Detox Learning Center

Hostile Takeover: Viruses and Retroviruses in Chronic Illness

Viruses — the tiniest of microbes — could be a big obstacle in your recovery from complex, chronic illness. Yet, they’re often overlooked.

Even further from people’s radar are retroviruses. Those are a type of virus that hides in your DNA.

Both viruses and retroviruses can promote chronic illness. The microbes could hinder your recovery from chronic Lyme disease and mold illness. And some may increase your risk of cancer, neurological issues, and autoimmune disease.

The toxicity of today’s world only adds to viral health risks. But with the right strategies, you can fight back against these stealthy pathogens. 

Read on to learn more about chronic viruses and retroviruses. Find out how you may acquire them, why they impact your health, and what to do about them.

What Is a Virus?

A virus is simply genetic material surrounded by a protective protein shell. The microbe can’t replicate on its own. It tricks its host’s cells into making copies so it can spread. That host could be you. (1)

Viruses are very efficient. A single virus can make about 1 million copies of itself once it’s inside one of your cells. This new batch of viruses then bursts out of the cell and infects nearby cells. (1)

These microbes are also sneaky. Once inside your cells, they “cut some of the tripwires” that would alert your immune system to their hostile takeover. (2, 3)

So, what happens when they infect you?

Some viruses cause only mild infections, whereas others result in severe illness. And, some cause short-term (acute) infections, whereas others cause long-term (chronic) infections. (4)

Acute infections

Generally, acute viral infections make you sick for a few days to a few weeks. As your immune system tackles the virus, your symptoms decline. 

Still, some acute viral infections cause serious illness in the very young or old, as well as anyone else with weak immunity. And some acute infections — such as with the Ebola virus — can be quite severe for the majority of people. (5)

Examples of common viruses that generally cause acute infections are: (6, 7, 8)

  • Influenza: Infects your upper respiratory tract
  • Norovirus: Infects your gut lining, causing the “stomach flu” 
  • Rhinovirus: Infects your nasal passages, causing the common cold

But what about chronic viral infections that stick with you for years? 

Chronic infections

If you have complex, chronic illness, certain long-term viral infections may be contributing. Examples are Epstein-Barr virus and cytomegalovirus. Sometimes these appear alongside chronic Lyme disease and mold toxicity. (9, 10, 11)

These types of chronic viruses can alternate between being active versus latent. This means they can appear, disappear, and then be reactivated when your immune system is down. (9)

For example, do you periodically get fever blisters or cold sores on your mouth or face? Those happen when the latent herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) reactivates. (12)

Similar to a latent infection is a slow infection. That means the viral infection builds over a long time, such as decades. A prime example of this is human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). That’s a retrovirus, a type you’ll read about next.

What Is the Difference Between a Virus and Retrovirus?

What's the difference between a virus and retrovirus

A major difference between retroviruses and viruses is how they replicate. Remember, viruses manipulate your cells to make millions of copies of the virus. In contrast, retroviruses embed in the DNA of your cells and replicate as part of your cells.

But how do retroviruses hijack your cells and take over like that?

Retroviruses are made of a single strand of genetic material called RNA. Once inside your cells, retroviruses trick them into converting the RNA into DNA. They do this by using an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. That’s like the retrovirus version of a 3D printer. (13)

After your cell makes this viral DNA, it embeds in your genes. It’s called a provirus at this point. That’s a precursor to a virus.

Once they’re part of your DNA, retroviruses sit back and let you do the work. Every time your cells replicate with the retrovirus-altered DNA, you spread the provirus for them. (13)

Though these retroviruses may not initially be active in your body, they may be activated later. In some cases, other viruses such as Epstein-Barr may activate retroviruses. Chronic inflammation may also activate retroviruses. (14, 15)

So, how do you “catch” these retroviruses in the first place? 

You’re born with some retroviruses. In fact, these microbes make up about 8% of your DNA. But in other cases, you acquire retroviruses after you’re born. (16)

Here’s a closer look at the two main types of retroviruses — endogenous and exogenous.

Endogenous vs. exogenous retroviruses 

Some retroviruses become part of your genetic blueprints. This means you can pass retroviruses onto your children. These are endogenous, meaning they have an internal origin. 

Ironically, some endogenous retroviruses are actually beneficial. They may help your genome adapt or improve. But other endogenous retroviruses are inactive and could be harmful if reactivated. (16, 17, 18)

There are also retroviruses that you are exposed to during your lifetime. These are called exogenous retroviruses. This means they have an external origin, such as other people or animals.

