People Vulnerable to West Nile Virus

James Michael Howard jmhoward at
Wed Aug 23 08:03:51 EST 2000

West Nile Virus, Vulnerable People, and DHEA
Another Way to Combat the Virus?

James Michael Howard
Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.A.

West Nile virus (WNV) "can be dangerous in children under 5, the elderly and
people with compromised immune systems."  The mean age of New York's  fatalities
in 1999 was "81.5 years, each of whom had underlying medical problems." (Hum
Pathol 2000; 31: 527-31).  A survey of WNV in Bucharest, Romania, in 1996, found
373 cases of WNV, 17 of these people, older than age 50, died; increased age
increased mortality (Lancet 1998; 352: 767-71).  West Nile virus is deadly to
old people.  New York is currently engaged in an expensive and "aggressive
pesticide-spraying campaign," and the National Institutes of Health has awarded
a three million dollar contract to OraVax Inc. (Massachusetts) to produce a
vaccine.  There may be another, less expensive way to combat the WNV that also
provides a number of beneficial side effects.

The hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), may be useful against the West Nile
virus.  In stressed mice, which increases vulnerability, the mortality rate of
West Nile virus is significantly reduced by DHEA, (J Med Virol 1992; 38:159-66).
(Mice that are stressed have a compromised immune system.)  In people, DHEA is
very low in children from age 1 to 5 and naturally begins to decline around age
25 reaching very low levels in old age.  DHEA is very low in people who are
vulnerable to WNV.  However, no person with WNV has been given DHEA, but it
might provide significant protection from WNV as well as other positive effects.
"Administration of oral DHEA at a daily dose of 50 mg to age-advanced men with
low serum DHEAS levels significantly activated immune function." (J Gerontol A
Biol Sci Med Sci 1997; 52: M1-7).  A study of effects of 50 mg of oral DHEA
"confirmed the lack of harmful consequences of 50 mg/day DHEA administration
over one year" (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A  2000; 97: 4279-84), and "A single
50-mg dose of DHEA administered orally at 0700 hours restores the circadian
rhythmicity of serum DHEA." (Metabolism 2000; 49: 548-51).  Additionally,
supplemental "DHEA in appropriate replacement doses appears to have remedial
effects with respect to its ability to induce an anabolic growth factor,
increase muscle strength and lean body mass, activate immune function, and
enhance quality of life in aging men and women, with no significant adverse
effects." (Ann N Y Acad Sci 1995; 774: 128-42).  DHEA significantly activates
the immune system in the elderly and produces no harmful side effects.

Perhaps, health officials in affected areas should also recommend that elderly
people take 50 mg of DHEA per day as a supplement.  A temporary dose of DHEA may
also be useful if any children are diagnosed with WNV.  DHEA cannot be patented,
therefore, is cheap, is currently readily available, and does not affect the
environment, or people in the environment.

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