retarding viruses by manipulating body temperature July 17, 2010 (as amended) note: this is currently unfinished, thought I'd put it online RIGHT NOW though
In order to settle a debate with my housemate, whose mother is a GP (doctor), and who has been sick for three weeks with an apparent flu
virus, I present the below. I seemed to become infected with a similar virus to my housemate. As it came
on, I said I was going to attack it with various weapons (listed below), but my housemate scoffed at this. As I did indeed seem to cripple the virus
(I still got sick, but my symptoms were mild), I thought it was worth checking the net for some science to back up my theory.
My theory is that viruses are adapted for a specific body temperature, and that this specifity is a vulnerability, which we can
exploit to our advantage, by varying our body temperature. For example, the average body temperature in humans is
37° C. Therefore, human viruses must be best suited to live in a temperature of 37° C. A virus can survive
in a range of temperatures (depending upon the strain), however its growth and development is retarded - suppressed - when the host's body
temperature is non-optimal (either too hot or too cold). Therefore, it must follow that artificially varying the host's body temperature
will artificially suppress the growth and development of the virus.
That is, if you can make your body inhospitable, the virus will die. Even if you can only make your body partially inhospitable, the virus
will be impeded, and infection and symptoms less severe and shorter-lived.
Our bodies do this naturally - a "fever" is our immune system, raising our body temperature, in an effort to kill infection .
Fischler and Reinhart  say that "Fever develops when cytokines increase the thermostatic set point in the hypothalamus, which in turn results in increased body temperature via increased heat production and decreased heat dissipation."
Fischler and Reinhart  also say that "Increased body temperature has positive effects (e.g. decreased bacterial growth, stimulation of host defence mechanisms) as well as negative effects (e.g. increased heart rate, oxygen consumption and metabolism). Whether fever is a friend or foe depends on the actual clinical circumstances."
This suggests that a fever can be induced by sending some cytokines to the hypothalamus - eg.. rather than all the natural remedies below, it
might be possible to create a pill, which sends some cytokines to the hypothalamus, thus increasing body temperature, inducing a fever and
cooking the virus. This pill would be dangerous though (an overdose could be fatal).
Artificially varying the host's body temperature will kill the host if done to excess. The trick is to alter it enough to make the virus
extremely uncomfortable, but not enough to cause injury to the host. That means, do not do anything excessively. You're trying to kill the virus,
A short list of behaviours I believe can be used to retard the flu and other viruses, by way of increasing the host body temperature outside the virus' comfort zone:
Capsaicin - "the bit that burns" in chilli, peppers etc - this does not just feel hot, it induces thermogenesis  (hot enough to induce a sweat under your eyes, on your scalp, and at the back of your neck). This can be added to any meal in the form of hot pepper sauce.
Indian takeaway - not only do curries contain Capsaicin, but many other spices also likely to have beneficial effects
other takeaways - it must be very spicy - Chinese (Szechuan sauce), Thai (with Bird's Eye chillies), Italian (with Arrabbiata sauce)
hot liquid of any kind (especially a hot spicy soup, which is hot liquid + Capsaicin + steam)
hot food - steaming hot
stimulants - coffee, tea etc (even when consumed cold) - breathe the steam coming off a hot drink for added effect
steam - a hot shower, sauna, saucepan on stove - anything where hot water particles can be circulated into the respiratory system
hot air - as with steam, this can circulate inside the host's respiratory system and deliver heat directly to infection sites
hot water - a bath or shower
a warm bed - sleep in [extra] bedclothes, put on [extra] blankets - to induce a mild sweat (a sign of raised body temperature)
warm clothing - during waking hours wear an extra layer - to the point of mild discomfort (again, a mild sweat is the goal)
no draughts - moving air carries away heat, the opposite of what needs to be accomplished, so avoid it
For best effect the above treatments should be liberally mixed-and-matched. Assume no pattern - you want to shake the virus, that means
confusing the hell out of it - make it think it has accidentally infected a Martian, with highly variable and constantly unpleasant body
conditions. Sure, it doesn't actually think anything - but that does not change the fact that it is an organism, which has evolved to expect
and depend upon certain conditions in its hosts, and if those conditions are non-optimal, so too will be the success of the infection.
As you can see, many of the above treatments are home remedies that have been used for millenia. Every treatment has a common element -
the raising of body temperature. However, I am currently unable to find a scientific paper which states categorically that the raising of body
temperature suppresses a viral infection, or specifically suggests the deliberate raising of body temperature as a means of suppressing a viral
This is not medical advice. This is a theory looking for a proof (or at a minimum, some feedback, from those more qualified to comment than I).
I am testing it on myself, however.
Follow the evolution of the virus as it moves through the host. Take note if it gives up on a certain location (that was a win). If the
virus does not seem to respond to treatment (eg. if it does not give up on a certain location), increase the intensity of the treatment regime.
Use complementary treatments in addition to the body temperature approaches listed above. For example, drink plenty of water, consume
plenty of Vitamin C, get plenty of rest, eat plenty of healthy food, avoid immuno-suppressive behaviours (eg. smoking), etc.
Understand that when a virus infects, it's war - and your body is the battleground. Your immune system attacks the virus and
the virus attacks you. You can stand idly by while this war goes on and wait for your body to win (it usually does, not always though) -
or you can participate, by tipping the virus off balance, by roasting it, by making it feel dazed and confused, and give
your body the edge it needs to stomp on the infection.
The treatments listed above all involve raising body temperature. It is likely that the virus does not like low temperatures either,
and would probably be suppressed by them, just as it is suppressed by high temperatures. However I'm fairly sure that
a low body temperature weakens our own immune system, so this wouldn't be a good idea.
As all viruses have an optimal temperature range, the above body-temperature technique is likely to be a generic attack which can be used against other kinds
of viruses, in addition to flu. It will also likely work against other kinds of creatures, including bacteria and various parasites.
It's a simple thing, just deliver more heat to the creature than it can handle - while at the same time, ensuring to avoid injuring yourself.
The only time this won't work is when the creature has a higher tolerance to the heat than you.
No, I am not a doctor, nor do I have any kind of medical qualification. I noticed that the common element in home remedies was heat, and I
noticed that a curry helped a flu. It is established that viruses, as with all living creatures, have optimal temperature ranges , . Once I
learned that Capsaicin induces thermogenesis, that gave me a scientific basis for my curry-helps-flu suspicion, and in addition, added to
the list of the heat-related treatments. It was thus possible for me to conclude that
careful manipulation of body temperature can be used to reduce the length and severity of a viral infection.
 http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/292/1/R77 - "Obesity and thermogenesis related to the consumption of caffeine, ephedrine, capsaicin, and green tea" - Kristel Diepvens, Klaas R. Westerterp, and Margriet S. Westerterp-Plantenga (2006), Americal Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
 http://www.virologyj.com/content/3/1/58 - "Temperature sensitive influenza A virus genome replication results from low thermal stability of polymerase-cRNA complexes" - Rosa M Dalton, Anne E Mullin, Maria Joao Amorim, Elizabeth Medcalf, Laurence S Tiley and Paul Digard (2006), Virology Journal
 http://www.springerlink.com/content/uxp2l681g08371qv/ - "Temperature optima of mammalian and amphibian viruses in cell cultures of homeothermic and poikilothermic origin" - H. F. Clark and D. T. Karzon (1968), Archives of Virology