This retrovirus is called HERV-K18, and it's part of the human genetic makeup. Researchers say it activates when you have a "smoldering infection" of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and HHV-6 (which both have long been believed to have an important connection to ME/CFS.)
The study uncovered that people whose ME/CFS or MS was triggered by infection mononucleosis (EBV) were at higher risk for HERV-K18 activation. That activation starts a chain reaction that leads to a strong T-cell response that's believed to deplete your immune system over time. Researchers say HHV-6 can activate HERV-K18 as well, as can immune activation.
It's not surprising that science is discovering links between ME/CFS and MS.
- More than 75% of MS patients meet the criteria for ME/CFS.
- Fatigue is often the most disabling symptom of ME.
- The conditions share characteristics including:
- Gray matter atrophy
- Impaired cerebral glucose metabolism
- Autonomic nervous system activity
- Altered patterns of brain activity
The study suggests that this retrovirus could be behind some of the shared symptoms of the two conditions. The lead researcher - Brigitte Huber, PhD of the Tufts University School of Medicine - now has a National Institutes of Health grant to study this further.
To me, this is an exciting study because it helps explain why a common virus, that has very little effect on most people can have such a severe impact on others. It's also seems like something that could lead to better diagnostic tests and treatments. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this one.
- Read more on this study
- Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis