Dr. Lipkin's Findings
The discussion started with the major findings of Dr. Ian Lipkin that made headlines back in September. (Here's a link to a Phoenix Rising article about those findings.) Dr. C always has always heaped effusive priase for the work of his fellow ME/CFS researchers, as he did with Dr. Lipkin. Dr. C pointed out, however, that many people have misunderstood the significance of Lipkin's research, believing that a viral cause has all but been ruled out. To put Lipkin's research into better context, Dr. C pointed out that not only was Lipkin's virus hunt limited to the blood, it was limited to blood plasma. Dr. Lipkin did not look for viruses in the white blood cells of ME/CFS patients, which is a better place to look for possible ME/CFS-causing viruses in the blood, according to Dr. C.
When Dr. C did his own virus hunt in the blood of ME/CFS patients years ago, he found enteroviruses in approximately 60% of patients' white blood cells, as opposed to only 2 in 20 in the plasma. Admittedly, he used a small sample size.
As many people know, Dr. C firmly believes that the place to hunt for any viral cause of ME/CFS (which he postulates is a enteroviruses) is in the body's tissues. Dr. C has always focused on biopsies of the gut, partly because the gut is the easiest internal organ from which to obtain a biopsy.
Getting back to Dr. Lipkin for a moment, Dr. C noted that Lipkin's next big endeavor is to look for evidence of viral infection in the stool samples of ME/CFS patients. According to Dr. C however, this is not likely to be fruitful. If looking for viruses in the blood is like looking for a needle in a haystack, looking for viruses in stool samples is like looking for a needle in a haystack that is 10x as large. (He said all this while heaping praise on Dr. Lipkin, so while it is clear that while Dr. C prefers to pursue other theories, the has the utmost respect for Dr. Lipkin.) At the same time he said, "I certainly have a number of questions for him [Dr. Lipkin] at the March conference"—referring to the upcoming IACSF/ME conference in San Francisco.
Finally, Dr. C also mentioned that Lipkin's next big treatment experiment will be with cytokine blocking drugs, noting that some of Lipkin's recent research has confirmed the "cytokine storm" that many of us believe is a cause of our rampant inflammation. Without sounding too contrarian, Dr. C again stated that he would be hesitant about recommending cytokine treatment to any of his other patients until further research.
He gave the example of one of his patients who had terrible neck stiffness due to a cytokine storm concentrated in that area. This patient was treated with an experimental cytokine blocking medicine by another doctor, and two months into the treatment the patient began to have terrible neurological problems, including major involuntary spasms all over his body and the gradual loss of all speech. The patient can only speak now through a computer, ala Steven Hawking. Dr. C is now attempting to help recover the young man's speech through IVIG treatment. I asked if Dr. C thought these symptoms were side affects of the cytokine blocking drug and he said, "we think so."
New Antiviral Drugs
Dr. C has long discussed the possibly that certain antiviral drugs "in the pipeline" would help treat ME/CFS. He states that any new antiviral drug gives hope to our community. In January, 2014, a drug company is expected to launch a new Hepatitis C antiviral drug that Dr. C plans to test on ME/CFS patients. The drug apparently costs, not joke, about $30,000 per month! No word on how or by whom this experiment would be paid for.
Later in 2014, two other drug companies are expected to drop competing Hep C antivirals. This should introduce competition in to the market and hopefully give ME/CFS patients two additional chances to find an effective antiviral.
Other than those three impending Hep C drugs, Dr. C said there is no other "chatter" about additional antiviral drugs in the pipeline. But he noted that this lack of chatter may be because drug companies like to keep such projects secret for fear of being ripped off and beat to the marketplace by competitors.
Dr. C's New Findings
Not to bury the lead but.... Dr. C says that he obtained tissues samples from a recent patient of his who, tragically, committed suicide. The family was kind enough to donate the body to Dr. C's research. (Side note: I'm trying to walk a fine line here because Dr. C states that his findings will be announced at the March IACFS conference and not before then, so I don't want to steal his thunder). All I can reveal at this point is that Dr. C found a raging enterovirus infection all throughout a major, very critical organ from this deceased patient's body. (I'm sorry, I can't reveal the organ). Dr. C is certain that it is the same enterovirus he has been finding in the linings of the guts of his patients for years. (Although, he noted that this enterovirus was detected by the protein that it produces, not directly by sequencing the virus, which is very expensive. When and if he ever obtains the funds, he would like to sequence the virus from his organ sample and conclusively prove that it is the same enterovirus from the gut.)
My Revised Game Plan
To quickly summarize my past work with Dr. Chia: I had success and continue to have success with his oxymatrine treatment called by the brand name Equilibrant. This helped me improve by about 10%. But none of Dr. C's additional pharmacological treatments did anything for me, and some had bad side affects. I've tried Rifampin, Epivir, Amantadine, and inosine among others.
After some discussion, we decided to revisit some of the failed treatments to confirm that the side affects I thought I experienced were truly from the drugs and not from, say, a crash. So the plan is to, in addition to continuing Equilibrant, take both inosine and Epivir together in combination. We'll see if that makes a difference this time.
Possible Sad News
Toward the end of the appointment, in the context of another discussion, Dr. C stated that he would like to move on to other areas of research besides ME/CFS. Then he asked rhetorically, "but then who would take care of my patients? You see, for diseases like HIV where the treatment routine is so well established and understood, a nurse practitioner can be a patient's sole medical provider. But with this disease, my patients need me to treat them individually." So it was unclear if Dr. C would actually move on from ME/CFS, or if he was simply expressing the desire to.
I told him that we need him and that he is practically a celebrity in certain circles and why give that up? I'm not sure it helped...