Kazuhiro Kondo, MD, PhD, of the Jikei University Medical School in Tokyo, has found through research that there is a HHV-6 (herpesvirus-6) protein present in ME/CFS patients that is not in normal healthy people. This may contribute to the psychological symptoms that are associated with ME/CFS and disorders like it.
Dr. Kondo says that chronic viral infection is believed to be one of the most suspected causes of chronic diseases that have yet to have a cause determined.
This latest news was announced at the International Symposium on Viral Infections in CFS. Jose Montoya from Standford University supported Dr. Kondo’s claim by stating at the same conference antiviral drug Valcyte resulted in an improvement in the cognitive functioning of CFS patients but did not alleviate the fatigue issue. Valcyte has been shown to be effective again HHV-6.
The problem with Valcyte is that it doesn’t prevent reactivation of the virus and that is an issue that needs to be solved in order fora patient to be cured.
Kondo identified a novel HHV-6 protein associated with latent (non-replicating) HHV-6-infected nervous system and immune cells. Transfecting this new protein, called SITH-1 (Small Intermediate Stage Transcript of HHV-6), into nervous system cells called glial cells resulted in greatly increased intracellular calcium levels. Increased intracellular calcium levels are believed to play an important role in psychological disorders and can contribute to cell death. Expressing the SITH protein though the use of an adenoviral vector in mouse resulted in manic-like behavior.
A serological study indicated that 71% of CFS patients with psychological symptoms – and none of the healthy controls – possessed the antibody against the SITH-1 protein (p < .0001).
Further tests indicated that 53% of depression and 76% of bipolar depression patients possessed the antibody.
Researchers have suspected that central nervous system infections could contribute to psychological and central nervous system disorders, and patients with CFS have a much higher than average rate of depression.
This virus spreads cell-to-cell instead of releasing viral particles into the bloodstream. This has hampered efforts to demonstrate that the virus plays a role in CNS disease. “This virus persists in the brain and other tissues, but not the blood, which is where investigators have looked,” says Kristin Loomis, Executive Director of the HHV-6 Foundation. “Indeed, standard serum PCR DNA for direct evidence of the virus are useless,” she added.
New ultra-sensitive assays are under development, she reports, “but currently the best way to identify patients with smoldering HHV-6 infection is to look for elevated IgG antibody titers.”
Dharam Ablashi, the co-discoverer of the HHV-6 virus, and the HHV-6 Foundation’s Scientific Director, warns that the test won’t be available in the near future. “It may take years to get the assay validated and into commercial production, but will be worth the wait, says Ablashi. This assay could identify large numbers of patients with CNS dysfunction who could benefit from antiviral treatment. The HHV-6 Foundation is working hard to help scientists like Dr. Kondo develop better assays.”