Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) is one of the most common viruses. It’s a member of the herpes group of viruses including HSV 1 and 2, Varicella zoster virus (shingles, chicken pox), Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Pseudorabies virus. A common factor of these viruses is their stress on the immune system, and their ability to remain dormant in the body for life even after the initial infection.
Epstein Barr Virus Infection
Infection with Epstein Barr is inevitable in humans. Estimates are that 95% or more of the population carry antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus. Those infected with EBV during adolescence or young adulthood may develop infectious mononucleosis (mono). Although symptoms of mono usually clear up after a couple of months, EBV will remain dormant in the body for the rest of a person’s life.
Epstein-Barr virus is normally spread through saliva and other bodily fluids. During pregnancy, the virus can be transmitted to the unborn baby. It can be spread unknowingly by daycare workers, teachers, grandmas, and college students.
Epstein Barr is a key player in autoimmune disease and chronic illness. It is a contagious, highly infectious, opportunistic disease allowed by a weak immune system; it can be contracted from an infected carrier, overuse, and abuse drugs and/or alcohol.
Periodic reactivation of Epstein Barr may occur but usually doesn’t cause symptoms or illness in healthy individuals with strong immune function. But, if you’re experiencing a vast amount of stress, or you’re pregnant, or have a weakened immune system, EBV and other viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) can become problematic. CMV is spread by direct contact of body fluids, such as saliva, blood, urine, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. CMV is the most common virus transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn child.
Most people have been exposed to Epstein Barr by age 40. Many people don’t realize they have been infected because they never feel sick.
But, in those with compromised immune function, reactivation of a dormant EBV infection tends to create more severe problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, MS, thyroid disorders, mitochondrial damage, Lyme, schizophrenia, pleurisy, development of autoimmune diseases, cancer and increased risk of Hodgkin’s disease.
Epstein Barr Virus and Autoimmune Disease
Gut dysbiosis, underlying infections (both viral and bacterial), leaky gut, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and toxin overload are major factors in autoimmunity.
People with autoimmune conditions have an elevated microbial load, disrupted microbiome, mitochondrial dysfunction from toxin exposures, and nutritional deficiencies. As the pieces to the autoimmune puzzle are identified, the root causes can be addressed systematically by peeling away the layers of the onion and building a strong foundation through diet, nutrition, toxic exposure elimination, lifestyle, and environmental interventions.
A viral protein found in EBV-infected human cells may activate genes associated with an increased risk for autoimmunity. [Nature Genetics] The Epstein Barr Virus attacks the pancreas's beta cells, leading to type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune conditions.
Studies have shown high viral loads of active EBV in a high percentage of patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune hepatitis, MS, autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s and Grave’s), inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), and other chronic autoimmune diseases. [Autoimmune Dis. 2012]
A longitudinal study determined that the strongest known risk factor for multiple sclerosis is infection with EBV. Compared with healthy controls, the hazard of developing MS is approximately 15 times higher among individuals infected with EBV in childhood and about 30 times higher among those infected with EBV in adolescence or later in life.