The Dark Ages of Health
We are living in the Dark Ages of heath, where we are surrounded by thousands of contagious viruses, bacteria and other pathogens in the environment that would like use our bodies as their long-term home. Once these microbes have insinuated themselves into our metabolisms, they frequently remain there for life, where they can slowly (or sometimes rapidly) degrade our physical and mental health. Most of the time this health degradation is subtle and sub-clinical. Even in a “healthy” individual, pathogens living in their body’s tissues will likely subtly reduce that person’s mental and physical faculties, so that they will never reach their complete genetic potential. Other times, the health damage wreaked by these pathogens is overt and severe, precipitating a clinical disease, much suffering, and often an early death.
Pathogenic microbes are extremely common in people: Epstein Barr virus is found in around 95% of adults, 1 HHV-6 virus is found in 80% of children by 2 years old, HHV-7 is found in 98% of adults, 1 Chlamydia pneumoniae in 74% of adults, 1 Coxsackie B virus in 55% of adults, 1 cytomegalovirus in 58% of adults, 1 parvovirus B19 in 61% of adults, 1 herpes simplex I in 54% of adults, and herpes simplex II in 16% of adults. 1 Most of these pathogens, once caught, cannot be eliminated, just controlled by the immune system. Our bodies are considerably overburdened with persistent viruses which often alter our physiology.
Medical research is discovering that more and more physical and mental disorders, from mild to serious, are linked to chronic low-level infections in the body tissues. It may turn out that the majority of non-genetic diseases are caused by infectious microbes.
It is often not just the microbe itself that damages the body, but also the indirect effects of the microbial infection — indirect effects such as the biochemical changes elicited by the chronic inflammatory immune response against the microbe, the immune system malfunction caused by microbes deliberately disrupting our immune response (immune evasion, as this is called), and the autoimmune inflammation that is often triggered by microbes. Autoimmune inflammation (which is where the immune system mistakenly attacks our own body) can damage and destroy various cells and structures within the body, leading to disease.
We are beginning to appreciate that the human body does not lapse into disease on its own, but rather, the body only tends develop disease when compromised by pathogenic microbes (and of course environmental toxins).
In a certain sense, this is very good news: it means that our bodies are far more robust than we have hitherto assumed.
It is also good news because if, in future, we manage to purge all these disease-causing microbes from our bodies, we should be able to eliminate the vast majority of common human diseases, such as clinical depression, anxiety disorder, nervous breakdowns, burnout at work, personality problems, anorexia, autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, bipolar, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, obesity, etc.
At some point in the future, we will look back at all these diseases, and they will seem like ancient history, like grim tales from those bad old days when we were unable to rid our bodies of disease-causing microbes.
Of course, right now, we are living in these grim times; but at least we are beginning to see the light.
This page examines these grim, but opportunity-laden, circumstances, and calls upon human ingenuity and genius to address and rectify this dire state of human health.
How Microbial Pathogens Can Cause Depression
Persistent microbial pathogens are probably major causal factors in many of cases of depression.
One mechanism that may explain how viruses cause depression is the interferon alpha pathway: chronic viral infection can lead to raised interferon-alpha levels, as interferon alpha is secreted by cells of the immune system as it tries to control the infection, and it is known that elevated interferon alpha can cause significant depression. 1
Viruses and Bad Memory
Once you have a virally-linked disease like chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), you find your working memory and long-term recall is often severely disrupted. This memory disruption is likely underpinned by the effects of potent viruses such as coxsackievirus B which are linked to ME/CFS. But even seemingly benign viruses like the rhinovirus (a common cold virus), which are quickly cleared from the body, can damage the brain while they are active. 1
We are generally accustomed to the idea that memory declines with age. This decline is seen as natural part of aging. But I suggest this memory deficit is more likely caused by the numerous chronic and transitory pathogenic microbes that infect and damage our body over the course of our lives. Microbes may be the primary source of erosion of an individual’s cognitive faculties.
Viruses, Grumpiness and Unhappiness
I cannot look at anyone who is sad, tired, miserable or grumpy in their general disposition (which is what I have become from this virus), without the astounding realization that their mental state may also be due to one or more pathogenic microbes they have in their body, that they perhaps picked up years ago. I would wager that most of the miserable dispositions that human beings bear is due to pernicious microbes we have in our bodies.
Microbial Pathogens and Intelligence
Are the most intelligent, the most emotionally skillful, and mentally well-balanced people those with fewer persistent neurological microbes in their system? This hypothesis could be easily tested. In addition we could see if persistent neurological viruses, bacteria and protozoa were associated with any other undesirable personality traits, such as criminality, anti-social behavior, even extreme shyness, anger and rage problems, and other such anomalies of personality. It may well turn out that many of these mental characteristics have a microbial links.
Are Liberal Sexual Values Contributing to the Spread of Respiratory Viruses?
Chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety disorders, and other neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis are all strongly linked to respiratory pathogens (pathogens that are passed person-to-person by respiratory secretions). Respiratory secretions such as saliva are often exchanged during kissing. Contemporary sexual and amorous behavior in metropolitan contexts often involves encounters and relationships with many different people; since such encounters usually involve kissing, this may be an important channel in the spread respiratory pathogens around the population. And as a result of our sexual and amorous behavior in early life, we may suffer chronic microbially-caused diseases later in life.
Other factors increasing the spread of pathogens are: the massive urbanization taking place around the globe, which brings people into close contact in more and more crowded cities; and the ubiquity of cheap air travel, which allows microbes to easily spread around the world.
More Rapid Aging due to Pathogenic Microbes
Scientists that study aging have cataloged a number of mechanisms through which aging occurs. These mechanisms include: free radicals, glycation, DNA damage, mitochondrial damage, hormonal decline, inflammation, telomere shortening, and so forth. However, very little attention has been given to the accumulation of pathogenic microbes in the body as a mechanism of aging. Microbe-caused aging, I would propose, may be a significant cause of aging, and I suspect that the disruptive action of pathogenic microbes in the body underlies or accelerates many of the aging mechanisms listed above. If our bodies could be cleared of all these pathogenic microbes, I suggest that would reduce the rate of aging, as well dramatically reduce the incidence of chronic diseases.
Burnout Syndrome and Nervous Breakdown
Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest.
In the future, I think it will be discovered that burnout is a variation of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). ME/CFS is linked to viruses such as coxsackievirus B and parvovirus B19. ME/CFS can suddenly appear after a person catches one of these viruses. Burnout is the same: it can suddenly manifest for no apparent reason; but the real cause may be due to contracting a microbial infection that affects the central nervous system, either directly or indirectly.
Nervous breakdowns (which are sudden manifestations of anxiety and/or depression symptoms) are another similar phenomenon that may well be caused by microbial infection. Since many infections can be asymptomatic at the time of contraction, an individual may have no clue at all that he has picked up a new microbial infection, and be unable to explain why all of a sudden he gets terrible anxiety and depression symptoms, when he was perfectly fine just months before. Tragically for the human species, the connection between infection and mental symptoms is usually missed, so that few people even consider it, which in turns means that far too little scientific research is conducted in this area.
Microbial Causes of the Obesity Epidemic
Adenovirus 36 has been linked to obesity: this virus is found in 30% of obese people, but only in 11% of non-obese people. Adenovirus 36 causes obesity by infecting the fat cells (adipocytes) of the body, and once inside these fat cells, one of the genes of this virus (a gene called E4orf1) kicks into action and turns on both the cell’s fat-producing enzymes, and also instigates the creation of new fat cells.
This is an example of how a virus will insert to own genetic instructions in to the human body, and these viral instructions then go on to alter the way the body’s systems work.
Again, with adenovirus being a respiratory virus (that is easily passed person-to-person by kissing, or just by living/working in the same household/office), you can question whether it is such factors as liberal sexual values, air travel and overcrowded cities that may be contributing to the wider spread of this obesity adenovirus across the populace.
It is quite possible that other viruses and bacteria are contributing to the obesity epidemic also. In particular, any virus that can damage or alter the workings of the hypothalamus (that area of the brain that regulates hormones, emotions, and the sensation of hunger) may also be able to cause obesity (or weight loss), since such a virus may increase/decrease hunger levels. And any microbe that can infect or alter the function of the pituitary gland may conceivably reduce human growth hormone output from this gland, which can then result in increased fat deposition on the stomach area (abdominal obesity).
Cardiovascular Disease and Gum Disease: One Does Not Cause the Other
Research has shown that gum disease is statistically associated with cardiovascular disease. In order to explain this association, some have hypothesized that gum disease may cause cardiovascular disease because bacteria from the gums migrate to the heart and therein cause cardiovascular damage. However, having observed how the virus described on this website very rapidly precipitated both periodontal and cardiovascular problems (specifically: heart attacks, myocarditis and pericarditis) in several people, I would suggest a more viable hypothesis: namely that a chronic viral infection such as this causes periodontal and heart disease simultaneously. That is to say: I suggest that gum disease does not directly cause cardiovascular disease; rather a chronic viral infection is the singular etiological underpinning of both, and this explains why gum disease is statistically associated with cardiovascular disease.
