how cells should act in your body. You have genes in every cell that control what those cells do.
Once EBV takes over your B cells, it can turn your genes on and off in unexpected ways. EBV may use Transcription Factors to do this. A transcription factor is a protein that binds to specific DNA sequences and thereby controls the transfer (or transcription) of genetic information from DNA to mRNA. Transcription factors are essential to which genes are “switched on” or “off” and what those genes will do in your body.
Epstein–Barr virus nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA-2) is the protein does the bad trick. The EBNA2 transcription factor from EBV is helping change how infected B cells operate, and how the body responds to those infected cells. When these EBNA2-related clusters of transcription factors attach themselves to one portion of the genetic code, the risk of lupus appears to rise. When those same transcription factors land on another part of the code, the risk of multiple sclerosis appears to rise. And so on.
Since almost everyone has EBV yet only some people get diagnosed with autoimmune disease, many experts believe there are several environmental factors that can trigger to turn the switch on. If you are eating non-nutritious food with tons of toxic chemicals which causes you to mess up your gut microbes, and/or if you are going through a major life change such as the death of a loved one, a major move or job change or menopause, you might be susceptible to reactivate the virus and have higher risk of developing some type of autoimmune disease.
Take the Test
I highly recommend that you ask your healthcare practitioner to do an Epstein-Barr Virus Panel, which includes;
1) EBV Antibodies to Viral Capsid Antigen (VCA)-IgM,
2) EBV Antibodies to Viral Capsid Antigen (VCA)-IgG,
3) EBV Antibodies to early antigen (EA-D)
4) EBV Nuclear Antigen Antibodies (EBNA-IgG)
5) EBV Nuclear Antigen (EBNA-IgM)
Tests look for the presence of antibodies to the virus and can distinguish between a new infection or one that has been reactivated.
I suggest that you work with a well trained Functional Medicine doctor to treat EBV since not so many conventional doctors are familiar with complication of EBV. Please check on references to learn more about this topic.