When my daughter's test results showed she was positive for the XMRV (xenotropic murine leukemia virus related virus) retrovirus my next step was to find a doctor who could tell me how to treat it. Since the only other two human retroviruses currently identified are HTLV, found mostly in Asian countries and responsible for causing T-cell leukemia, and HIV, which causes AIDS, I figured I had to find an AIDS doctor.
I called the University of California, San Francisco Pediatric AIDS unit and talked to their media representative. I figured in our first conversation I'd avoid flying my freak flag and simply tell him my daughter had been diagnosed with this newly identified retrovirus and that she had autism and seizures and I was concerned that the retrovirus might be at least partially responsible for her problems.
"Well, that explains why a vaccination might cause autism," he said, barely missing a breath. He went onto tell me this question was something he often discussed with his friends. The idea of an underlying retrovirus was the first time it made sense as to how a vaccination might cause autism.
He explained that if XMRV was similar to HIV then it probably hid out in the cells of the immune system and any stimulation of the immune system was likely to cause XMRV to replicate out of control. (This had previously been discussed by some of the researchers working on XMRV, but I was still surprised to hear the media representative go right to that point.) Apparently it is common knowledge among retrovirologists that immunizations can stimulate a retrovirus. Even the most pro-vaccine physician will admit that vaccinations work by stimulating the immune system.
The media representative was very kind and said he'd try to find a doctor to talk to me. Predictably, none of them wanted to talk to me, and I can't say I'm unsatisfied with that result. The currently existing HIV medications don't hold much appeal to me as I worry about some of their side-effects, particularly on the mitochondria.
I've avoided writing this story for the better part of the year since I couldn't find any confirmation of what the media representative had told me. And it was a BIG thing to say without confirmation.
I was reading a chronic fatigue/ME forum the other day and came across my long-sought confirmation. It's actually on the University of California, San Francisco website for HIV and you can read it HERE.
The article is entitled "Immunizations and HIV" and it had some interesting observations. In the section on the "Effect of Vaccines on HIV Disease Progression" was the following paragraph.
"Activation of the cellular immune system is important in the pathogenesis of HIV disease, and that fact has given rise to concerns that activation of the immune system through vaccinations might accelerate the progression of HIV disease. Activation of CD4 lymphocytes, which takes place when these cells respond to an antigenic stimulus, makes those cells more susceptible to HIV infection. Activated CD4 cells, once they become infected, support replication of HIV. Resting CD4 cells, although less susceptible, also are vulnerable to HIV infection. Replication of HIV in these cells is restricted, however, until immunologic activation occurs, at which time active HIV replication is initiated. These observations suggest that activation of the immune system through vaccinations could accelerate the progression of HIV disease through enhanced HIV replication."
Translation for the average person - HIV really kicks into high gear when the immune system is stimulated. And what are we doing with our current vaccination schedule except stimulating the immune system, even on the first day of life with the hepatitis B shot? And when you add to this equation the findings that about 3-7% of the healthy population carries this retrovirus the size of this potential problem becomes much more clear.
I can't think of a better example of how vaccines, their heavy metals (because of the havoc they play with the immune system's ability to deal with pathogens) and particularly mercury, might exacerbate a previously existing pathogen, and make the course of a disease much worse, than the section which opens up The Age of Autism by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill. They begin by discussing syphilis, which is caused by a bacterium of the Treponema pallidium species of the spirochete order. While the disease initially caused death in a few months to the Europeans who contracted it after it was apparently brought back from the New World, it then evolved into a less pathogenic, but more chronic disease.
A cruelly-debilitating condition which became known as "neuro-syphilis" or "general paralysis of the insane" started to be reported in the early 1800s. The authors indeed refer to it as akin to "AIDS before retroviral therapy." Mercury had long been known to treat skin disorders, and since one of the maladies of syphilis were terrible lesions, doctors in Europe began treating syphilis with mercury. Olmsted and Blaxill link the rise of neuro-syphilis to this use of mercury, also pointing out the near absence of the condition in communities which did not use mercurial treatments.
The use of penicillin, starting in the late 1940s and early 1950s effectively short-circuited further inquiry into the question of what role mercury might have played in the development of neuro-syphilis. Penicillin went after the spirochette bacterium, and that was all anybody seemed to care about.
I make this digression because I don't want it to be misunderstood that since I'm talking about a retrovirus I think that some of the other vaccine components don't play a role. I do think they make the condition worse. Mercury, aluminum salts, and many other components have not been fully tested for safety, and as a parent, that is appalling to me. Much has been written on these subjects, though, and my intention in this article is to open up new areas of inquiry.
