Do you have a chronic sore throat infection and/or a constantly congested nose/sinuses that persist for years? And/or do you have anxiety, depression, loss of desires, blunted emotions and/or fatigue symptoms? Did you notice the onset of an unusual crêpe paper-like wrinkling of your skin (only appears in people older than 30)? There is an infectious respiratory and gastrointestinal virus in circulation spreading person-to-person causes these as chronic symptoms which last for years or indefinitely. The main persistent symptoms caused by this virus are as follows (you may not have all of them):
Early Symptoms (first few weeks of infection):
• Chronic sore throat (pharyngitis) which is mild, but never fully clears up (but many don’t get this).
• Constantly congested nose/sinuses/post-nasal drip with unusually thick mucus.
Additional Symptoms (appear after a few months):
• Depression and low mood.
• Generalized anxiety disorder with significant anxiety states.
• Psychological changes and cognition disruptions.
• Loss of desires and sense of pleasure (anhedonia); loss of libido.
• Social withdrawal – escaping social activities more and more.
• Loss of drive and motivation.
• Memory problems both short-term and long-term recall.
• Unusual sleepiness and a tendency to fall asleep more.
• Chronic fatigue – a notable loss of energy.
• Stomach aches and pains with stomach and bowel rumbling, and excessive gas.
• Pins and needles (paresthesias), especially in the legs.
• Receding gums — a sudden onset of periodontitis, with brown plaque appearing on teeth.
Later Symptoms (appear at approximately 12 to 18 months):
• Slight wrinkling of the skin with unusual, fine-textured crêpe paper-like wrinkles.
• Weak legs and hips: legs and pelvic girdle feel slack.
• Weight gain, mainly on the belly (abdominal fat).
• Subtle loss of hearing acuity, making you slower in identifying environmental sounds.
• Progressive sensorineural hearing loss in the elderly.
• Emotional frailty, emotional lability, emotional flatness; irritability.
• Less frequently: tinnitus; blurred vision; occasional transient joint pains (arthralgia).
Other Possible Sequelae:
• Pericarditis, myocarditis and sudden heart attack in the previously healthy.
• Viral meningitis/encephalitis (can appear months after the initial infection).
The viral infection typically begins with a short gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea and vomiting, lasting 1 or 2 days. Or sometimes the infection begins with a sore throat that may take many weeks or months to clear (and in some people it never fully clears, remaining as a chronic mild sore throat). The infection can also start in other ways. Then after the acute infection is over, the symptoms above can appear on the timescales indicated.
Here it is named the “chronic sore throat / mood virus”, but note that only up to ⅓ of people catching this virus will develop the chronic mild sore throat symptom.
I caught this virus in 2003, and after it infected me, it slowly went on to infect many friends and family. Observations indicate this virus has an unusually rapid incubation period: from the moment you first catch this virus (often picked up when kissing an infected person), it takes just 12 hours approximately for the initial sore throat or gastrointestinal symptoms to manifest.
Once caught, this viral infection does not fully resolve, but continues as a persistent ongoing infection, and infected individuals seem to remain contagious for a long time (they can be infecting others even years later). It has been observed that this virus gradually transmits from person-to-person through normal household contact, and once one person in a household contracts this virus, most other household members will catch it from them within a year.
Several years after I caught this virus, it had slowly spread to more than 30 friends and family, and many of the above listed symptoms manifested to varying degrees in these 30+ people. The more severe mental and physical symptoms listed above only appeared in around 10% of the infected people. Whereas 90% of people catching this virus manifest much milder (but permanent) symptoms — these milder symptoms detailed here.
We will see later that this “chronic sore throat virus” may well be an enterovirus of some type, such as a coxsackievirus B (CVB). My blood test results showed high antibody titers to coxsackievirus B4; so possibly the virus I caught may be a nasty strain of CVB4.
Here is my account of how I caught this chronic sore throat virus, and how it gradually began infecting my whole body.
This infection began with a bad sore throat that I caught in the summer of 2003. Being in excellent physical shape at that time, I thought nothing of it. I had no rash on my body, though the back of my throat and the rear arch of my soft palete were red and inflamed (see image), looking a bit like a herpangina sore throat, but without pain, and without the blisters and ulcers that normally accompany herpangina. I paid little attention to it. Several weeks later, however, I noticed that my sore throat had not cleared up, and instead, the infection started spreading. This was strange, because I was pretty healthy at that point, HIV negative, usually fighting off colds and infections quickly. Yet this sore throat would not go away.
