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XMRV Retrovirus Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Posted Nov 16 2009 10:35am

A new study published in October in the journal Science links a virus found in prostate tumors called xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus or XMRV to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Since its publication there have been three separate articles about it in the New York Times. The study was led by Dr. Judy Mikovits the retrovirus expert at the Whittemore Peterson Institute, a private research foundation founded by Harvey and Annette Whittemore, the parents of a woman who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Dr. Mikovits collaborated with scientists at the National Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic. They found that 67% of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients were infected with XMRV compared to only 3.7% of healthy control subjects. Retroviruses, which include HIV and forms of leukemia affect the immune system and can cause a variety of illnesses including cancer. XMRV was first identified in prostate cancer three years ago and has been detected in about one-quarter of biopsies from men with the disease. 

The new information is making many patients feel hopeful that it will lead to effective treatments but the study is not conclusive. Just detecting XMRV in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome does not prove that it causes the disease. There may be other underlying problems that make chronic fatigue patients susceptible to the infection. It would interesting to test other patients with illnesses that compromise the immune system like AIDS patients and see if they also have XMRV. Persons with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are susceptible to a variety of infections and conditions including Lyme disease, intestinal parasites, mercury toxicity, candida and Epstien Barr virus, which was originally thought to be the cause. These kinds of infections and conditions can be found in low levels in healthy individuals but cause more damage in those whose immune systems are compromised and are not able to keep their numbers in check.

The ultimate significance of this discovery will be if patients get better when the virus is treated. It is my personal opinion that XMRV is not the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome rather a complication. For information on how to order a test kit for detecting XMRV go This website for Viral Immune Pathology also has excellent information on Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia.

A recent study that attempted to replicate the Whittemore Peterson study in England was conducted by the Imperial College London. It found no evidence of the XMRV infection in the blood samples of 186 patients. They concluded "Although we found no evidence that XMRV is associated with CFS in the UK, this may be a result of population differences between North America and Europe regarding the general prevalence of XMRV infection, and might also explain the fact that two US groups found XMRV in prostate cancer tissue, while two European studies did not". An interesting paper that concurs with my opinion about the significance of XMRV and CFS was written by Ashok


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