Guest Author - Jim Lowrance
There is medical research that has been published in regard to the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and its role in causing autoimmune thyroiditis and other autoimmune and neurological diseases. It is also highly associated with different types of cancer. I believe that EBV is the cause of my own Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and the resulting hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) I began to experience at age 39.
Thyroid disease, especially the autoimmune type runs in families, in fact children of one parent that has thyroid disease, has a 50% chance of also developing thyroid disease during their lifetime. Hossein Gharib, M.D., F.A.C.E, president-elect of AACE and Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Medical School states; “Fifty percent of thyroid disease patients’ offspring will inherit the thyroid disease gene.”
When I was diagnosed with thyroid hormone imbalance and later diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroiditis, I naturally wondered what caused me to have susceptibility to this disease. I knew that thyroid diseases were experienced far more often in women than in men. My mother however does not have thyroid autoimmunity but did develop age related hypothyroidism, common in women over the age of 60. I also knew my dad does not have thyroid disease or any other type of autoimmune disease. This is what led me to reflect on any childhood diseases that might have triggered the later life autoimmune thyroid disease I am experiencing.
I remembered when looking back at my childhood, that I developed a severe case of Monolucleosis when I was about age 10. This is the disease caused by EBV and after contracting it, the virus remains in your body lifelong. While my siblings (one sister and two brothers), may very well have been exposed to the virus and are now lifelong carriers, they did not experience mono as I did. My mono symptoms were the typical ones, including severely swollen lymph glands in my neck and severe fatigue. In fact, I was out of school with mono, for about six weeks.
My belief is that the virus causing mono in my childhood compromised my immune system and left me vulnerable to developing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which also involves the lymphatic system. Another name for Hashimoto’s is Chronic Lymphocytic Thyroiditis. I feel it is possible that as the research articles about EBV and autoimmune thyroiditis point out, EBV will cause the immune system over time, to attack tissues in the body that are infiltrated with the virus via antibodies it creates to attack it. The immune system is relentless and if it cannot eradicate a virus over time, it may then begin to attack the tissues in the body that contain the virus (autoimmunity).
When I was rechecked for EBV levels in my blood, only a couple of years ago, I had very high titers of the virus still in my system. My result on the blood lab test for EBV antibodies (EBV antibodies reflect the level of virus they are attacking) was “218” with normal values being less that “20”. My elevations of the virus, as reflected by the EBV antibodies test were more that 10 times the normal range. While I will never be able to prove with certainty that EBV caused my autoimmune thyroid disease, I will always highly suspect that it is indeed the cause in my case.