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Infection & the Immune System
Direct Infection of the Immune System – Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), HIV/AIDS, HHV6
There are something like 2000 viruses with names. There’s another significant percentage still without names. Some are scary like small pox and HIV, some viruses aren’t particularly threatening, like the rhinoviruses that cause the common cold.
Some are a big deal because they attack cells in the immune system itself; the very system that’s in charge of eliminating them. Four of them are: the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), the Cytomegalovirus (CMV), HIV/AIDS, and HHV6. A multitude of diseases are precipitated by viruses.
What is a virus? A virus as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is: “various simple submicroscopic parasites of plants, animals, and bacteria that often cause disease and that consist essentially of a core of RNA or DNA surrounded by a protein coat.
Unable to replicate without a host cell, viruses are typically not considered living organisms.” Webster’s Dictionary adds, “ they are capable of growth and multiplication only in living cells.” Simply put, it sounds like a piece of genetic material looking for a proper home where it can fit in, grow and prosper at your expense.
What They Do
In general, how do they work? “The virus attaches to a cell, often a specific type of cell. Once inside a cell, the virus releases its DNA or RNA (which contains the information needed to create new virus particles) and takes control of some aspects of the cell’s metabolism….
What happens to the cell depends on the type of virus. Some viruses kill the cells they infect. Others alter the cell function so that the cell loses control over normal cell division and becomes cancerous.
Some viruses incorporate a part or all of their genetic information into the host cell DNA but they remain silent (or latent) until the cell is disturbed in a way that permits the virus to emerge again.”
Merck Manual of Medical Information
A virus does not respond to antibiotics. Drugs used to combat viral infections are called antiviral drugs. There are far fewer antiviral drugs than antibiotics. Antiviral drugs are more difficult to design and largely more toxic.
Cells of Choice
As mentioned, a virus often attaches only to a specific type of cell. Regardless of that “choice”, it’s the job of the immune system to eliminate it. Immune system cells that figure prominently in a viral attack are B-cells and T-helper cells.
B- cells are born in the bone marrow. They make antibodies, a small protein. These antibodies are made in response to an antigen (bacteria, virus, an “invader”, something that stimulates an immune response). The antibody attaches to this invader, let’s say a virus.
Antibodies don’t kill anything themselves however they do “tag” that virus so it can be recognized and destroyed by other cells. B-cells are an essential part of immune function.
Helper T-cells are born in the bone marrow and trained to know “self” from “non-self” in the thymus gland. There are also killer T-cells and suppressor T-cells.
Helper T-cells are often called the “brains” of the immune system. Their job is to coordinate the attack by providing a multitude of instructions (communication molecules) to direct the activity of other cells.
[Reference: How the Immune System Works by Lauren Sompayrac]
The Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) infects B-cells.
The Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infects B-cells.
HIV/AIDS infects Helper T-cells, and others.
HHV6 infects B cells.
Weakened Immune Function
“By attacking these cells directly, it [the virus] will weaken the immune system and predispose us to a long list of severe and chronic diseases…Infection is a big, big deal.” Dr. Jesse Stoff Lecture, Cancun, Mexico
- There are a couple thousand viruses with names and another 20%+ still unidentified. It’s the job of the immune system to eliminate or contain them. Viruses infiltrate and use cell structure to multiply. Weakened immune function can allow viruses to become a chronic problem. An immune system can become overwhelmed and further weakened.
- Some viruses attack cells of the immune system directly like Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Cytometalovirus (CMV), HIV, and HHV6. They are attacking the very system required to kill them.
- The continued burden of these viruses weakens immune function and can predispose you to a long list of other diseases. It’s a very big problem.