The Hygiene Hypothesis, or the Microbial Overload Hypothesis?
The hygiene hypothesis states that the lack of exposure to germs in modern sterile environments is causing a rise in many allergic and auto-immune disease conditions (the hygiene hypothesis vaguely rests on the idea that our immune systems are not getting properly “trained” or “calibrated” in modern environments that are assumed to be more sterile).
I want to refute this argument in favor of the reverse perspective: the microbial overload hypothesis.
Recent research is indicating that diseases like type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and many others, may be caused by persistent, low-level microbial infections.
Many microbes are passed from human to human just by normal social contact. We pick up microbes from our early days at school, and we may harbor them in our body tissues for decades sometimes, before they manifest as a disease.
Many microbes will infect us unknowingly, as often we contract them without showing symptoms. Once in the body, many microbes stay there for our entire life, and nearly every microbe in our body employs immune evasion strategies, which to say, these microbes actively attack, disrupt and misdirect our immune system, in order to survive. In simple terms, immune evasion is the throwing of a spanner in the works of the immune system in order to avoid being destroyed by the immune system. As we accumulate more pathogenic microbes in our bodies over the course of our lives, the sum total of all the various different microbial immune evasion attacks begins to take its toll, each attack on the immune system causing serious problems. Thus it is not surprising that our immune systems buckle under this strain, start to malfunction, leaving us more likely to succumb to allergies and auto-immune conditions (as well as leaving us more vulnerable to contracting new additional infections, which then further strain the immune system).
Unfortunately, the massive increases in urbanization over recent decades results in humans living in ever more crowded conditions, and modern social and working activities often expose us to more and more people, and, therefore, to potentially more contagious pathogenic microbes.
In addition, modern global travel enables new microbes to circumnavigate the globe very quickly, and thus to infect more people. It is the more acute infections like SARS, bird flu and swine flu that make the news, and for which control measures are devised. But for every overt new virus like SARS, there are almost certainly dozens of hidden new microbes than quietly go into circulation. These hidden microbes will not always cause an acute fever and immediately perceivable symptoms, they often have very mild initial symptoms, and thus enter unnoticeably into the body, where they may slowly smolder away in our tissues, and cause a chronic disease many years later.
Thus rather than saying we are living in more hygienic environments, in fact the reverse is true: we are probably more exposed to disease-causing pathogens than ever before in history. This is more likely the reason why we are seeing a rise in so many chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases. And we can expect this trend to continue as our social milieu continues to become more compressed and overcrowded due to continued urbanization.
Thus the microbial overload hypothesis suggests that there will be further increases in many diseases.
Of course, the hygiene hypothesis which I generally refute does make sense in the sphere of commensal gut bacteria and gut helminth loss: these commensal organisms — humanity’s “old friends” — exert a strong anti-inflammatory effect (as they secrete anti-inflammatory substances in the gut to tone down our immune response towards them). The absence of these commensal organisms in modernity may be part of the causal equation of rising autoimmune disease prevalence; however, I suspect an increasing tide of infectious pathogenic microbes plays a far more more fundamental etiological role in the increasing autoimmune disease prevalence, as well as in many other types of diseases, from cancer to schizophrenia.
The Biochemistry of Anxiety Disorder
Looking at neuroscientific research on anxiety disorders, it is apparent that not much is known about this extremely unpleasant condition, though advances are now starting to be made.
A major problem with uncovering the etiology of any mental symptoms such as anxiety disorder is that psychiatrists still dominate this field, and the psychiatric discipline unfortunately often favors psychosocial explanations for mental symptoms – explanations which do not help at all when the cause of the anxiety condition is biochemical.
I would like to offer a plausible biochemical mechanism for anxiety disorder: I suggest anxiety states may arise from overstimulation of neuronal NMDA receptors in areas of the brain which mediate anxiety and fear responses (areas such as the amygdala, hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex and locus coeruleus). I suggest that this NMDA receptor overstimulation arises from excessive levels of extracellular glutamate, with these excess levels of glutamate resulting from either chronic microglial activation, and/or reduced astrocyte clearance of glutamate.
