7 Sneaky Viral Strategies that Hack Your Immune System

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

When you get an infection or get sick, it’s usually either a bacterial or viral infection. You might know a little bit more about bacteria, but how much do you know about viruses and how they work? Viruses are very devious, and they have developed clever ways to hide from your immune system. These sneaky viral strategies allow them to invade your cells undetected, getting past your immune defenses.

In this article, learn more about viruses and the sneaky ways they evade our body’s immune system.

I will cover:


What are viruses and how do they work?

3D illustration of viruses, all different shapes.

Viruses are small, neatly packaged sacs of genetic material. They come in many different shapes (like rods, spheres, and filaments). These tiny infectious particles reproduce by infecting a host cell and taking it over.

Viruses can copy themselves over and over again if they can gain access to the inside of your cells and get into your nucleus. Once there, they can use your cells’ own resources and essentially turn your cells into virus-producing factories.

And when the viruses start reproducing, they can cause a lot of damage within your body and to your immune system. The immune system will start to recognize the viruses as foreign invaders, which will create inflammation in the body and can result in a lot of harmful collateral damage

Illustration of immune system and antibodies attacking foreign invader virus.

But how do viruses make it inside of your cells to begin with? How do they make it into the body undetected by our immune system’s defense mechanisms?

It turns out that viruses are quite devious, and they have many different ways to hack your immune system and enter your cells undetected.


7 sneaky viral strategies that evade the immune system

There are many different ways that viruses are able to sneak in under the radar and dodge the immune system response.

Here are some of the strategies viruses can use:

1. Infecting B and T cells

Viruses can actually infect your own immune cells, such as B and T cells. By infecting the immune system cell and becoming a part of that cell, the virus then starts to be viewed as part of the host rather than as an invader.

2. Infecting monocytes

Monocytes are another type of immune cell that viruses can invade and set up shop in. Again, this makes it so that your body starts to see the virus as part of its own cells instead of as a dangerous invader

3. Infecting the thymus

Anatomy image of male organs highlighting thymus gland in red, immune system organ.

The thymus is a gland right above the heart that acts like a training camp for your white blood cells. Here, your white blood cells get trained to defend against pathogens. By invading the thymus and sneaking into this immune center, the viruses can hide and blend in with the body’s own immune system.

4. Escaping antibody response

Each virus has a shell around it, and that shell has a little protein on it. That protein acts like a flag that your immune system can see. Normally, the immune system is able to detect that protein flag and produce antibodies that bind to it. This blocks the virus’s activity and allows the immune system to get rid of the virus.

However, some viruses are able to hide that protein flag so that the immune system can’t recognize it. It doesn’t get recognized until much later on when you are already sick and infected.

Warning sign that says Virus Detected, immune system detection of virus invader

5. Working together with another virus to escape the attack

Sometimes, two viruses can invade one cell. When this happens, they can work together to rearrange the protein flags on the outside of the shell so that they can evade attack by your own immune system. By working together, they can confuse the immune system and hide from it.

6. Escaping cytokines

Cytokines are signaling molecules for the immune system, and they are involved in inflammatory responses. Viruses can sometimes escape cytokines so that no inflammation occurs at the infected site. This means that there is nothing for your immune system to indicate that the virus is present.

7. Blocking your ability to absorb vitamin D

Certain viruses can downgrade vitamin D receptors, which blocks vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D is intimately involved in your immune system. Without it, you are more susceptible to infection and your immune function becomes suppressed. So by blocking vitamin D, viruses can up their chances of successful infection without being hindered by a strong immune system.


Key takeaways

As you can see, viruses can be quite clever when it comes to tricking the immune system and getting into your cells undetected. From infecting your own immune cells to blocking your vitamin D receptors, there are many sneaky viral strategies that help viruses to get into your cells and start replicating.

Boosting immunity concept, staying healthy. Scale on dial with text for immunity

If you want to stay healthy and prevent infection, then it is important to give your immune system the best shot possible in fighting off these devious invaders. So make sure to prioritize strengthening your immune defenses all year long.

To get started, check out this video on bulletproofing your immune system.

Give some of the strategies a try, and then let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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