Am I more at risk for COVID-19 if I have reactivated Epstein – Barr virus?

When it comes to viruses the things that we need to pay attention to are what pathways they are turning on. The pathways that Epstein – Barr virus turn on are correlated to seven different autoimmune conditions and cancers. The good news is that there are a lot of tools that can help combat those pathways.

Risk factors in health should be individualized. The truth is that regardless of what your diagnoses are the way you eat food, manage stress, exercise, and sleep are all major contributing factors. When it comes to Epstein – Barr virus and COVID-19, the important thing to consider is cytokine interaction.

Both of these viruses, while they are from different families, do interact with cytokine levels, specifically a cytokine known as IL-6. Serum concentrations of IL-6 in chronic reactivated Epstein – Barr virus individuals are seen to be higher. This is the same cytokine that is seen to cause cytokine storms in COVID-19 patients. Since both of these viruses press on this pathway reducing inflammation and cytokine activity in people dealing with Epstein – Barr virus is important. The good thing is there is a lot that you can do to support modulating cytokine levels.

The foundations are always important, without them supplements are not as effective, so let’s start with these.


An anti – inflammatory diet has been seen to reduce inflammation and cytokine activity. Reducing processed foods and carbohydrates helps keep inflammation under control. Another powerful tool is intermittent fasting. Autophagy is seen to increase during fasting.


Your body cleans and detoxes while it sleeps. During this time is also when your immune system is active. Giving you body ample time to fight infections, while also clean out damage from infections is crucial for reducing inflammation. Autophagy also increases during sleep. 


Not only can stress contribute to inflammation, it also can directly impair optimal immune function. Stress reduction is something that should be practiced daily. Deep belly breathing, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can all lead to positive changes in your biochemistry.


While diet and lifestyle are foundational to keeping cytokine activity under control these additional interventions can be helpful.

1. Quercetin

In a recent study Quercetin was shown to interrupt the cascade the IL-6 contributes too and reduce the production of reactive oxygen species, resulting in the prevention of  EBV-driven B cell immortalization.

2. Omega – 3 fatty acids

These are seen to decrease IL-6 and help create specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators (SPMs). SPMs are also seen to play an important role in decreasing inflammation. 

3. Resveratrol

Not only does Resveratrol help reduce inflammation from multiple different pathways, it also helps increase your body’s ability to clean up inflammation and recover. Due to it’s vast action it’s benefit has also been studied for those with Type II Diabetes and cancer.

4. Curcumin

Curcumin is seen to have direct inhibitory effects on IL-6. It is also helpful against another pathway that Epstein – Barr virus turns on, the Nf-kappaB pathway. Curcumin’s anti – inflammatory effects have been known for centuries.

5. Melatonin

Melatonin does so much more beyond helping get a good night’s sleep. It supports healthy action by the thymus, which helps support chronic infections like Epstein – Barr virus. Due to it’s vast antioxidant and anti – inflammatory roles in immune function it is being considered as a potential adjuvant treatment for COVID-19.