Epstein-Barr virus protein can “switch on” risk genes for autoimmune diseases

I just wanted to share with you this new piece of research that I have come across….

Basically, it is saying that if you carry the genes for autoimmune diseases (and many of them – celiac disease for example) are genetic, then if you contract Epstein-Barr (also known as the kissing disease, mononucleosis or glandular fever) the virus can “turn on” those autoimmune disease genes and result in the development of an autoimmune disease.  This “turning on” of genes is called Epigenetics which is a new and emerging branch of science.  Basically certain environmental conditions (could be external environment or internal environment) can trigger the genes to start expressing whatever they are coded to express.  This can result in disease states such as the autoimmune diseases.

Well I guess that this explains why I developed celiac disease. I am heterozygous for all of the celiac genes (this means I have a copy of them each of my chromosomes), and I had EBV as a young adult when I was in my very early 20’s… Interestingly, I started developing the symptoms of a gluten sensitivity in my early 20’s as well, a couple of years after my EBV Dx…. but it was not diagnosed as full celiac disease until I was in my 40’s. That means I was probably suffering from it for a good 20 years as an undiagnosed celiac, which explains the extensive gut-damage that they found at the biopsy.

“the researchers found that EBNA2 [a protein produced by EBV] and its related transcription factors activate some of the human genes associated with the risk for lupus and several other autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and celiac disease.”

In other words for me, celiac disease was a foregone conclusion….

And it was probably the damage to my gut-lining that resulted from the Celiac diseases, that lead to my development of the dairy (Casein) allergy in my mid 30’s. Not only is casein cross-reactive with gluten, but the damage to my gut lining would have lead to the partially digested casein molecules leaking into my blood triggering the autoimmune response. And it is probably also responsible for my sensitivity to nightshades as those proteins will also leak through the damaged gut lining.

Now it all makes sense.

But this also demonstrates the importance of a few things:

  1. if you have a close family member with Celiac disease or another autoimmune disease, get genetically tested. .A close family member is defined as a sister, a brother, a child or a parent.  (Please my children take NOTE of this!  I have celiac disease which increases your susceptibility to getting it yourself!).  These tests are non-invasive, they are a simple blood test that can be ordered at the same time that you have blood taken at your annual health check – just ask your doctor to include them.  For the genetic testing you can also use companies as simple as 23-and-me or Ancestry genetics that use saliva or mouth scrapings, and then run the results through a program like genetic genie (there are others too).
  2. if you find that you have the genes for any autoimmune disease (this includes celiac disease) get regular blood tests (best done at the time of your annual bloodwork) to test for autoimmune antibodies specific to the AI disease that you carry the genes for.  If you test positive for the autoimmune antibodies, it means you have developed the autoimmune disease and then you can get treatment for it before it becomes problematic.  In the case of Celiac disease, this would mean eliminating all gluten in everything you eat to avoid further gut-lining damage.
  3. If you have the genes for an AI disease but not the antibodies, get tested regularly for the antibodies (at your annual blood check) to monitor if you develop the antibodies which would signify that you have an AI disease.
  4. If you develop EBV (Epstein-Barr) in any of its forms (kissing disease, Mononucleosis, Glandular Fever etc,) even if it was in the past, get tested for autoimmune antibodies in your blood work.

And if you test positive for all of the above, consider AIP (the Autoimmune Protocol) to help control the development of the symptoms and manage it.   The best jThs would be in addition to any recommendations that your doctor makes.   AIP is not an “instead of what the doctor says” kind of protocol, it is an “in addition to what your doctor says” protocol.