Our current predicament reminds me of the Jack Kornfield book, After The Ecstasy, The Laundry. Retroviral causation is still a possibility, but what to do after that flash of illumination? How do we circumvent the despair that comes with getting it and losing it again? I catch myself stuck in negative thinking, feeling like I have gained so much insight into the illness, but it came too late for me to do anything “important” with it. After I wrote the last blog, I felt guilty. I mean, after where we’ve been together as a community, who wants to read about watching your diet?

I returned to work still improving, but I’m not any more. In fact, following a couple of back to back bugs that my grandson brought home from his first grade class, on top of several months of prolonged stress, I’m back to pretty definitely sick. Therefore, I’ve decided to take the next 6 weeks to rehab myself, rather than dive off the cliff again next week, when I was planning to make my first trip to Tucson. Magical thinking pretty clearly isn’t going to get me through this time. I need to take my own advice. Physician heal thyself.

What do I want to do differently with this time, besides lowering my energy output for a while and being more consistent with oxygen, diet, supplements, neurofeedback, all of which I’ve done before? For some time, I’ve wanted to try EWOT or exercise with oxygen therapy. I use oxygen to prevent PEM, but I have never exercised with it on. It requires a high flow concentrator (> 8L/min) and a mask with a reservoir that will stay on, but not restrict air flow. There is literature to support the idea that elite athletes (and rats) can do more work while wearing supplemental oxygen, though results have been equivocal as to whether exercising while hyperoxic improves performance in the long run.

I have wondered if it might not also be true that our exercise capacity could be increased this way, we who are on the low end of the bell curve. There isn’t much to go on in the literature, but there are a few papers about exercising with COPD and an oldie but goodie about using periodic hyperoxia to improve exercise capacity in CHF.

And this important paper, that addresses the question of how a treatment that increases ROS in the short term, could be good for us? It suggests that periodic administration, as opposed to long term hyperoxia, enhances antioxidant defense mechanisms, essentially a training effect for the body to fight oxidative stress: Effects of exposure of rats to periodic versus continuous hyperoxia on antioxidant potentials and free radical production in relation to ultrastructural changes in myocardial cells.

Hormesis, a concept from toxicology theory, is a blend of less is more and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Modulation of cellular response by the correct amount of stress encourages plasticity in biological systems. Cellular Stress Responses, The Hormesis Paradigm, and Vitagenes: Novel Targets for Therapeutic Intervention in Neurodegenerative Disorders. Calabrese et al. Here is an excerpt from the section “Hormesis, Mitochondria, and Neuroprotection”:

Recent findings have overturned the long-held belief that mitochondrial ROS have only a negative impact on cell function and survival. It is now clear that mitochondrial superoxide and hydrogen peroxide play important roles in a range of cellular functions, and can also activate signaling pathways that promote cell survival and disease resistance…Mitochondrial superoxide production is believed to contribute to damage of neurons in conditions ranging from chronic intermittent cerebral hypoxia to Alzheimer’s disease. However, it has been widely reported that transient exposure of neurons to low levels of superoxide that are converted into hydrogen peroxide can protect the neurons against a subsequent exposure to what would have otherwise been a lethal level of stress. This neuroprotective effect of a subtoxic increase in cellular oxidative stress has been termed “preconditioning” by neuroscientists who study stroke, but clearly falls under the broad umbrella of hormesis… [An] example of trans-cellular hormesis mediated by ROS comes from studies showing that oxidative stress can stimulate angiogenesis in the brain…

Here is another dot to connect:

