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Infections in CFS

Temporary vs. permanent

Most infections that we have, like the flu, are those that come and go. A pathogen enters the body, the immune system responds, we’re sick for a while, and then after the immune system wins the battle, as it usually does, the pathogen is totally eradicated. This is the typical kind of temporary infection.

However, we also have, as human beings, within us a whole group of permanent infections: for instance, we have bacteria that live in our gut (there are more bacteria living in our gut than there are cells in our body. There is evidence that these bacteria in our gut may play an important role in many different diseases.) 

However, some pathogenic infections come and stay—for example, infections triggered by the herpes virus. Cold sores on the mouth are caused by the herpes virus—the sore itself comes and goes, but the virus which causes it remains permanently in the body. Once a person becomes infected, the virus stays in the body for the rest of the person’s life. There is no way the immune system can eradicate the herpes virus.

In most people, the herpes virus is kept suppressed by the immune system—it is not active in the body and does not cause symptoms. The same is true of other kinds of viruses, like retroviruses—once people are infected with these, the immune system cannot get rid of them.

The best that can be done is to keep them suppressed. This is an important concept since Dr. Komaroff believes it applies to CFS.

Infections and syndromes, more than one microbe

Another important concept is that many syndromes can be caused by multiple different pathogens. Colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses. Hepatitis can be caused by a group of different viruses. Many syndromes, and Dr. Komaroff believes it will be true of CFS, can be triggered by multiple different microbes.

Dr. Komaroff noted that some diseases may not occur when only one infectious agent enters the body—instead they may require several infectious agents in the body that then collaborate with one another to make the person sick.