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Virus Associated With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Scientists have found evidence that a virus may play a role in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Vincent C. Lombardi of the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nev., and scientists elsewhere studied 101 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, a baffling, debilitating and controversial condition that affects an estimated 17 million people worldwide. They discovered that 68 of the patients -- 67 percent -- had a virus in their blood known as the xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus or XMRV. Only eight of 218 similar subjects who did not have chronic fatigue syndrome -- 3.7 percent -- had the virus in their blood, the researchers report in a paper published online Thursday by the journal Science.

Further studies showed that the virus is indeed infectious, and can "provoke" the immune system to respond.

The researchers cautioned that the findings far from prove that the virus causes chronic fatigue. It may be just part of the picture. But they suggest that the virus may at least contribute to the development of the disorder. This isn't the first time a virus has been associated with the condition. Previous research has suggested that some herpes viruses and other viruses may also play a role.

In an article accompanying the research, John Coffin of Tufts University in Boston and Jonathan Stoye of the National Institute for Medical Research in London agreed. They noted that there are many unanswered questions about the virus, including how it is transmitted. But if the findings are representative of what's going on in the general public, perhaps 10 million Americans and hundreds of millions of people worldwide might be infected with the virus, which could turn out to be playing a role in a variety of diseases. The virus previously was found in some patients with prostate cancer.

By Rob Stein  |  October 8, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Chronic Conditions , Disabilities , Women's Health  
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Given the fact that an effective recombinant vaccine sold for immunization of cats to prevent a similar retrovirus known as feline murine leukemia virus why not for humans? Imagine immunizing all men and women with such a vaccine and preventing not only chronic fatigue but prostate cancer and the possible benefits in avoiding medical cost$ are enormous. Why can't a recombinant vaccine consisting of canarypox virus carrying an XMRV gag and env genes be created rapidly as was done for the FeLV gag and env genes(presently sold as Merial PUREVAX FeLV in the USA and Eurifel FeLV in Europe). This vaccine would be safe and not require an aluminum adjuvant to be effective in humans based on the existing demonstration of effectiveness in cats. Although this would be a live virus vaccine, it originates from a bird host and so does not replicate in mammals. Much like the original demonstration of immunization to small pox using a mild cow pox vaccina it would give countless men in the future a sleep filled night and less time in the john during the day, not to mention maybe even preventing prostate cancer. Think about it you mavens at the government and the CDC.

Posted by: DFPawlowski-MichiganUSA | October 8, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

If Vince Lombardi says it, I believe it!!!!

Posted by: Section506 | October 8, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

The article in the Wall Street Journal reporting these results on XMRV in CFS patients included the comment:

{"At the July workshop, Dr. Mikovits also presented preliminary data showing that 20 patients of the 101 in the study have lymphoma, a rare form of cancer."}

I have read multiple newspaper reports online (including the Washington Post), but the WSJ seems to be the only one that quotes this statistic. Perhaps this is because the WSJ talked with one of the organizers of the July workshop, which was closed-door? {WSJ: "But the National Cancer Institute was sufficiently concerned to convene a closed-door workshop in July to discuss the public-health implications of XMRV infection."}

I would like the Washington Post to pursue this statistic further because this appears to be a larger number of lymphoma cases than we have ever seen reported for CFS.

Does this mean that the sample of 101 patients used in this study is not typical of CFS patients? This is exciting news, but less exciting for our family if it does not translate to typical CFS.

Perhaps you could follow through on this for the Health section of the Post on Tuesday?

Posted by: LysbethWaltman | October 9, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

This article is the most dismal one I've read since yesterday. WSJ did an amazing job. Credit was not given to Dr. Judy Mikovits or Dr. Dan Patterson in this blog. The implications of a retrovirus involved in CFS was not sufficiently discussed. Whoever wrote this seems to still be unconvinced that CFS is a real disease brought on my some viral component that seems likely transmittable. John Coffin was a bit skeptical at first, but after reading the entire article in Science, he is completely convinced. Instead of writing about the fact that John Coffin was convinced that the research shows something big to take note of, the author seems to be downplaying that and focusing on the questions it raises. Every good scientific study asks questions about what is next. It doesn't mean the study is not groundbreaking and validating for the CFS community.

As stated above, WSJ was the only one to talk about the National Cancer Institute being alarmed enough to convene behind closed doors in July over the public health issues revolving around XMRV. Please update this article with less bias and more accurate detail.

Posted by: hidlyn | October 9, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

The problem with blogs is that articles are limited in space.

What is very pertinent to this study is that retroviruses are known to reactivate latent viruses such as EBV and HHV-6A - the same latent viruses that have been found to be reactived in CFS patients defined by the exact same definition as this study. And, just as importantly, which are known to cause/accelerate the lymphatic cancers (cancer of the immune system) found in both CFS patients with reactivated viruses and in the XMRV group.

Although this pilot study was done in geographically diverse areas of the United States, CFS patients who share a unique RNaseL defect with patients with prostate cancer, have been identified all over the world using the exact same definition as the XMRV study.

What will be exciting is whether other entities, including the government, can replicate the findings - using a patient population defined in exactly the same way as the CFS patients in the XMRV group and using the exact protocols the XMRV group used which are found in the supplement to the pilot XMRV study.

Since it is the job of the CDC to track cancer and deaths in CFS patients it would have been interesting to know their numbers also.

Posted by: KAL6196 | October 14, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

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