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CFIDS UPDATE: Human Herpesvirus 6 Variant A (HHV-6A) – How it May Relate to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFIDS)

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By Source: Alan M. Cochetto • • December 1, 1998

Editor's note: Alan M. Cochetto is an associate professor of engineering technologies at the State University of New York at Alfred. Since becoming acutely ill with CFIDS in 1990, he has been researching possible causes of the illness. Though active in the CFIDS community, he is currently disabled and resides in upstate New York.)

In the past few years, medical researchers have begun studying the role of the virus now designated as HHV-6A in AIDS and chronic fatigue patients.

Most physicians are knowledgeable about the virus traditionally known as HHV-6. Human herpes virus 6 causes the childhood disease roseola infantum, also known as exanthem subitum. This disease is characterized by high fevers and skin rashes.

In 1986, Dr. Robert Gallo and his research team at the National Cancer Institute discovered a virus that was named HBLV- the Human B-cell Lymphotropic Virus. The virus was isolated from the peripheral blood leukocytes from patient samples.

In 1991, the National Institutes of Health broke HHV-6 into two viral classifications. Their findings provided evidence for the existence of two distinct classes of viruses previously classified as HHV-6. The first, known as HHV-6A, is the former HBLV, while the second, HHV-6B is the former HHV-6, roseola infantum. As you can imagine, this has caused much confusion among physicians who are not familiar with these new classifications. HHV-6A is associated with the U1102 and GS virus strains and HHV-6B with the Z29 strain. It's worth noting that knowing these different strains can help the reader discern whether variant A or B is being discussed in medical journal articles.

I became interested in HHV-6A several years ago when I read a series of medical journal articles which examined the potential connection between HHV-6 and CFIDS, as well as one between HHV-6 and nervous system diseases. These compelled me to keep reading research on HHV-6A. It wasn't until I came across an article implicating the importance of HHV-6A in AIDS that I really stood up and took note. Could HHV-6A may be a major piece of the CFIDS puzzle? And what of its relationship to AIDS? The apparent power and prevalence of HHV-6A in concerned me enough to seek a blood test for this virus.

"HHV-6A is known to be a cytopathic pathogen with a powerful ability to infect and kill cells...I encourage thos with CFIDS to be tested for HHV-6A."

With assistance from my primary care physician, Dr. Edward Jordan, I got tested in November of 1996. My hunches proved correct: I tested positive for HHV-6A. As it happened , I was the first person tested by this new serology method. The test, which will be commercially available by the time this goes to print, is being offered by Herpesvirus Diagnostics Inc., of Greenfield, Wisconsin. This laboratory is operated by Dr. Konstance Knox and Dr. Donald Carrigan, pathologists formerly associated with the Medical College of Wisconsin who have published frequently in peer-reviewed medical journals. Interested patients may have their physicians contact Herpesvirus Diagnostics Inc. at (414) 529-3780 for more information about HHV-6A serology testing.

Furthermore, Drs. Knox and Carrigan are currently involved in scientific study of HHV-6A in patients with CFIDS. They are conducting their research with Dr. Daniel Peterson and Dr. Anthony Komaroff. This is the first study of its kind in the U.S. and should provide insight into the prevalence of this virus in the CFIDS population.

Technically, HHV-6A is a lymphotropic virus that is genetically related to human cytomegalovirus. In a recent conversation I had with Dr. Phillip Pellett, herpesvirus section chief at the CDC, he stated that "HHV-6A is associated, at this point, with bone marrow problems and AIDS."

It is my belief that those diagnosed with CFIDS, but have HHV-6A, are in fact fighting a serious persistent viral infection. I have been tested several times now for HHV-6A and even after antiviral therapy, I continue to be positive for the virus. This indicates a persistent infection-- one that my body cannot clear. HHV-6A is known to be a cytopathic pathogen with a powerful ability to infect and kill cells. According to Dr. Robert Gallo and Dr. Paulo Lusso, HHV-6A is emerging as a virus that can directly infect or interfere with the function of several elements of the immune system including CD4 and CD8 T-cells, NK-cells, some B-cells, and mononuclear phagocytes.

As to current diagnostic treatments, physicians, have used ganciclovir and foscarnet. Since these require invasive procedures, physicians have also turned to oral drugs such as acyclovir and valacyclovir. However, these are only effective against certain strains of the virus. I must also mention that Dr. Dharam Ablashi reports that HHV-6A strain GS is the type most commonly detected in patients with CFIDS, AIDS, and other immunocompromised conditions. He states that ampligen is one drug that assists in inhibiting this virus. Since it is known that ampligen is an alpha interferon inducer, perhaps this, coupled with the body's own production of alpha interferon, provides one mechanism to reduce the HHV-6A viral load.

Through the full spectrum of diseases linked to this agent is still unknown, some interesting medical journal articles relating to HHV-6 are emerging. These discuss infections, immune dysfunction, encephalopathies, and cardiomyopathies—perhaps providing us with an indication as to the true nature and extent of this most serious problem. I highly encourage those with CFIDS who are concerned about HHV-6A to go ahead and be tested for this virus.

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