In light of the most recent microbial scare, the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa which threatens to spread to the United States, I thought that perhaps it would be interesting to research and review some potential connections to the microbiome. What do our gut bacteria have to do with Ebola? Read on to find out!
The first issue to consider is susceptibility. Are some people resistant? This is not readily available knowledge, as there is no way to conduct ethical research with a virus boasting a 90% mortality. However, it has been researched with animals-and some animals are resistant when others are susceptible. The difference between the two appears to be reduced levels of circulating B and T cells, a part of the immune system that builds antibody responses to pathogens. (Chepurnov)
A second issue is the difference in mortality between survivors and those who perished from the disease. What has been found (in humans this time) is that those who succumbed had depressed levels of CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes and greatly elevated inflammation levels. The inflammation was termed a “cytokine storm” due to the activation of the cytokine system that causes the inflammatory cascade. (Wauquier)
Is there a connection between the immune system function and the microbiome? Yes, there is such a connection, and it is well documented in The Symbiont Factor. Deficiency of gut bacteria causes depression in the immune components involved, resulting in depressed levels described above as causing increased vulnerability to the Ebola virus (Huang, Chung). Adding probiotics helps to stimulate the development of the CD4+ and CD8+ immune components important for resistance (Qadis, Palomar). Antibiotics that disrupt gut bacteria and cause dysbiosis can result in greatly elevated inflammatory response (Bercik).
How did the Ebola (and HIV) viruses begin to affect humans, instead of remaining diseases of animals? One current theory that is gaining momentum has to do with our micro-microbiome. Most of the microbiome discussed in The Symbiont Factor is bacterial, but humans can also have viral microbiomes. Some viruses exist within us and serve useful purposes! One such virus is a “primate T-cell retrovirus” that occurs only in areas that have had high levels of malaria for many generations. This virus elevates levels of T-cells that combat malaria, providing greater resistance to malaria. The use of anti-malarial drugs has caused development of drug resistance in this virus, also providing a pathway for the Ebola and HIV viruses to cross species barriers and infect humans. So, it is possible that in effect, we caused the Ebola and HIV problem. (Parris)
What does this mean in the big picture of things? Encouraging innate immunity is always safer than resorting to drugs, particularly as a preventive measure. Building up your microbiome so that your immune system is in tip-top shape may actually reduce the odds of contracting the infection if exposed to the pathogenic virus. More reasons to learn about The Symbiont Factor that keeps our body and mind at its best!
The Symbiont Factor: http://amzn.to/1jz3kPt