Stealth Virus Antigens and
Induced Antibodies:
A Potential Source of
False Positive Serological
Tests for Conventional Pathogens

Testing for antibodies reactive with antigenic preparations derived from various microbes is commonly used in the laboratory diagnosis of infectious diseases. The implication of a positive result is that it indicates either active or prior infection with the microbe against which the antibodies react.

Stealth viruses are a molecularly heterogeneous grouping of atypically structured cytopathic viruses that include herpesviruses lacking the major antigenic targets for anti-viral cellular immunity.1,2 A prototype stealth virus shares DNA sequence homology with, and was undoubtedly derived from, an African green monkey simian cytomegalovirus (SCMV). 2 This virus has incorporated additional viral, cellular and bacteria derived sequences into its genome.3,4 Genetic recombinations, together with a high rate of genetic errors in viral replication, has resulted in a virus with a wide diversity of potential antigenic sites.5

Stealth viruses have been cultured from numerous patients with chronic disabling illnesses. Stealth virus culture positive patients have been diagnosed as having various illnesses, including chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf war syndrome, Lyme disease, autism, psychiatric disease and unexplained encephalopathy. In addition to the commonly reported Epstein-Barr and human herpesvirus-6 antibodies, several patients were noted to be unexpectantly positive in other serological assays. An elderly woman tested positive in an anti-HIV ELISA assay with an initial confirmatory western blot analysis, which reverted to an indeterminant western blot on subsequent testing. Other patients have shown positive HIV ELISA with negative western blots. A patient had her blood sent to Germany for Borna virus testing with a positive result. Many of the stealth virus positive patients diagnosed as having chronic Lyme disease on the basis of serology, also test positive for Babesia and Erlichiosis.6 It is possible that many of these serological reactions are caused by stealth viruses and not by the pathogen for which the assays were intended.

Immunogenic bacterial antigens encoded within certain stealth viruses could also elicit antibodies that mediate allergic reactions. This would be consistent with the high frequency of these reactions among stealth virus infected patients. 7

These topics can best be addressed by detailed antibody studies on the stealth viruses cultured from symptomatic patients. These research tests can be performed in parallel with routine screening serology for common pathogens. Physicians with patients suitable for such studies should contact CCID by phone at 626 572-7288 or by e-mail at


  1. Martin W.J, et al. Cytomegalovirus-related sequences in an atypical cytopathic virus repeatedly isolated from a patient with the chronic fatigue syndrome. Am. J. Path 1994; 145: 441-452.
  2. Martin, WJ. Stealth adaptation of an African green monkey simian cytomegalovirus. Exp Mol Path 1999;
  3. Martin, WJ. Cellular sequences in stealth viruses. Pathobiology. 1998; 66: 53-58.
  4. Martin, WJ. Bacteria related sequences in a simian cytomegalovirus-derived stealth virus culture. Exp Mol Path. 1999;
  5. Martin WJ. Genetic instability and fragmentation of a stealth viral genome. Pathobiology. 1996; 64: 9-17.
  6. Burrascano, J. Personal Communication
  7. Kopelson, J. Personal Communication