  • Supplemental oxygen and muscle metabolism in mitochondrial myopathy patients.  In summary, patients with MM show impaired oxidative ATP production in their skeletal muscle, consistent with mitochondrial disease. This study has also shown that increased inspired oxygen concentration improves oxidative function in patients with mitochondrial myopathy, but not sedentary healthy individuals. It is hypothesised that the improvement in oxidative function with increased oxygen inhalation could be the result suboptimal oxygen conductance during exercise.
  • Oxygen Therapy for Mitochondrial Myopathy.  Letter to the editor, so no abstract, but here are excerpts: We report on a physician-patient with a diagnosis of undifferentiated autoimmune disease, pandysautonomia, and mitochondrial dysfunction… Her functional capacity has gradually improved, and her prednisone dose has been substantially decreased for the first time in 8 years. She can now drive around town, walk in a shopping mall, and perform some household chores. In addition, the hair that had previously disappeared from her extremities (thought to be secondary to either the autoimmune disease or medication side effect) has regrown. Prior to oxygen therapy, her soft tissues in the extremities were painful with a boggy firmness, a fibromyalgia-like finding also thought to be part of the autoimmune syndrome. This symptom has gradually, but significantly, improved through a combination of body work (osteopathy and massage) and oxygen therapy. Prior to receiving supplemental oxygen, the same type of body work had been only minimally effective… This case report suggests that supplemental oxygen can enable patients to perform higher levels of cardiopulmonary work with less lactic acid accumulation than room air alone. The use of supplemental oxygen may not only improve functional capacity and certain physiologic abnormalities but may also minimize the mitochondrial stress, which has been postulated to increase the proportion of mutant mitochondria.

I mentioned this paper recently, but it bears a closer look: Normobaric hyperoxia treatment of schizophrenia. It showed that schizophrenics improve sleeping with a nasal cannula at 4-6L/min for 7 hours at night (an uncomfortable treatment). The improvement in symptoms was confirmed by a cross-over design of the treatment and control group. The rat study of periodic vs continuous hyperoxia above suggests that the effects demonstrated in this study might be even more profound with a higher dose for a shorter time. Why would oxygen help this group of patients and what does it have to do with us? Schizophrenia is increasingly recognized as a neuroinflammatory disorder associated with HERV activation. Here is a paper suggesting even more common ground… Antibodies to retroviruses in recent onset psychosis and multi-episode schizophrenia. So, another group of patients who have antibodies that cross react with MuLV sequences, at least in the acute phase.

I wish I could share this whole paper here, because it touches on so many of the questions left in the wake of XMRV. It is well worth a careful read in its entirety: Human retroviral sequences associated with extracellular particles in autoimmune diseases: epiphenomenon or possible role in aetiopathogenesis? Perron. There has been quite a lot of work done on MSRV, a retrovirus, which lies at the interface of endogenous and exogenous retroviruses. Since ME is essentially MS light, MSRV is a good model for us, with a 10 year head start from where we stand right now. Some, but not all MS patients studied express viral particles, which may or may not be infectious. That fits the variable epidemiology seen in our families, where some patients are isolated cases, having never known anyone else with the disease, others have partners and children affected, but otherwise no evidence of being contagious, and there are even a few who believe that they have infected many people through casual contact (food sharing). The idea of recombination and copackaging of viral genomes once again brings to mind the issue of vaccines contaminated with genetic material from animal cells.

As part of the complex ‘biological life’ of such retroviruses, it also appears necessary to study copackaged ERV genomes which may account for their potential pathogenicity by e.g., recombinations or propagation of defective clone expressing pathogenic molecules, and may be at the origin of their rapid loss of infectivity by defective interference and/or ERV takeover. The complexity of retroviral genome studies in these situations, represented in this review by IDDMK in autoimmune diabetes and MSRV in multiple sclerosis, can become a major difficulty for a definite conclusion.

The multiple sclerosis-associated retrovirus and its HERV-W endogenous family: a biological interface between virology, genetics, and immunology in human physiology and disease. Dolei/Perron 

The HERV-W family is one of the most studied, after the discovery of its MSRV founder member (Perron et al. 1989, 1997b). Our haploid genome contains about 70 gag, 100 pro, and 30 env HERV- W related regions (Voisset et al. 2000), but numbers can vary (Mirsattari et al. 2001; Zawada et al.2003); in silico expression data indicate that 22 complete HERV-W subfamilies from chromosomes 1 to 3, 5 to 8, 10 to 12, 15, 19, and X are randomly expressed in various tissues (Kim et al. 2008). Presently, this family is active and generates new recombinant copies in cancer cells (Yi et al. 2004), retains characteristics of functional retroviral envelopes (An et al. 2001; Kim et al. 2008), and HERV-W transposition and retrosequence integration have been evidenced in the human genome through interactions with active LINE-1 elements (Costas, 2002; Pavlicek et al. 2002). Thus, non-Mendelian genetic rules can apply to HERV-W elements: a key feature to understanding their biology.

