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XMRV implicated in chronic fatigue syndrome and prostate cancer

Posted Jan 09 2010 1:09pm

A novel virus, XMRV (xenotropic murine leukemia virus–related virus), m ay account for the majority of cases of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and is implicated in as many as 27% of prostate cancer occurrences.  These findings continue to suggest that large swaths of human disease may in fact be related to infectious disease.  We know this to be true in the case of stomach and duodenal ulcers caused by H. pylori bacteria.  We also are well aware of the implications of HPV (human papilloma virus) in the causation of cervical cancer.  Viruses have also been implicated in the development of sarcomas, lymphomas and other tumors.  It is appearing likely that a virus, in this case XMRV, may be playing a major role in the etiology of CFS.  The finding of XMRV in the cells of large numbers of test subjects with CFS as well as in men with prostate cancer (including the prostatic secretions) suggestions that the virus plays some role in the development of many of these cases.  The fact that virus cultured from CFS patients can reinfect uninfected cultures, along with the finding of the virus in prostate secretions (prostatatic secretions make up the majority of semen content at ejaculation), suggests that this virus is likely able to be transmitted in a variety of ways, including via sexual activity.  These findings suggest that work on a vaccine to counteract the virus, as well a new retroviral medications, could play a role in the treatment of CFS as well as the prevention or treatment of prostate cancer.  Research is ongoing. Here are some basic facts we are currently aware of regarding this linkage and thinking.

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disease of unknown etiology that is estimated to affect 17 million people worldwide.
  • Studying peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from CFS patients, DNA was identified from a human gammaretrovirus, xenotropic murine leukemia virus–related virus (XMRV) in 67% as compared to 3.7% in healthy controls.
  • Cell culture experiments revealed thatpatient-derived XMRV is infectious and that both cell-associated and cell-free transmission of the virus are possible.
  • Secondary viral infections were established in uninfected primary lymphocytes and indicator cell lines after their exposure to activated PBMCs, B cells, T cells, or plasma derived from CFS patients.
  • These findings raise the possibility that XMRV may be a contributing factor in the pathogenesis of CFS and that the virus may be transmittable.
  • Prostatic secretions obtained by manually milking the prostates after radical prostatectomy suggest that XMRV is likely sexually transmissible also.
  • Xenotropic murine leukemia virus–related virus (XMRV) was recently discovered in human prostate cancers and is the first gammaretrovirus known to infect humans.
  • While gammaretroviruses have well-characterized oncogenic effects in animals, they have not been shown to cause human cancers.
  • Other viruses have been shown to cause cancer of the cervix, connective tissues (sarcomas), immune system (lymphoma), and other organs.
  • If the retrovirus XMRV is shown to cause prostate cancer, this could have important implications for preventing viral transmission and for developing vaccines to prevent XMRV infection in people.

As has been shown this past year in relation to the Swine flu pandemic, there is much we still need to learn about viruses and their behaviors.  Vaccine development is a key component of advancing worldwide disease prevention and transmission.  Hopefully, new research will direct us to a vaccine for XMRV in the not too distant future .

XMRV is present in malignant prostatic epithelium and is associated with prostate cancer, especially high-grade tumors –

First Evidence Of Virus In Malignant Prostate Cells: XMRV Retrovirus Linked To More Aggressive Tumors –

Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome –

Cleveland Clinic Innovations, Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute 2008-2009


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