Unified Antiviral Strategy published by International College of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine

  • Publication: Vasquez A. Unified Antiviral Strategy. International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine 2014:(4);1

  • Format: Open-access, published in English and Spanish

  • Importance: Public health and medical urgency due to recent international outbreaks of viral infections with high morbility (eg,  polio-like paralysis and upsurge of measles in United States) and mortality (eg, death from Ebola internationally).

  • Editor's note: Given the international viral crises occurring in late 2014, publication and distribution of this article is a priority; the fact that these viral-infection health crises exist in these modern times is prima facie evidence of the failure of current systems and the need—not for new treatments within the same model—for a new model better suited for international distribution, disease prevention, and broad-spectrum effectiveness.

  • Concept summary: Rather than viewing viral infections in a manner that is phenomenalistic and enigmatic, and therefore unwieldy, leading to clumsy prevention and treatment strategies, we should deconstruct the complexity of the infectious process. Doing so – at least in the manner that I have described – gives us four areas upon which we can focus our efforts: 1) targeting the virus directly, 2) blocking viral replication, 3) supporting immune function, and 4) supporting cellular and whole-body health. These are illustrated in the accompanying diagram and briefly described and exemplified in the four respective paragraphs that follow.

  • Components of a Comprehensive Antiviral Clinical Protocol:

  1. Targeting the virus directly: Targeting the virus directly has been the focus of medical practice and public health efforts through sanitation, vaccination, and –more recently– the use of disease-specific antiviral drugs. Several nutrients (eg, selenium) and botanicals (licorice root, papaya leaf)  are also very effective --proven in clincal trials published in peer-reviewed journals-- for directly targeting viral infections. Antiviral nutrients and botanicals can be used alone, in combination, and alongside medications for additive and synergistic benefits.

  2. Blocking viral replication: Inhibition of viral replication is the therapeutic goal of many antiviral drugs, while several nutrients can also provide a similar effect. Because viruses are unable to self-replicate and must therefore rely on host/human genetic and synthetic machinery for their replication, nutrients that modulate genetic expression can have therapeutic value here, namely via DNA methylation and blockade of the transcription factor NFkB. Nutrients with proven antiviral effectiveness include betaine and lipoic acid.

  3. Supporting immune function: The performance and regulation of the immune system is heavily dependent on optimal nutritional status, and without proper nutrition, the immune system is slanted simultaneously toward underactivity (deficiency-induced immunosuppression) and hyperactivity manifesting as inflammation and autoimmunity. Nutritional deficiencies are very common in the general population and thereby contribute to epidemics of infectious and inflammatory diseases. Human clinical trials using nutrients alone or in combination to support immune function in general have shown outstanding safety and efficacy against infectious diseases, especially use of glutamine, whey protein isolate, vitamin A, vitamin D, fish oil, and zinc. Nutritional supplementation has been shown in several instances to improve immunological response to vaccinations; for example, cystine and theanine were noted to increase seroconversion of influenza vaccination in elderly persons.

  4. Supporting cellular and whole-body health: Viral infections have numerous adverse effects on cellular and whole-body health. Intracellular consequences of viral infections include mitochondrial dysfunction and endoplasmic reticulum stress , manifesting clinically as prolonged inflammation, fatigue and – likely – in the case of herpes simplex infections, Alzheimer's disease. Among the more than 30 interventions to improve mitochondrial function and alleviate endoplasmic reticulum stress, we see that exercise, low-carbohydrate diets, coenzyme Q-10, lipoic acid, and acetyl-L-carnitine are preeminent in their safety, effectiveness, and collateral benefits. Osteopathic manipulative medicine, perhaps via promotion of improved respiration and lymphatic flow and distribution of chemokines, has also shown benefit in the nonpharmacologic amelioration of infectious disease.

  • Conclusion: In summary, via the use of a structured antiviral strategy, pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions can be applied with greater clinical and public health effectiveness, thereby alleviating the clinical, social, financial, and political burdens of these infectious diseases.


Publication and organization: International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine is published by the International College of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, based in North America (Portland, Oregon, United States) and Europe (Barcelona, Spain). The mission of ICHNFM is to disseminate expert-level information to healthcare professionals, policymakers, educators, and patients via publications (books, textbooks, articles), online videos, and continuing-medical education courses and conferences.