Microglial cells form a large part of the brain’s immune system, and when these microglia are activated as part of the inflammatory response of the brain, they output considerable amounts of glutamate. 1 So when there is brain inflammation, NMDA receptor overstimulation is likely, and this I suggest may precipitate anxiety states, for reasons to be explained shortly.
Brain inflammation may be triggered by an infection within the brain. In addition, even if there is no infection in the brain itself, it is now known that certain inflammatory cytokines from infections in the peripheries of the body will switch on an inflammatory response in the brain, and hence can cause microglial activation. 1 These inflammatory cytokines may also impede the clearance of glutamate performed by astrocyte cells, again leading to raised levels of extracellular glutamate in the brain. 1
Thus a viral, bacterial, fungal or protozoal infection in the brain and/or in the peripheries of the body (gut, kidneys, sinuses, etc) can lead to chronic microglial activation and reduced astrocytic glutamate clearance in the brain, which through NMDA receptor overstimulation I suggest may precipitate anxiety states, and probably other mental or cognitive symptoms as well.
The reason I think NMDA receptor overstimulation precipitates anxiety is because NMDA receptor activation excites neurons, and when a neuron is in an excited state, it only takes a small stimulus for that neuron to fire. Thus too much NMDA receptor activation will lead to neurons that are oversensitive to firing. This oversensitivity will I think cause the normal anxiety and fear responses of the brain to be triggered for no good reason, and this leads to chronic anxiety symptoms and abnormal anxiety states such as generalized anxiety disorder.
General Mechanisms by Which Microbes Cause Disease
Chronic microbial infections can precipitate chronic diseases by a number of general mechanisms, including:
• Microbes may infect and destroy important cells in the body, leading to disease.
• Intracellular microbes (ie, microbes that permanently live inside human cells) may disrupt and corrupt internal cellular function.
• Certain viruses (like EBV, and possibly HHV-6) in a state of latency inside our cells can become partially active within the cell, and then disrupt cellular function.
• Infectious microbes may precipitate autoimmunity, which is a condition where the immune system erroneously attacks the body rather than the microbe, and this self-attack can often do more damage to the body than the infectious microbes do. For example, frequently in autoimmune states, the body makes autoantibodies that attack and disable the nervous system.
• Bacteria in the body can themselves synthesize a number of toxins (endotoxins, exotoxins and enterotoxins) which can damage and disrupt physiology.
• Nearly all infectious microbes employ immune evasion tactics. Immune evasion is a series of techniques that microbes use to “throw a spanner into the works” of the immune system, to disrupt its function, so as to prevent the immune system from attacking the microbe. These immune evasion tactics can cause immune system malfunction, which can then lead to disease.
Medical research is unearthing increasing evidence that pathogenic viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites may be the cause of a huge array of serious chronic diseases, as well as being responsible for myriad milder health conditions. So really, given the deterioration in human heath that pathogenic microbes likely cause, it is imperative that we find much better means to control or eradicate pathogenic microbes in our bodies.
A substantial investment into a coordinated project is required, to fully understand, control and eliminate the pathogenic microbes in our bodies.
Once we do eliminate pathogenic microbes from our bodies, there will very likely be an astonishing revolution in the human health-span, longevity, sanity, intellectual elevation, morality and happiness for the generations to come.
This should be a primary goal for the 21st century. It is a tough challenge; but human genius relishes in tough challenges.
In recent years, this imperative has also taken on a new urgency, as several factors are currently creating an unprecedented increase in infectious diseases worldwide. These factors include: globalization and cheap air travel, which allows millions to travel and thus carry new pathogens around the globe; mass urbanization, which brings people to live in crowed cities in close contact with each other; human incursion into untouched natural environments and habitats (for example, during the cutting down of rain forests) which brings humans into contact with previously unknown tropical viruses, parasites and other microbes.
More information on the general concept of infectious pathogens destroying the health of mind and body can be found in the works and ideas of Paul W. Ewald, who posits that many common chronic diseases of currently unknown etiology may in fact be caused by smouldering infections.
In his book, Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease, Paul Ewald says:
“Like many great ideas in biology, the idea implicating infectious causation in chronic diseases, though simple, has far-reaching implications. It is so simple and so significant, that one would think it would have been recognized by many and would be the starting point for any discussion on the causes of disease. Not yet.”
Further reading on the connections between infectious pathogens and chronic disease:
The Big Idea That Might Beat Cancer and Cut Health-Care Costs by 80 Percent
The Infection Connection
Can you Catch a Heart Attack?
Can Infections Result in Mental Illness?
A New Germ Theory
List of Human Diseases Associated With Infectious Pathogens