Viremia

Viremia Symptoms:

The most common symptoms are headache, muscle aches, fatigue, malaise and sore throat. Other symptoms include fever (38°C or 100.4°F), chills, cough and body ache. Some patients experience other symptoms such as confusion, nausea, vomiting blood and even seizures.

Most of these patients have no complications but some may develop pneumonia.

What Causes Viremia?

There are several possible causes of viremia. These include viral infections, environmental factors, genetic predisposition and immunological disorders. Viral infection is the most common cause of viremia. There are two types of viruses which can cause viremia: Epstein Barr virus (EBV) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). EBV is the most prevalent cause of viremia. However, there are many other viruses which can cause viremia. Environmental factors such as smoking, poor nutrition and certain drugs like corticosteroids and steroids can all contribute to causing viremia. Genetic predisposition is another factor which contributes to causing viremia.

How Is Viremia Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose viremia, it helps if you have had exposure to the virus before. It is very rare for a person to be infected with a virus for the first time and develop viremia. However, if you are exposed to a virus again, your immune system may not be able to react properly and you may experience viremia. There are several ways in which your doctor may be able to make a viremia diagnosis. A physical examination and a review of your medical history will provide initial information about your condition. Your doctor may then order tests such as a complete blood count, chest x-ray and blood cultures.

How Is Viremia Treated?

There is no cure for viremia as of now. The treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms using medicines and supportive therapy. For example, nausea, sore throat and fever can be treated with medicines like anti-nausea pills, pain killers and acetaminophen (paracetamol). Patients are also given antibiotics to prevent or treat pneumonia.

Viremia is not a curable disease. The treatment is focused at alleviating the symptoms with medicines.

The best way to fight the infection is by keeping the viral load (amount of virus) low. It can be done by eating nutritious food, getting plenty of sleep, avoid alcohol and not smoking.

In case of viremia, sometimes the viruses bypass your immune system defenses and start multiplying in your body. This is what causes the symptoms and if left untreated may lead to complications. Treatment should be started immediately after the diagnosis is confirmed. The treatment mainly consists of monitoring the viral load and treating the symptoms.

Viral load is the measurement of the amount of virus in your body. Viral load can be monitored by measuring the amount of virus in your blood. Viral load needs to be kept as low as possible to prevent complications.

Some of the common treatments for viremia are described below:

How Can Viremia Be Prevented?

There is no vaccine available to prevent viremia. However, vaccines are available to prevent viral infections which may lead to viremia. These include yellow fever, rabies, measles and influenza.

Not all people who are infected with a virus develop viremia. Viral load, nutrition, genetics and the strength of the immune system all play a role in causing viremia.

There are certain lifestyle changes which can be made in order to prevent viral infections and hence viremia. They are listed below.

How Was Viremia Discovered?

Viremia was first discovered in the year 1881 by a German microbiologist, Friedrich Loffler. He was working in a hospital and observed that a number of his patients had very low white blood cell counts and low platelet counts. He took samples of blood and white blood cells from these patients and found that they all contained a new type of microorganism which was not present in his controls.

He named the new organism as “infectious agent”. It was found that this infectious agent could be filtered out of the blood using very fine filters. It was also found that heat and formaldehyde were unable to kill the infectious agent.

From the above observations, Loffler came to the conclusion that the infectious agent had to be a virus. His findings were later proven true when his associated, Friedrich Fraenkel, succeeded in passing the infection from one snail to another using extracts of white blood cells. This indicated that the infectious agent could reproduce outside its host.

In the year 1960, viremia was rediscovered by a Turkish physician named Hulusi Behçet. He was treating his patients for genital herpes using a topical medication. He noticed that some of his patients developed sores in their mouths and throats. A few of these patients were later confirmed to be infected with the same virus causing genital herpes.

This indicated that the virus had traveled through the blood.

These patients were the first to be diagnosed with herpes which could affect internal organs in addition to external ones. Today, viremia is used to describe this condition.

Sources & references used in this article:

Plasma viremia in human immunodeficiency virus infection by RW Coombs, AC Collier, JP Allain… – … England Journal of …, 1989 – Mass Medical Soc

Control of viremia in simian immunodeficiency virus infection by CD8+ lymphocytes by JE Schmitz, MJ Kuroda, S Santra, VG Sasseville… – …, 1999 – science.sciencemag.org

Spring viremia of carp (SVC) by W Ahne, HV Bjorklund, S Essbauer, N Fijan… – Diseases of aquatic …, 2002 – int-res.com

Natural history of HIV-1 cell-free viremia by DR Henrard, JF Phillips, LR Muenz, WA Blattner… – Jama, 1995 – jamanetwork.com

Low-level viremia persists for at least 7 years in patients on suppressive antiretroviral therapy by S Palmer, F Maldarelli, A Wiegand… – Proceedings of the …, 2008 – National Acad Sciences

Recovery of replication-competent HIV despite prolonged suppression of plasma viremia by JK Wong, M Hezareh, HF Günthard, DV Havlir… – …, 1997 – science.sciencemag.org

Dengue viremia titer, antibody response pattern, and virus serotype correlate with disease severity by DW Vaughn, S Green, S Kalayanarooj… – The Journal of …, 2000 – academic.oup.com

Vigorous HIV-1-specific CD4+ T cell responses associated with control of viremia by ES Rosenberg, JM Billingsley, AM Caliendo… – …, 1997 – science.sciencemag.org