Within a month, this virus had spread to my nose, causing a chronic inflammatory feeling in my nose and sinuses (in others who caught the virus, it triggered the production of unusually thick mucus, with this nasal mucus congestion becoming a permanent long-term symptom; a constantly congested and stuffy nose like this can be classified as chronic sinusitis, chronic rhinitis, post-nasal drip, or rhinorrhea).
Next my lungs became infected, leading to a mild chest infection and a dry cough, but this lung infect cleared up quickly. Soon after this, the virus reached my stomach, which started aching a little and producing gas and bubbling sounds, which created some belching. My rumbling, aching stomach became a chronic — but thankfully intermittent — symptom. The virus also spread to my intestines, where it produced odorless intestinal gas (odorless flatulence), bowel rumbling and bowel bloating (which all became long-term of permanent symptoms).
Note that the gradual spread of this virus in the body from organ to organ actually occurs after the acute initial infection has cleared up. So this virus is not like say influenzavirus, which can spread in the body during the acute infection and fever, but once the immune system has fought off the infection and the fever is over, influenzavirus generally no longer causes symptoms or further organ infections. No, the virus I caught continues to infect new organs well after the initial acute infection has finished, and thus it is clear this virus creates a persistent long-term infection.
At the 2 month stage, this viral infection manifested a distinct new phase: intense mental state changes suddenly appeared. These disturbing psychological symptoms started with a feeling of being very tense, anxious and uncomfortable, especially in social company (even with good friends and family). This I later realized was generalized anxiety disorder, caused by the virus. I also found I became weak mentally: my strength of mind seemed to disintegrate, and I became frail and feeble emotionally, as if I’d lost my emotional backbone. Being with other people seemed to further perturb my mind, and so it became quite unpleasant to socialize.
As a result of these psychological changes, I started avoiding social contact more and more, just because I found it a mental strain to be with people. Additionally, just reading or listening to facts and ideas created strong tensions in my mind, as I tried to process the information. I could not handle facts and details, even from a book or television, without mental tension arising. This is more or less psychosis. As a coping strategy, I limited my time with people and information to help reduce this unpleasant mental tension.
Then I quickly became very apathetic. The apathy was towards all sorts of tasks and activities. My normal pro-active ‘can do’ attitude was replaced by a ‘not interested’ feeling — which is totally out of character. I am normally a motivated, enthusiastic and highly organized person. However, as this infection and its psychological effects progressed, I began to lose interest in the usual pleasures of life (a condition called anhedonia), including pleasure from sex, and also lost the desire for sex (low libido). My enthusiasm, drive and motivation just evaporated away.
I also began to experience some short-term memory difficulties, and inability to concentrate which caused problems in my day-to-day activities. There was some intelligence loss, particularly in my verbal, spelling and grammatical skills, and I found it a lot harder to recall words, people’s names and other information from my long-term memory. Thus I found myself becoming less articulate, often mispronouncing words, and forgetting names. Additionally, my physical body movements started getting a little more clumsy; I seemed to become physically less coordinated.
To sum up, psychologically, I became: anxious, depressed, avoiding social contact, unmotivated, emotionally frail, confused, forgetful, clumsy, uncoordinated, with a dulled intellect, decreased verbal intelligence, and an impaired memory.
At this point I noticed that the virus was spreading to friends and family (and then later to their friends and families), but quite slowly. For example, I would infect someone new only every month or two (just by normal household and social contact). That newly-infected person would initially come down with the same herpangina-like sore throat symptom, and/or a gastrointestinal upset (gastroenteritis), and then in most cases, they would progress to similar long-term physical and mental symptoms. In around 90% of those who caught my virus, their mental symptoms were much milder than mine, what you would call subclinical symptoms. Only around 10% of individuals who catch the virus seem get the more severe long-term mental symptoms like anxiety and depression. For most people catching this virus, there seems to be a delay of a month or two before the first psychological and cognitive mental symptoms begin to manifest.
I heard previously normal people who caught this virus reporting that their “mind is not functioning right”. And when this virus hits a whole family, as a result of the mental changes it induces, family members can become a little more emotionally distant from each other, with family relations in general turning to a functional pragmatism. Some people who caught this virus started to avoid social contact a little, becoming less interested in others. I noticed within my own mind that I lost the pleasure that normally arises from seeing friends, and from making new friendships. This loss of the ability to take pleasure in company may be one reason this virus makes socializing less appealing. And for those experiencing mental tension and stress as a result of the generalized anxiety disorder precipitated by the virus, a second reason may be that with this mental tension, you cannot relax in company. This is what I found.
