Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Shown to be Caused by Virus
Posted Oct 21 2009 10:06pm
A very recent discovery may lead to significant advances for the estimated 4 million Americans and 17 million worldwide who suffer with chronic fatigue syndrome. CSF is, like its name suggests, a persistent extreme level of fatigue that does not resolve with rest or sleep. It may also be accompanied by memory lapses and other neurological issues. All too many individuals have been branded as having a “psychological problem” and as not really being ill. No cause had been known although viral infection, immune dysfunction or both had been thought possible. There has been no specific treatment.
Now researchers at the Whittemore Peterson Research Institute in Reno, Nevada have shown that CFS is likely caused by a virus. Known as xenotrophic murine leukemia virus – related virus, or XMVR, it is a retrovirus that is suspected of being transmitted by intimate human contact. The discovery means that a definite diagnostic rest can be created. And hopefully it means that scientists will be able to shortly find or create drugs to both prevent the disease and to treat those who have it. It also means that no loner will these patients be labeled as not having a real medical problem.
The researchers’ early studies suggest that perhaps 4% of us carry the virus. If proven correct, then an immediate goal is for a quick and inexpensive test to screen donated blood so that the virus is not transmitted inadvertently via transfusions. And it raises the intriguing question of why some but not all of those infected go on to develop CSF.
In study done at the Cleveland Clinic, scientists have found the same XMRV virus in prostate cancer samples. It is too soon to say that the virus is causative; if might be just a “passenger.” Additional research will be done to make a clear determination.
Meanwhile, the Whittemore Peterson researchers have suggested a new name – x-associated neuroimmune disease [XAND], a name that clarifies that this is a real disease and suggests some of its implications.
This finding of XMRV as the likely cause of CFS is a major medical advance.