1999 Clinical and Scientific Meeting

W. John Martin, MB, BS, PhD.

Centre for Complex Infectious Diseases,
City of Angels Medical Center,
Los Angeles,
California 90026

Stealth Viruses: Nature's Biological Weapons Program

The term stealth has been used to define a molecularly heterogeneous grouping of atypically structured cytopathic viruses that can induce multi-system illnesses in both humans and animals, without evoking an antiviral inflammatory response. A prototype stealth virus has a fragmented, genetically unstable genome, much of which is unequivocally derived from an African green monkey simian cytomegalovirus (SCMV).

Genetic sequences coding for the major cytomegaloviral antigens recognized by cytotoxic T cells are lacking in this virus isolate. Multisystem stealth virus infections with encephalopathy (MSVIE) can present clinically as a spectrum of neurological disorders, including autism, attention deficit and behavioural problems in children, and depression, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and severe motor, sensory and cognitive diseases in adults.

Widespread illnesses involving multiple family members and whole communities can be attributed to the spread of stealth viral infections.

Histopathological and electron microscopic findings in brain biopsies of severely affected individuals corroborate the vacuolating cytopathic effects (CPE) that develop in stealth virus cultures. Similar changes can also be induced in the brain and in other tissues of stealth virus-inoculated animals.

Foreign genes can be incorporated into replicating stealth viruses through genetic recombination. The identification of potentially oncogenic cellular sequences adjacent to SCMV sequences in the prototype stealth virus has raised the prospect that oncogenic stealth viruses may have emerged.

The City of Angels Medical Center is a new hospital facility in Los Angeles that will allow for an expanded program for the culturing and molecular characterization of stealth virus isolates. This will help expedite studies to determine the origins of stealth viruses and their associated genes, and also to establish the modes of virus replication and transmission. More importantly, it will provide a clinical base to evaluate various therapies aimed at suppressing stealth viral infections, and at repairing the cellular metabolic derangement caused by these viruses.

Information concerning CCID's programs within the City of Angels Medical Center, including progress towards developing Epione as a therapeutic option, will be periodically updated on the web site . CCID can also be contacted through its e-mail address ccid@earthlink.net.


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