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EBV and Thyroid: Is there a relation?

Updated researches on Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and thyroid pathologies

EBV, also known as "kissing disease", is a human herpes virus 4 and responsible for mononucleosis. Its natural host are humans and is mainly transmitted through saliva (this makes children and adolescents the main targets). However, it can also spread through blood transfusions and transplantations.

Most times EBV is asymptomatic, but when symptomatic its symptoms are fatigue, fever, lack of appetite, rash, sore throat, swollen glands in the neck, weakness, sore muscles, diarrhoea, hepato- and splenomegaly, lymphadenopathy.

After being infected the virus usually is controlled by the immune system. At this stage the virus is said to be dormant. However, when for any reasons your immune system weakens the virus reactivates and can cause problems.

One of the components of your immune systems is B cells. The latter are important in the production of antibodies. EBV specifically infects B cells and epithelial cells (cells that make the make the outermost layer of organs and blood vessels).

Within just a few hours of infection, the cell undergoes a number of changes, such as deregulation of the cell cycle, stimulation of growth factors, inhibition of apoptosis (cell programmed - wanted - death), and immunomodulation, which lead to “cell immortality”. After a few days, the DNA of the cell may replicate with the DNA of the virus in an uncontrolled way. This "cell immortality" exposes an infected person to the risk of developing autoimmune diseases as well as non-malignant, premalignant and malignant pathologies.

Examples are Burkitt lymphoma, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, and Hodgkin's lymphoma; non-lymphoid malignancies such as gastric cancer and nasopharyngeal carcinoma; and conditions associated with human immunodeficiency virus such as hairy leukoplakia and central nervous system lymphomas.

Today, we want to zoom into the association between EBV and autoimmune pathologies. Particularly, if EBV is involved in Hashimoto's and Graves disease.

To this purpose, I will summarise two articles that may help us understand more about it. (1)

Let's start by saying that already few pathogens have been associated to the risk of developing Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases (AITDs):

  • Wolf found that infections with Yersinia enterocolitica could be linked to Graves’ disease (2).

  • Tozolli, in turn, has suggested that Toxoplasma gondii may participate in AITDs (3).

  • Researchers have shown that HTLV-1 may have an impact on the development of both Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (4,5) and Graves’ disease (6).

  • Serological data indicates that the influenza virus, hepatitis C virus, enterobacteriaceae, streptococci, staphylococci, Yersinia, and Helicobacter can have an influence on AITDs as well (7).

In genetically predisposed individuals, EBV can reside in the thyroid. As we said, EBV infects B cells which produce antibodies. Antibodies, as a consequence of viral infection, will reproduce without control and attack our own tissues and organs, the target being the thyroid in this case. This leads to AITDs.

Below I cite some parts of the first article(1): (you will find the links at the end of the page)

There is a hypothesis that in genetically susceptible patients, EBV-infected autoreactive B-cells seed the thyroid gland, produce autoantibodies, and send co-stimulatory signals to autoreactive T-cells (8).

In their study, Akahori et al. presented three cases of patients suffering from Graves’ disease comorbid with infectious mononucleosis due to primary EBV infection (9). They suggested that inflammation from viral infection might be associated with the development of Graves’ disease (9).

In addition, an elevated serum level of Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen (EBNA) was observed in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (10).

On top of that, experts suggest that thyroid function screening should be conducted in patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus erythematosus (11) because these diseases may be connected with EBV infection.

Based on the study results (12), EBV is not the only agent responsible for the development of autoimmune thyroid diseases. However, it can be considered a contributory factor.

The second study (1) was conducted specifically to assess weather there was a connection between Graves Disease (GD) and EBV.

That's the result of the study:

A significantly higher presence of EBV DNA copies in PBMCs (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) in patients newly diagnosed with GD suggests a probable role of the virus in the development of GD. The presence of EBV DNA has no effect on the severity of hyperthyroidism, both in laboratory parameters and clinical course.

Thus, we can say that EBV role in AITDs still has to be completely defined, but overall cannot be excluded.

What to do once you are infected?

Clearly, it is highly difficult to fully prevent infection, so what to do?

  • We must detoxify our body from the toxins produced by the virus. Specifically, your liver, lymphatic, gut and thyroid.

  • Control the inflammation.

  • Decrease the concentration and exposure to heavy metals that favours viral replications, thus aggressiveness.

How to do it?

It may sound unrealistic, but food is the key solution to your problems.

What food?

  • Artichokes, celery, ginger, garlic, thyme, lemon balm, turmeric, fennel, berries, citrus fruits, aloe vera, avocados, tomatoes, papaya, asparagus, coconut, basil, cruciferous, sweet potatoes, squash, and raw honey.

  • To what it concerns heavy metals, cilantro juices are potent detoxifier. You should combine cilantro with some transporters to allow the removals of toxins out from the body.These are usually fibers.

Start to introduce these foods in your diet.

Another thing you can do is to start supplements to speed up the healing process.

Which supplements?

  • Vitamin B12, liquid zinc sulfate, vitamin C, l-lysine

  • Monolaurin, magnesium, selenium, chromium, vitamin D, copper, 5 methylteterhydrofolate, curcumin, rubidium and silver hydrosol.

These all have antiviral activity which fights EBV infection.

To sum up: Finally, the role of EBV in thyroid autoimmune conditions has been assessed. Further investigations are necessary to confirm diagnosis and clinical evaluation.

If diagnosed already with an autoimmune condition, then you should check your EBV and assess the risk of developing AITDs.

Let us know about you:

What's your experience regarding EBV and thyroid?

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