The next symptoms I experienced were more and more fatigue and sleepiness (hypersomnia). I seemed to fall asleep all the time, even when I was not that tired. Perhaps this virus affects an area of the brain that regulates sleep (such as the hypothalamus). As this sleepiness and fatigue progressed, wondered if this virus was beginning to precipitate chronic fatigue syndrome. A large loss of appetite appeared at this point also.
Four months after first catching this virus, a new symptom appeared: a pins and needles or skin crawling sensation, first in my legs, but soon spreading across my entire body. There were constant sharp prickling sensations everywhere, which felt like they were located just beneath my skin. The severity of this prickling sensation varied from one day to the next. These type of sensations are called paresthesias. Also at this stage, I noticed the onset of a very mild loss of sensation and tactile sensitivity in the skin throughout my body.
The next symptom to arise was a severe loss of smell (a condition known as anosmia). During some weeks my sense of smell would return a bit, but then the next week it would more or less disappear again. (It continued in these up-and-down cycles for two years or so. However, after several years, my olfactory capabilities slowly improved, but have still not returned to anywhere near their original form.)
My oral health was then affected: my gums, previously extremely healthy and pink, began receding quite noticeably. Lots of brown plaque was suddenly deposited on my previously perfectly white teeth. No matter how much I brushed it away, the plaque still came back. Along with this increased plaque formation, and in spite of frequent tooth brushing, new dental caries (tooth decay/cavities) suddenly appeared. Previous to this, my oral health was excellent. Therefore, it seems I developed periodontitis (receding gums) from this virus within a matter of months.
This gum disease might be a manifestation of the immune-weakening effect this virus seems to create in the body (several people experienced local opportunistic bacterial infections requiring antibiotics to treat soon after catching this virus), allowing bacteria to thrive and colonize the oral region. In addition, gum tissue can be directly attacked by connective tissue-dissolving enzymes created in viral infections (enzymes such as MMP-9).
Next, I noticed my vision began to deteriorate. So I had my eyes tested; nothing appeared to be wrong with my eyes or my ophthalmic prescription. My vision seemed “smudged”, rather than optically out of focus. For example, looking at black text on a white page or computer screen, the letters are focussed, yet are slightly “smudged” on the white background.
About 12 to 18 months after first catching this virus, more strange symptoms manifested: a fine, crêpe paper-like wrinkling of the skin began appearing all over my body. This fine wrinkled skin tends to first appear on the tops of the hands (see picture). The skin also shows a slight red, blotchy quality beneath its surface (but this is barely noticeable). I am guessing that this wrinkling is the result of collagen or elastin loss or damage under the skin, caused by the viral infection (again, probably due to connective tissue-dissolving enzymes such as MMP-9).
This crêpey wrinkling is certainly not normal skin aging; its appearance is distinct from normal aging, and moreover, it manifests very quickly, within a year or two. However, the strange skin wrinkling caused by this virus is usually only noticeable in people older than 30 or so; younger people don’t seem to get it. And even for people 30 to 60 say, this crêpe paper-like wrinkling is only slight. In those older than around 60, though, this virally-induced skin wrinkling manifests more significantly, and in addition, in the more elderly the skin also becomes loose and sagging. Searching through known dermatological conditions, the closest fit to my skin’s appearance is found in a disease called mid-dermal elastolysis.
More details of this skin wrinkling and skin sagging symptom are to be found on this page of this website.
Another symptom that manifested at this 12 to 18 month stage was weak legs and a weak pelvic girdle. My pelvis-to-leg joints feel a little spongy and lacking in normal firmness. It is possible that the infection is damaging the connective tissue in the ligaments of my pelvis, thus weakening the ligaments, Or possibly this weak legs symptom may be a manifestation of some mild polymyositis. The result is a slightly less than sure walking gait, and a bit of a shuffling gait. This leg weakness and pelvic laxity is constant: it does not vary hour to hour, nor day to day. There is no loss of strength or spasm in the muscles either (except occasional cramps in my calf muscles). Differential diagnosis: in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), weak legs are a common symptom, but a variable one. In GAD the legs are fine one minute, and the next they suddenly get weak and can almost give way, due to nervous system fluctuations. But my case is not like GAD: my leg weakness is constant, never varied. And not that weak.
