This time last week I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post related to viruses, but with a lot of people concerned about the new type of coronavirus I figured I’d go ahead and put this together. The truth is that we’re all exposed to viruses, some more virulent than others. In fact, before the most recent type of coronavirus was discovered, there were 6 other human coronaviruses (HCoVs) identified, and a few of them are associated with the common cold. So there is a pretty good chance you have been exposed to a type of coronavirus.
That being said, some types of coronaviruses are highly pathogenic, which I’ll discuss in this blog post. Human coronaviruses affect the respiratory system, and with the new type of coronavirus, there are now seven known human coronaviruses that have been identified:
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)
- Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
The first four coronaviruses listed above circulate in the human population, and are responsible for approximately one-third of the common cold (1). However, in severe cases these viruses can cause life-threatening pneumonia and bronchiolitis (2). This is especially true in the elderly, children, and those with a weakened immune system. Although these four coronaviruses are most commonly linked to respiratory illnesses, they also have been linked to enteric and neurological diseases (2).
SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV are more virulent coronaviruses, and they share some similarities with the most recently identified coronavirus. SARS-CoV first emerged in 2002–2003 in Guangdong, China, and resulted in a type of pneumonia marked by a fever, headache, and eventually the onset of respiratory symptoms such as cough and pneumonia, which later develop into life-threatening respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome (3). Similar to the most recent type of coronavirus identified, SARS-CoV was highly transmissible among humans, and as a result it quickly spread across 29 countries, infecting more than 8,000 individuals with a mortality rate of about 10% (4).
The MERS-CoV epidemic was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It had similar clinical symptoms as SARS-CoV but with a much higher mortality rate of about 35% (5). However, even though it had a higher mortality rate than SARS-CoV, it has been geographically limited to the Middle East.
What Do We Know About The Most Recently Identified Coronavirus?
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first detected in Wuhan, China. Just as is the case with the other coronaviruses, it seems like it was initially spread from an animal to a human, but because it is spreading so quickly, and since not everyone infected has had exposure to animal markets, it seems as if it is highly transmissible among humans. This shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that the other coronaviruses can also be transmitted from person to person.
As of 2/5/2020, at least 562 people have died in China, with 27,378 people being infected globally. The United States has 12 confirmed cases of the virus, and many other countries have people who are infected. The most common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms seem to occur anywhere between 2 and 14 days after exposure to the virus.
Can Coronavirus Affect Thyroid Health?
Since 2019-nCoV was recently identified it is unknown whether or not it affects thyroid health. But it’s worth mentioning that while SARS-CoV primarily affects the respiratory system, the research shows that a substantial number of patients with SARS developed abnormalities in thyroid function (6) (7). However, there hasn’t been much research in this area, as a small study involving five SARS autopsies demonstrated the pathology of the thyroid gland.
The next question you may have is whether coronavirus can trigger thyroid autoimmunity. I haven’t seen any evidence of any of the coronaviruses triggering Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s. However, Th17 cells are associated with autoimmunity, and a 2018 study showed that MERS-CoV infection in humans is associated with an increase in Th1 and Th17 cytokines (8). But once again, I couldn’t find any research that showed any direct relationship between any coronaviruses and thyroid autoimmunity, let alone other autoimmune conditions.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
In the conventional medical world there is no treatment available for coronaviruses, including the new type, which is why many people are panicking. Don’t get me wrong, as I’m not suggesting that there is no reason to be concerned, but there is more than you can do than to just wash your hands frequently and minimize contact with others.
1. Improve your immune system health through diet and lifestyle factors. Eat mostly whole foods, organic whenever possible. Try your best to reduce stress in your life, and even if this isn’t possible you can still work on improving your stress handling skills. Make sure you get sufficient sleep, as this is also necessary for optimal immune system health.
2. Enhance your immune system health by improving your gut microbiome. In order to have a healthy immune system you need to have a healthy gut. And so you want to do things to increase the health of your gut microbiome. Not only is eating well important, but probiotic foods and supplements can help, as can prebiotics. And of course try to avoid gut disrupting medications and other environmental chemicals, including antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, and glyphosate.
3. Take colloidal silver. Silver has antiviral properties, and while I couldn’t find any studies which showed that silver is effective against human coronavirus, I did come across a study that showed that it was effective against feline coronavirus (9).
5. Licorice root. Glycyrrhizin, which is the active component of licorice root, has been shown to interfere with SARS-CoV replication (11). However, the study showed that higher concentrations were needed, and it’s important to mention that glycyrrhizin can increase blood pressure, and so anyone with a history of hypertension will probably want to avoid taking licorice root.
6. Black elderberry. Elderberry is commonly taken to help support the immune system for those who have the common cold, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that there is evidence that it might help with the replication of coronavirus (12).
What Happened With SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV?
Since these both are more similar to the recently identified coronavirus (especially SARS-CoV), you might be wondering what happened to these two viruses. Well, I mentioned earlier that MERS-CoV has been contained in the Middle East. As for SARS-CoV, this virus spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before it was contained (13). And according to the CDC, since 2004 there hasn’t been any known cases of SARS reported in the world.
Do You Want To Learn More About Infections?
Since being diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease in 2018 I’ve been more fascinated with all different types of infections, and I’ve decided to put together an “Overcoming Infections Masterclass” for those with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions. If you want to be notified immediately when it’s released you can sign up for my “Overcoming Infections” VIP waitlist by clicking here.