Your guide to understanding the hidden culprits behind fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and chronic fatigue
by. Dr. Bill Rawls
Last Updated 10/25/16
Microbes rule the world. They always have, and they always will.
Microbes are tiny, single-cell organisms that include germs, bacteria, and viruses. They far outnumber humans and they will still be here long after we are gone.
The spectrum of potentially harmful microbes is broad; microbes play a major role in virtually all disease processes—ranging from infectious diseases such as the plague and smallpox, to chronic conditions like Lyme disease and fibromyalgia.
Friendly bacteria vs. harmful microbes
Microbes can actually be divided into two broad groups: normal flora (friendly bacteria) and pathogens (harmful microbes).
*Note: microbes cannot be defined in terms of bad or good; they simply need resources for survival. How they get those resources is what matters.
Normal flora, the friendly bacteria that inhabit your gut and skin, have developed a symbiotic relationship with you; they get what they need without causing harm. In many cases, they actually provide benefit by inhibiting growth of other potential pathogens or by breaking down substances in the gut to provide essential nutrients.
Pathogens are disease-causing microbes. Under the right circumstances, even normal flora can cross the line and become a pathogen. For example, E. coli (a normal gut flora) commonly causes urinary tract infections and can become a toxin-producing gut pathogen. And an open wound is an invitation for a staph infection.
What is virulence?
Virulence determines a pathogen’s ability to infect and cause disease. The most virulent pathogens take an aggressive break-down-the-door approach, taking the resources they need and causing significant harm in the process. They are uninvited and must get through the barriers of the immune system to get what they want.
Virulent pathogens are easily identified by the diseases they cause (strep throat, pneumonia, malaria, polio, smallpox, yellow fever, influenza, AIDS, etc.). They can be lethal, but their virulence is often their Achilles’ heel.
Because they are so visible, modern science has had significant success in defining them and creating tools that work against them—modern sanitation, antibiotics, and vaccines have dramatically reduced the threat of the most virulent microbes.
That said, high-virulence microbes are not the ones we worry about with fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions.
Stealth (low virulence) microbes
Just possibly the most successful microbes are not the most virulent. Success in the microbe world is defined by the ability to propagate and flourish. Killing or severely disabling the host can be counterproductive.
A stealthy approach offers great advantage. Persistence instead of virulence is how they win. Collectively, these microbes can be referred to as low-virulence pathogens.
Most everyone on the planet is frequently exposed to low-virulence pathogens, almost daily. Many of those pathogens never gain access beyond the initial barriers of the immune system and are hardly noticed.
Some, however, do get a foot in the door, and a tug-of-war ensues between the microbe and the host’s immune system until the microbe is disposed of properly. A common example of this is how mycoplasma bypasses the immune system and contributes to fibromyalgia.
During an acute infection with one of these pathogens, the degree and nature of symptoms depends on the type of microbe, the site of initial infection, and the reaction of the immune system to the microbe(s). *Note: multi-microbial infections are not only possible but common; low-virulence pathogens tend to work together.
If the immune system is compromised from the start or the microbe is stealthy enough, the gateway is left open for chronic infection (and chronic disease) to occur.
Considering that much of the population lives in a state of immune compromise (high stress, lots of processed foods, poor sleep, etc.), associating pathogens of low virulence to chronic disease (and certainly fibromyalgia) is not a challenge.
1. William Rawls, MD. Suffered Long Enough. Dog Ear Publishing, 2014.
2. Warren Levinson, MD, PhD. Review of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, 2012.
3. Stephen Harrod Buhner. Herbal Antivirals. Storey Publishing, 2013.
4. Stephen Harrod Buhner. Healing Lyme Disease Coinfections. Healing Arts Press, 2013.
5. Image credit.