Scientists think that all endogenous retroviruses were once exogenous ones. They say people and retroviruses “grew up together” over time. And they have played a significant role in shaping your genetics over many generations. (17)

Examples of retroviruses

The most familiar example of a retrovirus is HIV. That’s the virus that can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Scientists first identified the virus in 1983.

But HIV isn’t the first retrovirus found to infect people. That distinction goes to human T-lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1), discovered in 1980. (19)

In the majority of people, HTLV-1 may not cause any significant symptoms. But for about 5% of people, this retrovirus causes adult T-cell leukemia. Survival periods for this cancer can be as little as four months. But some subtypes aren’t as aggressive. (20, 21, 22)  

Also, some retroviruses can cross from other species and infect people. HIV from chimpanzees and the murine (mouse) leukemia virus (MLV) are two examples. (13, 23)

How Chronic Viruses and Retroviruses Affect You

How chronic viruses and retroviruses affect you

Chronic viruses and active retroviruses can hijack your cells over the long term. They kick your normal cellular functions out of the driver’s seat in favor of their own agenda.

Here’s a closer look at how they may impact your immune system and other aspects of health.

Weakened immunity

Both chronic viruses and retroviruses can suppress your immune system. That can make you vulnerable to opportunistic infections. These are infections that take advantage of weakened immunity. (24)

For example, HTLV-1 can cause low-grade suppression of your immune system. And research shows this retrovirus may increase your risk of tuberculosis and Strongyloides (parasite) infection. (22)

On top of that, some complex chronic illnesses — such as Lyme disease and mold toxicity — may promote viral activation. This is because chronic illnesses weaken your immune system. (25, 26, 27)

Mitochondrial dysfunction

Your mitochondria help defend you against viruses. But viruses can manipulate your cells’ mitochondria to promote their survival. (28)

For example, viruses can impair your mitochondria’s ability to produce energy. Viruses can also destroy mitochondria, reducing the number of mitochondria in your cells. That results in lower energy production. (28, 29)

Less energy results in reduced ability to fight viruses — and fatigue.

Consider one study that looked at teenagers six months after initially getting the Epstein-Barr virus. Some were chronically tired and still had elevated inflammation. They also had an overactive nervous system and were less likely to enter the “rest and digest” state. (30

Autoimmunity and neurological dysfunction

Viruses and retroviruses may also be a catalyst for autoimmune disease. The microbes alter normal immune function, as well as try to mimic your own cells to avoid detection. Your body may misinterpret who the real enemy is. It may start to attack itself rather than the viruses. (31)

Endogenous retroviruses are associated with several diseases. They haven’t been proven to cause these diseases, but some evidence suggests they may play a role in them. 

Some of the autoimmune and neurological diseases associated with retroviruses include: (24, 32)

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Autoimmune liver disease 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Connective tissue disorders 
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Skin disorders, such as psoriasis 
  • Type 1 diabetes 

How Are Retroviruses Transmitted?

How are retroviruses transmitted?

You likely already know you can contract common viruses like influenza by inhaling the sneeze droplets of an infected person. Or, maybe you touch a surface contaminated by viruses then touch your mouth. Presto, you could be infected just like that. (33)

In addition, you also know endogenous retroviruses are passed down from your parents. But how are exogenous retroviruses transmitted?

Human to human

One of the best-known ways to become infected with an exogenous retrovirus is through sex. HIV is a classic example. This retrovirus is usually passed on via the semen of infected men. HTLV-1 is also commonly transmitted sexually. (34, 35)

Retroviruses may also be contracted from other bodily fluids. These include blood and breast milk.

Mothers who test positive for HTLV-1 may be cautioned against breastfeeding. Surprisingly, babies don’t easily contract HTLV-1 in the womb, but they can get it from breast milk. (35)

As for blood transmission, donated blood is screened for certain retroviruses. This includes HIV and HTLV infections. (36, 37

Also, the risk of retrovirus transmission is one reason why intravenous (IV) drug abusers are warned not to share needles. (38


Every species has its own set of endogenous retroviruses. In theory, these would only be transmitted to their offspring. But vaccines are a major way these endogenous retroviruses are spread.

Vaccines are often created using cells from animals. The cells contain retroviruses and may be transferred to you if you get a vaccination. (39, 40, 41)

For example, scientists found a mouse leukemia retrovirus — called xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) — in people with prostate cancer. They also found XMRV in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. (42)

The researchers speculate the XMRV infection may have come from the animal cells used to develop vaccines. (42)

Yet, conventional medicine authorities dispute that vaccines are a source of retroviral infections. (43)

Ticks and other insects

Preliminary animal and lab studies suggest insects may be able to transmit some retroviruses to people. These insects include ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas. (44)

Ticks are a Pandora’s box of harmful microbes. They transmit the widest variety of pathogens of any insect. Ticks carry parasites, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and retroviruses. (27, 45)

Research suggests other insects, such as mosquitoes, may also pass on retroviruses when they bite you. But, HIV isn’t thought to be transmitted this way. It’s not able to replicate inside mosquitoes or other biting insects. (18, 46)

Fleas also carry retroviruses. They transmit retroviruses to cats, which have been detected in their blood and poop. Some experts suggest that people can pick up these retroviruses from their cats. Studies haven’t confirmed that yet. (47, 48)

Why Viruses and Retroviruses Are a Growing Challenge

Why viruses and retroviruses are a growing challenge

The widespread role of retroviruses in health issues is a relatively recent discovery. Only within the past few decades have researchers become aware of it. Now they’re scrambling to figure out how they affect human health.

But one thing is for sure — toxicity isn’t helping matters. 

The world is becoming increasingly toxic. This could make it harder for your immune system to defend you against viruses. Some toxins may actually activate retroviruses. Here’s a closer look.

GMOs and glyphosate 

The food supply is dramatically different than a few decades ago due to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Scientists may add genes from viruses or other microbes to a plant to give it new genetic traits. (49)

GMO proponents claim the viruses inserted in genetically modified seeds are altered to be dormant. But preliminary evidence suggests the viruses can borrow genes to become active again. So, the foods themselves may be a source of viruses. (49)

That’s not all. GMO foods contain toxins that could help viruses thrive.

Remember, scientists developed some GMO plants to resist the pesticide glyphosate. You consume residues of this toxin when you eat foods grown with it. Glyphosate may damage your mitochondria. You need healthy mitochondria to help protect you from viruses. (50, 51, 52)

Also, glyphosate may contribute to leaky gut and disrupt your gut microbiome. Your gut houses about 70% of your immune system. So, glyphosate could reduce your ability to fight viruses. (53, 54, 55)

Some scientists also suspect glyphosate could trigger the expression of retroviruses in your DNA. This is because it can disrupt methods your body typically uses to silence parts of DNA. So, the pesticide could basically “turn on” retroviral activity. (56)


Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) are invisible radiation. They’re given off by powerlines, wireless networks (Wi-Fi), and electronics. But this modern technology has a dark side. (57, 58)

Like glyphosate, EMFs may interfere with your body’s mechanisms for silencing parts of DNA. That could lead to the expression of retroviruses in your genome. (59)

Not only that, but EMFs may reactivate old viruses. One lab study found that EMF exposure “woke up” a latent Epstein-Barr virus. (60

You may also wonder, could EMFs weaken your immune system?

Studies suggest that EMFs may disrupt your immune system, trigger inflammation, and impair your body’s repair mechanisms. EMFs are also linked to cancer and ALS. And both of those diseases are associated with endogenous retroviruses. (59, 61)

The increased use of Wi-Fi is especially concerning. The frequencies are pulsed rather than continuous, which could heighten their impact on you. That includes increasing oxidative stress and cellular damage. This could give viruses and retroviruses an advantage. (62)

Heavy metal toxicity

The accumulation of inorganic heavy metals — such as cadmium and lead  in your body could weaken your immune response. That may increase your susceptibility to viral infections.

For example, one study found that people with elevated cadmium in their blood were 50% more likely to be infected with the hepatitis B virus. That infection can lead to liver disease. (63, 64)

And some research suggests mercury may activate the endogenous retrovirus connected with ALS. That may trigger the loss of cells in certain regions of your brain. Losing those cells leads to muscle weakness. (65, 66)

Heavy metals may also inhibit pathways your cells use to fix damaged DNA. And as you’ll recall, retroviruses can alter your DNA. Heavy metal toxicity may stand in the way of repairing it. (67)

Also, consider a study of steelworkers in a factory. Exposure to heavy metals in the air reduced their body’s silencing of Epstein-Barr virus. (68)

The good news is, there’s a lot you can do to fight back against these toxic threats. You can take action now to bolster your system against viruses and retroviruses.

What to Do About Chronic Viruses and Retroviruses

What to do about viruses and retroviruses

Half the battle of beating chronic viruses and retroviruses is knowing they exist. Now you just need to know the steps to take back control.

Here’s what you need to know to put viruses and retroviruses out of commission.

Support drainage and detox

Toxicity plays a significant role in how well your immune system functions. So, improving your drainage and detoxification is vital to overcoming a viral challenge.

A key way your body “drains” or eliminate toxins is by pooping. Constipation is a sign that toxins are becoming stagnant in your system. Consider taking a supplement of intestinal-moving herbs to help eliminate toxins efficiently. 

Upstream from your colon is your liver. It has the tough job of processing toxins from your blood. Then it deposits them into bile for removal via your stools. But viral infections may suppress liver function. Give it a hand by taking herbs that help with liver detox. (69)

TUDCA, a water-soluble bile acid, is another liver helper. Your body makes a little of this compound, but you can also take it as a supplement. It may help you fight viruses and support detox by: (70, 71)

  • Lowering cellular stress, helping preserve your cells 
  • Suppressing replication of some viruses
  • Thinning toxin-laden bile, which helps release it from your liver

Another multi-talented substance is carbon-based binders, made of humic and fulvic acid extracts. These bind and neutralize toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, and viral toxins. Carbon-based binders also bind toxin-rich bile in your gut. This enables you to excrete it rather than recycling it.

But removing toxins is only part of what carbon-based binders do. These specialized carbons are full of building blocks, including amino acids, trace minerals, and antioxidants. Your damaged cells can use these for repair. 

Now, here’s the best part. Carbon-based binders also have specific actions against viruses.

Lab research has shown that humic acid — a component of carbon-based binders — triggers the death of liver cells when infected with a harmful virus. If the virus had its way, it would prevent the cells from self-destructing. It needs to keep its cozy home to hide from your immune system. (72)

Also, carbon-based binders may inactivate viruses and pull retroviruses out of your DNA. For example, lab studies suggest fulvic and humic acidw may help combat herpes simplex virus 1, cytomegalovirus, and HIV. (72, 73, 74)

Kill parasites

Parasites suppress the part of your immune system that fights viruses and encourage the replication of viruses.

More specifically, parasites shift your immune activity from the T-helper 1 (Th1) to the T-helper 2 (Th2) system. Those are two different branches of the “military” for your immune system. While you need Th2 to fight parasites, you need Th1 to fight viruses. Dialing down Th1 enables viruses to spread. (75)

Parasites also generate toxins, carry heavy metals, and harbor viruses. So, you may not be able to get a handle on a viral issue if you’re overloaded with parasites. (76)

Kick these homewrecking squatters out with parasite-killing herbs. That will enable your immune system to switch over to fighting viruses. Killing parasites will also get rid of a hidden source of viruses.

Periodically change your anti-parasite regimen, so the critters don’t get too comfortable. Use different herbal combinations, including liquid formulations of anti-parasitic herbs. Also, help your body get rid of parasitic debris with Mimosa pudica seed.

Boost oxygen and energy levels

It’s not enough to just lower your chronic infection load. You also need to raise your mitochondrial function for true healing. Otherwise, you’re likely to repeat the cycle of chronic illness, including viral infection. (77, 78)

Remember, mitochondria are your biological batteries, generating energy for detox and healing. Lab research suggests extracts of fulvic acid support mitochondrial energy production. (79)

An ample supply of oxygen also promotes mitochondrial energy production. One way to raise your oxygen level is by taking a supplement of stabilized molecular oxygen.

Increasing your oxygen may also have a more direct effect against viruses. Low oxygen levels may help certain viruses thrive, including HIV and hepatitis C (a liver pathogen). (80, 81)

Get Back in the Driver’s Seat

Chronic viruses and retroviruses can hijack your cells. That can make it difficult to recover from complex, chronic illnesses.

High toxin loads from pesticides, EMFs, and heavy metals can weaken your immune system. That creates the perfect environment for viruses and retroviruses to flourish.  

But you can beat these pathogens. It requires supporting detox and mitochondrial function, as well as tackling parasites.

It’s time to take back control over viruses and retroviruses. 

What steps are you going to take to put yourself back in the driver’s seat?

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