Further on in the UCSF informational article on immunizations and HIV is the following observation, "In general, it is prefeable to avoid live-virus vaccines if an alternative inactivated vaccine is available . . . There are several reports of severe illness or death involving HIV-infected individuals after live-virus vaccination."
In the discussion of the measles, mumps, and rubella shots the UCSF article makes the following statements, "Live vaccines are used for MMR and thus may pose risks in immunocompromised patients . . . As with other vaccines, serologic response may be poor in HIV infection, and children with severe HIV-related immunosuppression should be considered susceptible to measles even if they have received measles vaccine . . . There have been case reports of fatal pneumonitis after measles vaccination in severely immunocompromised adults, and response to vaccine appears to be poor."
Translation - Live virus vaccines such as MMR seem to cause trouble if you're already infected with a retrovirus. I've written previously that my daughter, my wife, and my mother-in-law have all tested positive for XMRV while I have tested negative. And if you do have a retrovirus, and get a vaccination, and don't have any problems, you may still get illnesses like the measles because your immune system isn't responding properly. Could this be behind some of the increase in measles infections, even among those children who have been vaccinated?
I've written before that XMRV may be linked to autism as it has been shown to integrate preferentially at the start site of genes and in CpG islands. This could explain a number of the methylation pattern changes seen in autism. Retroviruses can also affect mitochondrial function through the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Autism shares many common clinical features with other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome/ME , including immune disregulation, increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, and chronic active microbial infections.
I've also written before how in a small study 14 out of 17 (82%) of children with autism were found to test positive for the XMRV retrovirus. A poster presentation of this research was made approximately a year ago at the 1st International Workshop on XMRV held at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland on September 7 and 8, 2010.
The issue of XMRV raises many questions, not the least of which is how to treat it. If HIV is any guide to treatment, then it seems any attempt to increase the function of the immune system may result in further viral replication. It seems to me the virus itself would first need to be attacked, although I can't see anything on the market at the current time that is both effective, and relatively safe.
It does have the potential to answer some of our most vexing questions, though. Namely, what about those children who acquired autism, but were only partially or never vaccinated. Could that also explain why those cases tend to be relatively mild? The mercury and other heavy metals in the vaccine may not have had the chance to make the infection worse.
Many questions remain about XMRV, but they are important questions for our country, and should be the subject of serious research. We need virologists and retrovirologists in the medical community to use their knowledge and moral courage to help us put together the pieces of this puzzle. If we work together I believe the answers to our questions may be closer than we realize.
For further information on how a vaccination could activate a retrovirus you might want to consult these articles which were kindly provided to me by a member of the chronic fatigue syndrome/ME community.
T cell activation and human immunodeficiency virus replication after influenza immunization of infected children - Ramilo et al The Pediatric infectious disease journal 1996, vol. 15, no3, pp. 197-203 (25 ref.) Clin Biochem
Activation of virus replication after vaccination of HIV-1-infected individuals - Staprans SI et al J Exp Med. 1995 Dec 1;182(6):1727-37.
Transient increases in numbers of infectious cells in an HIV-infected chimpanzee following immune stimulation - Fultz PN et al AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1992 Feb;8(2):313-7.
Human immunodeficiency virus-type 1 replication can be increased in peripheral blood of seropositive patients after influenza vaccination. O'Brien WA et al Blood. 1995 Aug 1;86(3):1082-9.
Measles/MMR vaccine for infants born to HIV-positive mothers [Intervention Protocol], B Unnikrishnan et al, The Cochrane Library 2009, Issue 1
Effect of immunization with a common recall antigen on viral expression in patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 - Stanley SK et al N Engl J Med. 1996 May 9;334(19):1222-30.
The efficiency of acute infection of CD4+ T cells is markedly enhanced in the setting of antigen-specific immune activation - Weissman D et al J Exp Med. 1996 Feb 1;183(2):687-92.
Antigenic stimulation by BCG vaccine as an in vivo driving force for SIV replication and dissemination - Cheynier Really et al. Nat Med. 1998 Apr;4(4):421-7.
Activation by malaria antigens renders mononuclear cells susceptible to HIV infection and re-activates replication of endogenous HIV in cells from HIV-infected adults - Froebel K et al Parasite Immunol. 2004 May;26(5):213-7.
Kent Heckenlively is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism