"Multi-System Stealth Virus Infection
Sydney, Australia, February 1998
W. John Martin* and Donovan A. Anderson
Stealth viruses refer to a molecularly heterogeneous grouping of atypically structred viruses that have been isolated from patients with a diverse arry of dysfunctional brain syndromes. The term stealth was coined to emphasize the failure of these viruses to evoke an effective anti-viral cellular immune response. It is postulated that stealth-adaptation may be a general phenomenon by which viruses can bypass the cellular immune system by deleting genes coding for the antigens required for T-cell recognition of viral infected cells.
Stealth viruses are readily detectable using viral culture techniques. The induce a distinctive vacuolating cytopathic effect (CPE), that also occurs in tissues obtained from virus infected humans and animals. Additional information on stealth viruses is available from the Web Site www.ccid.org.
An outbreak of an apparent infectious illnesss occurring in the MOhave Valley region of the United States was initially identified in the spring of 1996. Over one hundred patients presented to Dr. Donovan Anderson between March and July 1996, with generalized muscle aches and pains, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches. The illness spread within families and between friends, with a delay of approximately one week for gastrointestinal symptoms to occur in the contacts of a symptomatic patient. Thirty-one of 100 patients seen during this period also exhibited various combinations of neurological symptoms including intractable headaches, paraesthesia, unilateral weakness, blurred vision, syncope, cognitive impairment, and emotional distress. Although the acute gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms generally slowly subsided after several weeks, 25% of these patients, and many additional inhabitants of the Mohave Valley and surrounding regions, have since experienced complex and evolving patterns of chronic disabling illnesses. One hundred and fifty of these patients were shown by tissue cultures to be stealth virus infected. In addition to episodes of severe physical and/or mental fatigue, many of the patients have shown objective signs of a mild to moderate encephalopathy. Twenty patients have required hospitalization for more severe neurological and/or non-neurological illnesses consistent with a persistent, systemic, viral infection. The neurological manifestations have included acute delirium with psychosis, seizures, migraine-like headaches, diplopia, and unilateral paresis. Other organ systems affected in some patients have included the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, salivary glands, thyoid, adrenal, heart, and skin.
The Mohave stealth virus outbreak extends earlier findings indiating that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can be part of a spectrum of neuro-psychiatric illnesses caused by brain infections with atypicallys tructured, poorly immunogenic, (stealth) viruses. The non-neurological manifestations seen in the Mohave Valley patients also typify many of the symptoms and signs present in stealth virus infected CFS patients. The underlying illness of these patients is encompassed within the suggested diagnostic term: Multi-system stealth virus infection with encephalopathy (MSVIE).
(Supported by the Theodore and Vader Stanley Foundation, NAMI, Arlington, VA)
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