Beginning at the 18 month stage, weight gain appears in some people, mainly in the belly area. This abdominal fat can appear even in people who were previously athletically lean and muscular. Note that the abdominal fat build-up can be caused by reduced growth hormone output, and/or the development of resistance to the hormones insulin or leptin (leptin resistance often arises in conditions of chronic inflammation).
After 2 or 3 years with this virus, further skin symptoms appear. In a V-shaped area on the upper chest just under the neck (the precise area exposed when wearing a V-neck jumper) the skin becomes a red/pink in color, and the skin texture in this area gets quite thick and oily/waxy (and this was not caused by sun exposure). The color of this upper chest rash is that of a heliotrope rash. Such a V-shaped red rash on the chest can be a sign of dermatomyositis, which is related to polymyositis.
In addition, seborrheic keratosis (seborrheic warts) may appear on the skin: these are benign brown spots looking similar to moles. See this picture I took of one the seborrheic keratosis spots that appeared on my skin. My seborrheic keratosis was diagnosed by a dermatologist.
This virus generally appears to cause slight immune system weakening, and this can result in opportunistic infections arising, for example: fungal skin infections, urinary tract infections, ear infections, tooth infections with toothache, etc (all requiring antibiotics or antimicrobials to clear). The highest immunosuppression seems to occur in the first few years of infection with this virus; but after that, these opportunistic infections abate.
Several sudden heart attacks occurred in my group of 30+ friends and family soon after they were infected with this virus, one of which was fatal. All of these heart attacks happened in people who were previously healthy, with no prior heart conditions. One individual who caught this virus not only had a heart attack, but soon after also developed myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart sac) lasting for many months. I myself experienced an episode of viral meningitis/encephalitis a couple of years after catching this virus, which I think was most likely caused by this virus (given its observed propensity to slowly infect additional organs in the body). Soon after the meningitis/encephalitis, then developed chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis).
We will see below that the virus described on this website is likely an enterovirus of some type, such as coxsackievirus B. Enteroviruses such as coxsackievirus B are very commonly associated with heart attacks (evidence of enterovirus infection is found in 40% of all fatal heart attacks), 1 as well as a known cause of myocarditis 1 and aseptic meningitis (enteroviruses such as coxsackievirus B cause 85% of all viral meningitis cases). 1
Certain individuals who are more severely affected by this virus can experience suicidal thoughts (suicidal ideation). These suicidal thoughts are likely a result of the high levels of anhedonia (complete loss of the capacity for enjoyment and pleasure), as anhedonia is known to trigger suicidal ideation. I experienced quite strong suicidal ideation all day and every day for several years, and even knowing that this suicidal mind state is caused by the virus does not help mitigate its intensity. Although most people do not necessarily act on their suicidal ideations, the unrelenting presence of these thoughts shows just how profoundly this virus can disturb the normal brain function of some of the individuals it infects.
As with many respiratory infections, once one person catches this virus, it will spread to other members of their household. However, this happens slowly with this virus: I observed it typically took a year or so before everyone in the household caught this virus once one member was infected. So clearly the contagiousness of this virus is relatively low. But although this person-to-person spread was quite slow, it seemed inexorable, in that I noted all members of the household would eventually catch it, and will typically display either a chronically-congested nose/sinuses with thick viscous mucus (arises in around two-thirds of people), and/or a chronic sore throat (arises in one-third of people), plus some of the psychological symptoms such as more fatigue, slight loss of short-term memory, slight social withdrawal, and slight loss of motivation. Generally, once an individual catches this virus, they are not quite themselves anymore. However, there is a range of individual responses to this virus: about 10% of people contracting this virus experience disturbing and distressing mental symptoms like anxiety, depression and anhedonia; the rest are more lucky, and their mental symptoms are much milder.
Myself and my friends and family who were infected have had this virus for well over decade now, and judging by the permanence of the symptoms it causes, it is apparent that this viral infection is not cleared from the body and remains as a chronic low-level infection.
Summary of viral characteristics: this virus is a systemic, respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological virus, which remains chronically in the body as a persistent infection, and can cause gastroenteritis, herpangina, chronic sore throat, a constantly congested nose/sinuses, heart attacks, heart inflammation, skin wrinkling, increased fatigue or chronic fatigue syndrome, and seems to have the ability to enter or affect the central nervous system, causing powerful and permanent mental state alterations such as mild memory problems, anhedonia, severe generalized anxiety disorder, and depression. The virus has a very fast incubation period of around about 12 hours. This rapid incubation has been reliably observed in several people when they initially caught this virus.
