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Mold Sickness, Chronic Fatigue, and Reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV): Making the Connection

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on October 12, 2023

Mold exposure and its associated health effects have gained significant attention in recent years. While mold exposure can manifest in a range of symptoms, a noteworthy connection has emerged between mold sickness, chronic fatigue, and the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Let's dive into the evidence and understand this link.

Mold Sickness/ Illness: An Overview

Mold sickness, more formally known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), is a condition caused by exposure to water-damaged buildings with the presence of mold and bacteria. It triggers a series of inflammatory responses in susceptible individuals. (1) Symptoms can vary but often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory issues
  • Headaches
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Joint pain

Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV): The Basics

EBV is a member of the herpes virus family and one of the most common viruses worldwide. In many cases, EBV causes infectious mononucleosis (or "mono"). After the primary infection subsides, EBV remains dormant in the body and can reactivate under certain conditions. (2)

The Mold-EBV-Chronic Fatigue Connection

Recent studies have suggested a potential link between mold exposure, the reactivation of EBV, and the onset of chronic fatigue:

Mold and Immune Suppression: Mold exposure can suppress the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and potentially leading to the reactivation of dormant viruses, such as EBV.

EBV Reactivation: A reactivated EBV can trigger a range of symptoms, with fatigue being one of the most predominant. It's believed that the inflammatory response to mold toxins (mycotoxins) can facilitate the reactivation of EBV in some individuals.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): While the exact causes of CFS are still being explored, there's increasing evidence to suggest that infections, including EBV reactivation, might play a role. Some individuals diagnosed with CFS following mold exposure have also tested positive for reactivated EBV. (3, 4, 5)

Implications and Recommendations

For those experiencing chronic fatigue after mold exposure, it's essential to consider the possibility of EBV reactivation:

Medical Evaluation: Seek a comprehensive evaluation from a healthcare professional experienced in mold illness and chronic viral infections.

Environmental Interventions: Address and rectify any ongoing mold exposure, whether through remediation or relocation.

Supportive Therapies: Antiviral medications, supplements, and lifestyle interventions may help manage the symptoms of EBV reactivation.

Testing at Portland Clinic of Natural Health

At the Portland Clinic of Natural Health, the recognition of the potential links between mold, EBV, and chronic fatigue has led to a proactive approach in patient care. One of the steps frequently taken is running an EBV panel. This comprehensive test evaluates both past and current EBV infections, helping practitioners understand if the virus might be playing a role in a patient's symptoms. Armed with this information, the clinic can tailor treatment strategies more effectively, targeting not only the symptoms but also the underlying causes.

Mold Exposure vs. Mold Colonization & Infection

While mold exposure is a concern in itself, it's imperative to understand the distinction between mere exposure and mold colonization or infection. Exposure refers to coming into contact with mold spores, often in damp or water-damaged environments.

On the other hand, mold colonization and infection indicate that mold has not only been encountered but has started to grow and thrive inside the body. This growth can occur in various parts of the body, such as the gut, the upper respiratory tract, or even the lungs. When mold colonizes or infects these areas, it can lead to more severe health complications, necessitating a more aggressive and targeted treatment approach. Recognizing this difference is vital for appropriate medical intervention and recovery.

The Interplay Between Mold Sickness, EBV, and Chronic Fatigue

The complex interplay between mold sickness, EBV, and chronic fatigue sheds light on the intricate ways our environment can impact health. Recognizing these connections is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Always work closely with healthcare professionals when addressing potential mold exposure and its associated health challenges.

Resources:

  1. Hamilton D. Understanding Mycotoxin-induced Illness: Part 1. Altern Ther Health Med. 2022 Jul;28(5):8-11. PMID: 36069791.
  2. Damania B, Kenney SC, Raab-Traub N. Epstein-Barr virus: Biology and clinical disease. Cell. 2022 Sep 29;185(20):3652-3670. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.08.026. Epub 2022 Sep 15. PMID: 36113467; PMCID: PMC9529843.
  3. Sapra A, Bhandari P. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 2023 Jun 21. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 32491608.
  4. Accardi R, Gruffat H, Sirand C, Fusil F, Gheit T, Hernandez-Vargas H, Le Calvez-Kelm F, Traverse-Glehen A, Cosset FL, Manet E, Wild CP, Tommasino M. The mycotoxin aflatoxin B1 stimulates Epstein-Barr virus-induced B-cell transformation in in vitro and in vivo experimental models. Carcinogenesis. 2015 Nov;36(11):1440-51. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgv142. Epub 2015 Sep 30. PMID: 26424750.
  5. Ariza ME. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Human Herpesviruses Are Back! Biomolecules. 2021 Jan 29;11(2):185. doi: 10.3390/biom11020185. PMID: 33572802; PMCID: PMC7912523.

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