None of the known stably inserted HERV-W elements is replication-competent (Blond et al. 1999): a study of HERV-W intragenomic spread (Costas, 2002) confirmed that, in the few individuals used for genomewide analysis, the sequenced HERV-W elements lack intact open reading frames (ORFs) in all genes within a single copy. This finding, and the unusual short period of evolutionary time of HERV-Ws (5 million years, estimated on average integration age of different subfamilies), suggested that MSRV might be either an exogenous HERV-W, as in animal ERVs (Palmarini et al. 1996), or a nonubiquitous replication-competent member, or a partly defective but nonubiquitous copy seldom complemented within the HERV-W family (Perron et al. 1997b, 2000; Komurian-Pradel et al. 1999; Dolei, 2005; Serra et al. 2003). Today, though reasonable arguments in favor of the existence of a replication-competent HERV-W member, which might even be ‘‘exogenous,’’ have been provided (Belshaw et al. 2005; Costas, 2002; Perron et al. 1997b, 1992), the very nature of MSRV remains to be confirmed by future studies (Voisset et al. 2008).

They can follow viral load in patients and there is clinical correlation… From the same paper:

A direct parallelism was found between MSRV positivity and load (in blood, CSF, and brain samples) and MS temporal and clinical stages, as well as active/remission phases (Dolei et al. 2002); at MS onset, 50% of CSFs were MSRV positive, and positivity increased with pro- gression. Importantly, MSRV presence in CSF at MS onset was related to poor prognosis; starting from otherwise comparable conditions, after 3 and 6 years mean EDSS (expanded disability status scale), an- nual relapse rate, therapy requirement, and progres- sion to secondary-progressive MS were significantly higher (Figure 2) in patients with detectable MSRV CSF load at onset (Sotgiu et al. 2002, 2006a).

A recent study (Mameli et al. 2008) found that plasmatic MSRV load of naive patients with active MS was directly related to MS duration; longitudinal evaluation of patients during 1 year of IFNb therapy showed that MS progression index (EDSS/MS years) was reduced for the majority of patients, whose viremia became rapidly undetectable. Notably, one patient had atypically high viremia at enrolment and, after initial virus inhibition and clinical benefit, had MSRV reemergence, accompanied by strong progres- sion with therapy failure. The authors concluded that evaluation of plasmatic MSRV could be considered the first prognostic marker for the individual patient to monitor disease progression and therapy outcome (Mameli et al. 2008).

Just published: HERVs Expression in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Balestriere et al, an addition to the growing literature supporting the idea that activated HERVs are involved in autoimmunity, an appealing idea, providing an explanation of why the immune system might become confused as to what is self and what is not. The authors of this paper found increased expression of HERV-H, one of the HERV families implicated in complex chronic disease, in autistics as compared to controls. They also report expression inversely proportional to age and proportional to disease severity.

Our answers lie at the interface of retrovirology, genetics, molecular medicine  and toxicology. The further I go in my attempt to understand the problem on a biochemical level, the less optimistic I am with respect to so called “targeted therapies”. We simply aren’t smart enough and the system we are trying to influence is too complex. This is why therapies that affect the system globally are so attractive. Which brings me back to EWOT. Perhaps the poor, misunderstood Dr. Wessely could let his patients try some oxygen with their GET, now that he says he thinks they do in fact have some sort of a physical problem, in addition to being lazy, crazy and faking.

So, EWOT for ME? I ordered a couple of masks to try. Now I’ve really gone and done it. Set myself up by telling you all about it:). I will report back soon.

Today’s song: Fire And Rain by James Taylor

Recovery post-XMRV

I have a lot to say today and too little energy with which to say it, having just lost ten days of life force to red tape and worry about complying with arbitrary and capricious rules. Between states with differing regulations, plus the DEA which has yet a different set of regulations, I feel like I need a law degree to practice medicine. The system is broken and it is incredibly hard to take care of patients appropriately. When I complained about it recently to a doctor friend in an email, he replied, “My tombstone should read: He died of red tape.” It was always bad, but now nobody even pretends it has anything to do with caring for patients.

My recent month long intensive in Hawaii, treating two young women with ME/CFS and many years of disability, has further convinced me that the therapies I am using are able to tip the balance in favor of a slow climb to wellerness. For the most part, the things I’m doing are not enough alone, but together these therapies are synergistic and additive with continued use. Everything I am doing, and why, is documented and referenced on this blog. The search function in the header works well. The patients are fragile and a lot of tinkering is necessary.

In a nutshell, high dose pulsed oxygen (normobaric and mild hyperbaric) to improve inflammation and mitochondrial function, bioavailable folic acid derivatives for improved methylation (Deplin and folinic acid), sublingual or chewable methyl B-12, Vit D3 replacement, infusions of a modified Meyer’s cocktail including taurine, glutathione by IV push and neurofeedback. Most significantly, I see improvement from weaning inessential drugs, replacing synthetics with bioidenticals, and using herbal treatments instead of pharmaceuticals. In particular, medical Cannabis, if tolerated, for patients who live in a legal state, is a more effective and much safer alternative for chronic pain than opiod drugs, which damage the gut and cause central sensitization over time.

I consider diet to be a cornerstone of treatment. Food as medicine. I advocate a modified SCD diet, allowing whole grain rice, for patients with neuroimmune illnesses that almost always include a GI component in the symptom complex. I encourage SCD yogurt as a probiotic, superfemented to be lactose free and have a high live bacteria count. I also advocate eating organic, and no processed or GMO foods. In particular, avoid the excitotoxins, aspartame and MSG. Here is an important YouTube, by Dr. Terry Wahls, in remission from a wheel chair through dietary intervention alone:

I received some flak for saying that I’m a lumper, not a splitter, with respect to segregating subsets of patients, except for research. From the point of view of clinical medicine, breaking it down into separate cohorts doesn’t help me at all. It is all neuro-immune illness. The therapeutic options are extremely limited. The same things are worth trying in other cohorts also. Many, if not most, of the therapies that are being used in the ASD community are applicable to us. ME is on a continuum with MS and ALS. GWI and chronic Lyme Disease wind up clinically indistinguishable from ME. Fibromyalgia is a subset, not a separate illness. Again, the same treatments are applicable for the same reasons, even if the illnesses look a bit different.

The first thing that happens when there is a response to therapy is improved resilience. A push that would have caused a long crash, doesn’t, but brings minor payback only. At first most everything still feels crappy all the time, though some things have improved. Then some moments that aren’t so crappy creep in. Then some actual good moments. Crappy always comes back though, and when it does, it feels like falling back into the black hole. But it passes much more quickly than before. Improvement needs to be judged in fairly large increments of time, at least 6 months to be sure. One of the young women I treated last month posted this on her FaceBook a few days ago, “I had a good day today; I don’t think I’ve said that in 8 years :)”. That, after only a month of nearly risk free treatment. A long way from a cure, but relief is relief.

Here are some new noteworthy references with respect to oxygen therapy:

I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Mikovits on Sue Vogan’s radio show, In Short Order, finally able to speak openly in public. The interview is archived here. I thought she was very clear and brave as she answered all the hard questions. XMRV is not a human pathogen. There could be other retroviruses as yet undetected. The mistakes made will inform future research. I personally felt abandoned after the Lipkin paper, subsequent interview by Dr. Lipkin and the press conference, but I am encouraged to hear that he and Dr. Ruscetti are still working on our behalf. They don’t know what the positive serologies mean.  It is tragic that she can’t go back and find out what went wrong so that everyone can learn from it, but much has been learned nevertheless. The only thing she said that I took exception with was that there is no evidence that XMRV has ever infected an animal. Persistent infection has been demonstrated in Macaques after parenteral introduction of virus, exposures similar to what has been happening regularly throughout the history of injected biologicals, dating back to vaccinations with the exudate of cow pox lesions, which certainly contained bovine leukemia viruses, similar to HTLV, and are artificially transferrable to other non-bovine species:

And take a look at this one: Long-Term Infection and Vertical Transmission of a Gammaretrovirus in a Foreign Host Species

So it isn’t XMRV. Other cell lines express other infectious animal retroviruses. Live attenuated vaccines are grown in animal cells that express exogenous retroviruses. Other vaccines contain DNA fragments. Here is the government’s list of vaccine excipients: Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary by vaccine and by excipient. That’s now. The early vaccines were attenuated in live animals. Mouse brains injected into people.

But, say it isn’t an exogenous retrovirus. Why then might antiretrovirals have an effect, in addition to the obvious elephant in the room? The drugs might be preventing transcription of activated HERV’s: Association of human endogenous retroviruses with multiple sclerosis and possible interactions with herpes viruses.

The hypothesis that human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) play a role in autoimmune diseases is subject to increasing attention. HERVs represent both putative susceptibility genes and putative pathogenic viruses in the immune-mediated neurological disease multiple sclerosis (MS). Gammaretroviral HERV sequences are found in reverse transcriptase-positive virions produced by cultured mononuclear cells from MS patients, and they have been isolated from MS samples of plasma, serum and CSF, and characterised to some extent at the nucleotide, protein/enzyme, virion and immunogenic level. Two types of sequences, HERV-H and HERV-W, have been reported. No known HERV-H or HERV-W copy contains complete ORFs in all prerequisite genes, although several copies have coding potential, and several such sequences are specifically activated in MS, apparently resulting in the production of complete, competent virions. Increased antibody reactivity to specific Gammaretroviral HERV epitopes is found in MS serum and CSF, and cell-mediated immune responses have also been reported. Further, HERV-encoded proteins can have neuropathogenic effects. The activating factor(s) in the process resulting in protein or virion production may be members of the Herpesviridae. Several herpes viruses, such as HSV-1, VZV, EBV and HHV-6, have been associated with MS pathogenesis, and retroviruses and herpes viruses have complex interactions. The current understanding of HERVs, and specifically the investigations of HERV activation and expression in MS are the major subjects of this review, which also proposes to synergise the herpes and HERV findings, and presents several possible pathogenic mechanisms for HERVs in MS.

Or antiretrovirals, reverse transcriptase and integrase inhibitors, might be inhibiting retroposons:

What makes jumping genes jump? Demethylation.

Reverse transcriptase inhibitors presumably inhibit other viruses besides retroviruses if reverses transcription is required in the replicative process. Viread is used to treat chronic hepatitis B, for example. Hepatitis B is a DNA virus that replicates through an RNA intermediate and uses reverse transcription.

Telomerase is a reverse transcriptase. Therefore, arguably RTI’s might cause faster aging, but might tip the balance away from developing cancer. The more you think about it all, the more you realize that, like all drugs, antiretrovirals are blunt swords with many possible mechanisms of effect, all of which says that clinical trials are in order. One would think that the manufacturers would be interested in new indications for their drugs.

My own illness could be explained by a post polio syndrome caused by an attenuated virus, but it doesn’t fit my daughter. Does an enterovirus explain the vertical transmission seen in our families or a response to  antiretrovirals? Does anyone reading know the answer to those questions? Many of us remember the sugar cube that held the first oral polio vaccine. Polio virus can persist: Transmissibility and persistence of oral polio vaccine viruses: implications for the global poliomyelitis eradication initiative.

Protein from helper viruses and recombination events can rescue defective virus. Innumerable chances have occurred: Science Fiction or Fact? 35 years ago, when I was in medical school, autism and MS were rare. Autoimmunity has skyrocketed beyond belief, as has cancer.

Here’s an unsettling paper. Chemical Induction of Endogenous Retrovirus Particles from the Vero Cell Line of African Green Monkeys. Vero cells are present in the DTaP-Hep B-IPV, Poliovirus inactivated and Rotavirus vaccines. AzaC, one of the chemicals used in this paper is a demethylator. Other methods used in the lab to activate ERV’s and amplify retroviruses in tissue culture are radiation and steroid hormones, bringing to mind the myriad ways in which our environment is contaminated, contributing to the cluster fuck for the genetically susceptible and overexposed. Let’s wrap up today with this article which I haven’t finished yet, but it looks to be well researched: What Is Coming Through That Needle? The Problem of Pathogenic Vaccine Contamination.

 Today’s song: Burn One Down