Fibromyalgia, an often misunderstood condition involving widespread muscle pain and fatigue, is characterized by a set of symptoms, but no definitive test exists to "prove" that a person has it. Some researchers suspect that viral illness could be a trigger, for both fibromyalgia and a similar condition called chronic fatigue syndrome. Research has shown that a subset of people who get Lyme disease, parvovirus, or Epstein-Barr virus—which causes mononucleosis—may later go on to develop one or the other. "What we think is that viruses are one type of biological stress" that may act similarly to physical trauma, a known trigger for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, says Daniel Clauw, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. "There's a lot of different biological stresses, including psychological stress, that seem to be capable of triggering these illnesses." As many as 1 in 50 Americans has fibromyalgia, most of them women, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
A recent book, The New Fibromyalgia Remedy: Stop Your Pain Now with an Anti-Viral Drug Regimen, delves more deeply into the connection and suggests that antiviral medicine and food allergy treatment can be quite effective. Author Daniel C. Dantini, a Florida otolaryngologist who himself has fibromyalgia, says he believes that fibromyalgia is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, herpesvirus 6, or parvovirus. He says antiviral medications work in 70 to 75 percent of his patients, along with massage and other therapies. Using Dantini's treatment method, most patients see their symptoms improve by "about 20 to 50 percent during the first four weeks," the book says. By six weeks, most chronic symptoms are totally resolved. Most people take the antiviral medications for 10 to 14 weeks, while others need the drugs for up to six months, the book says.
In an interview with U.S. News, Dantini discussed his thoughts on fibromyalgia and how best to treat it. Excerpts:
Do you think other viruses are a concern as well?
Other viruses like hepatitis and Lyme disease can do this, too. Any chronic infection can tend to give these sorts of symptoms.
What treatments do you propose?
The treatments are twofold because this is a complex disease. Control the viruses using the antiviral drugs famciclovir (brand name Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex). What we find in these people who have active disease is they start developing inhalant allergies. They also develop allergies to things they eat. Treatment through diet and, if a person has severe inhalant allergies perhaps using allergy shots, controls the immune system and allows it to calm down. Then most of the allergy symptoms go away.
Since antiviral medications aren't specifically approved for this purpose by the Food and Drug Administration, would people face obstacles with insurance coverage?
Most insurance plans will cover the medicine. Viral testing is usually covered, and food allergy testing is mostly covered.
Your book discusses the role of multivitamins in treating fibromyalgia. How might they be useful?
I don't think a vitamin alone will make you better. These are chronic diseases. I never tell anyone that vitamins will make you better, but they might keep you better.
Would the treatments you describe in the book be used in conjunction with other therapies, like yoga, exercise, and other types of medications? How so?
I tend to tell people to use massage and stretching exercises but that exercise during a flare-up makes the pain worse, so I don't think that's the prudent thing to do. Most of the time when I see patients, they're on any number of antidepressants. Some of them are addicted to narcotics—all of which I think are the wrong way to go about treating this disease.