Summary of symptoms: The following table lists all the symptoms that were observed in myself and others as a result of this viral infection. Generally, I have only listed symptoms when at least two (and preferably more) people infected with this virus have manifested them — this is just to try to avoid the possibility of listing any co-incidental symptoms appearing in the infected people that were not caused by this virus.
– COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS –
Cognitive decline — reduced attention, concentration and consciousness.
– MOOD SYMPTOMS –
Depression and low mood.
– NEUROLOGICAL SYMPTOMS –
Progressive sensorineural hearing loss in elderly people (loss of the ability to hear low frequency sounds, typically in the range 125 Hz to 1000 Hz).
– RESPIRATORY AND ORAL SYMPTOMS –
Herpangina-like sore throat (during prodrome) where there are papules, but no blisters or ulcers.
– GASTROINTESTINAL SYMPTOMS –
Gastroenteritis (can appear for one day during prodrome).
– SKIN SYMPTOMS –
Wrinkling of the skin all over the body, with unusual, fine-textured crêpe paper-like wrinkles.
– HEART AND CIRCULATION SYMPTOMS –
Myocarditis, pericarditis, and sudden heart attack in the previously healthy.
– MUSCLE AND JOINT SYMPTOMS –
Weak legs and hips — the legs and pelvic girdle feel a little weak and slack in my case.
– MISCELLANEOUS SYMPTOMS –
Increased hair loss (alopecia).
This Virus is Likely an Enterovirus
None of the 10 or so medical professionals I saw were able to identify this disease or the pathogen causing it, but one infectious disease expert I communicated with, Dr John Chia, said that, based on its symptoms, the pathogen I caught is very likely an enterovirus of some type, such as a coxsackievirus B. This seems likelym and an examination of how the symptoms of my virus match those of enterovirus is given on this page: Evidence Indicating This Virus is an Enterovirus.
Certainly this infectious pathogen is likely to be a virus (rather than a bacterium, fungus or protozoan), as three separate bacterial throat swab cultures my doctors conducted (one at a university hospital infectious disease center), showed negative results. Furthermore, stronger evidence that my pathogen is viral comes from its unusually rapid incubation period of around 12 hours; few bacteria can incubate this fast, and the bacterial species than can are easily detectable in a bacterial culture. Thus analysis of the incubation period suggests we are almost certainly dealing with a virus.
I was tested for series of different pathogens, and my test results showed I have high antibody levels to coxsackievirus B4, suggesting I have an active ongoing infection with CVB4. So CVB4 could be the identity of the virus described on this website. It may be a more virulent strain of CVB4 that I caught.
And indeed, interestingly enough, a new strain of CVB4 called genotype V was discovered circulating in China in 2014. So one might speculate that perhaps this virus I caught is this newly-emerging CVB4 genotype V.
Coxsackievirus B also fits the persistent infection characteristics of the virus I caught. In the last two decades, it has been discovered that certain enteroviruses such as coxsackievirus B and echovirus are able to form chronic low-level ongoing infections inside human cells. This chronic intracellular form of the virus is known as a non-cytolytic enterovirus infection. Non-cytolytic enterovirus is now known to be the cause of chronic CVB myocarditis (CVB infection of the heart muscle), a illness which some people who caught my virus developed.
Note: there are many causes of chronic sore throat; so your chronic sore throat is unlikely to be caused by this virus, unless you have very similar symptoms. So for anyone with a sore throat for a few days: don’t panic, it is probably not this virus.
Note: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), aka acid reflux, seems to be a bit of a wastebasket diagnosis given when the causes of a chronic sore throat cannot be found. So if your ENT specialist told you that your virally-triggered persistent sore throat is due to acid reflux, you may want to be a little skeptical of that diagnosis.
If you are suffering from the anxiety symptoms this virus causes in some people, the anti-anxiety treatment detailed on the Treatments page of this website has proved effective in treating these symptoms.
If you are experiencing high levels of persistent fatigue and brain fog (trouble concentrating and thinking) after catching this virus, then you may have developed chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) from this virus, a condition which is detailed on the ME/CFS Info page. For the fatigue and brain fog, I found high dose selenium on an empty stomach reasonably effective. Selenium has been shown in studies to help control coxsackievirus B infection.
The diagnoses for the main illness that I developed from this virus are: chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), generalized anxiety disorder, depression, anhedonia and possibly mild polymyositis.
Should you have the same symptoms yourself and wish to share your experience, you can leave a comment.
About: The author studied the physical sciences, and studied neuroscience at postgraduate level.