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New evidence that virus may cause chronic fatigue

A well-respected team of scientists released long-awaited new evidence Monday that a virus may be playing a role in chronic fatigue syndrome.

The researchers, from the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and Harvard Medical School, analyzed blood samples that had been collected 15 years ago from 37 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Most of the subjects--32, or 86.5 percent--tested positive for a virus known as a murine leukemia virus-related virus, the researchers found. In contrast, tests on 44 healthy blood donors detected evidence of the virus in only three of the subjects, or 6.8 percent.

While providing new evidence that a virus may play a role in the mysterious condition, the researchers said the findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are no where near proving the virus causes the syndrome.

But the findings are being hailed by advocates for chronic fatigue syndrome patients, such as the CFID Association of America. The head of that group, Kim McCleary, says the findings are a potentially important step toward finding the cause of the condition and possibly developing treatments, as well as dispelling the notion that the condition is really psychological.

Between 1 million to 4 million Americans are believed to suffer from the syndrome, which causes prolonged and severe fatigue, body aches and other symptoms. The cause has long been a mystery. Over the years, many viruses have been linked to the syndrome, only to end up being a dead end.

But in 2009, Judy Mikovits and colleagues at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nevada, published a paper in the well-respected journal Science. That paper reported that many syndrome patients appeared to be infected with a little-known virus called the xenotrophic murine leukemia virus-related virus, or XMRV. XMRV is a so-called retrovirus, which is the same type of virus as the AIDS virus. XMRV had also been found in some prostate cancer patients.

But four other groups, including a team at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, subsequently failed to duplicate the findings in other patients, raising deep suspicions that this was yet another wild goose chase.

The new findings will probably revive interest in the virus. The virus detected in the new study does not appear to be exactly the same one the Reno group found, but it is closely related. In addition to detecting evidence of the microbe in an overwhelming majority of the stored blood samples, the researchers found evidence of virus in fresh blood samples from seven of eight of the patients, indicating that the infection persists. Harvey Alter of the NIH, who helped conduct the study, says there also were indications the virus had evolved slightly over time, which is what would be expected from a retrovirus.

The paper's publication was delayed because of questions about whether the findings could have been the result of laboratory contamination. That prompted the researchers to conduct a series of additional tests to try to rule that out, and rumors that the research was being suppressed. But in an editorial accompanying the paper, the journal's editor said the additional studies were important to validate the findings.

Some researchers are continuing to question whether the scientists had completely ruled out contamination. And almost everyone is urging great caution in rushing to any conclusions. But the researchers say they are confident they ruled out laboratory contamination. They're not sure why they found evidence of the virus in syndrome patients while others failed. But they speculated there could be a variety of explanations, including that they tested a better-defined group of patients or perhaps that the virus is only found in patients in some geographic areas.

In a commentary accompanying the study, Andrew Mason of the University of Alberta in Canada and colleagues argued that one of the next steps might be to try testing antiviral drugs on chronic fatigue patients in a carefully designed study.

Not everyone thinks there's enough evidence for that yet, given that antiviral drugs can have side effects. But Mikovits and her colleagues at the Reno clinic who made the original discovery say they are hoping a drug company will step forward to fund that kind of study.

Meantime, researchers from various groups are working together to try to develop standardized ways to test patients for the virus to see if they can further validate the connection between the virus and the syndrome. The FDA and CDC are very interested in pursuing this, in no small part because if the virus does cause the condition then blood donors may need to be screened for it to protect transfusion recipients.

For more information about this from the CDC cick here.

By Rob Stein  |  August 23, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Chronic Conditions , Infectious Disease , Women's Health  
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"New evidence that virus may cause chronic fatigue"? First of all, I am EXTREMELY offended that it is now acceptable to refer to children as “viruses.” That’s all I really had to say. Thanks for listening!

Posted by: newsboy3 | August 23, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

It is unusual to get a psychosymatic illness. Far too many people have chronic fagtigue to write them off as nut jobs which unfortunately is exactly what is going on and also so that insurers do not have to cover them. There has been information for many years that the condition is linked to a virus or perhaps a combo. I wish those people well. Terrible to be sick and not believed.

Posted by: maddymappo | August 23, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is caused by a reversal of the chakra energy vortices located along the centerline of the body. Under normal circumstances, the vortex spins clockwise as seen looking at the chest. The right-hand rule of physics says that the energy flows along the thumb direction. The fingers represent the spin direction of the circular co-gravitational field created by the energy flow. There is an energy creature that resembles a child's eraser with one end cut off square and the other with a taper. This creature has a hollow body with two chambers. The first chamber with a slit window, shoots energy into the second larger chamber. The energy travels around the right side and is then reflected off the tapered side and returns on the left side. Notice that spin of this field is with the thumb pointing upward in order to bring energy into its cavity. The creature also has a circular hole in the flat base. By landing on the heart chakra, the spin of the chakra is reversed so that energy feeds into the creature. The chakra connects to a meter-long cavity which stores the hyperspace energy. The next day, due to this loss of energy, the person can hardly move and experiences tremendous fatigue. By using the pendulum, which rotates in the circular gravitational field, it can be determined which vortex was reversed. Then by mental intention, the vortex is corrected to receive energy. The feeling is that of Niagara Falls pouring into your body. The low-density low-speed-of-light hyperspace energy has such a low damping factor that it sloshes back and forth in the cavity for about six hours before settling down.

Posted by: JohnStClair | August 23, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

"New evidence that virus may cause chronic fatigue"? First of all, I am EXTREMELY offended that it is now acceptable to refer to children as “viruses.” That’s all I really had to say. Thanks for listening!

Posted by: newsboy3 | August 23, 2010 3:13 PM |
You are correct. Technically, if they have come back home after graduation they are parasites. Doesn't the Post even attempt fact-checking any more ??!!! Sheesh.

Posted by: gannon_dick | August 23, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Once again the CDC finds itself with egg on its face. For years they ridiculed people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Some "scientists" at the CDC even made a routine of laughing at these patients and making fun of them in emails to each other. And yes, there was absolutely an effort by the CDC and its minions to suppress the results of this study. But truth finds a way. One day the truth about vaccine-induced autism will also become too difficult even for the CDC to deny. I think that day is coming soon...

Posted by: crashprevention | August 23, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse


You know, that's exactly what my freaking Insurance Company said when I suggested a six week cruise in French Polynesia (ie. south of the equator).

You guys are all in it together. Don't the needs of the patient come first anymore ?

Posted by: gannon_dick | August 23, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Please, Jennifer and Rob, get the name of the disease right. It's chronic fatigue SYNDROME. Extreme debilitating fatigue is only one of over a dozen symptoms of ME/CFS, any one of which is also debilitating.

As for clicking on the CDC link for "more information", people with this SYNDROME can tell you that CDC is not a valid source of anything about ME/CFS. CDC is the reason earlier viral links were not investigated at the time they were discovered. Better to go to the good science forum at mecfsforums.

Anyway, thanks for ceasing to ignore or denigrate patients with this horrid disease. That is a welcome change after nearly 30 years of maltreatment by the media and the medical industry.

Posted by: oerganix | August 23, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

How is this news?? Doctors have been prescribing annti virals and anti retro virals for CFS for years!

Newsflash!! The Titanic sank! Newsflash! Mussolini is dead!

Come on about some real news?

Posted by: greeenmtns | August 23, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Show me someone w/CFS (or fibromyalgia) who isn't also neurotic.

Posted by: ajlerner1 | August 23, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse


My comment was directed at people who have CFS with a treatment method that takes only a few minutes to perform. If it is a virus, then energy healers have the ability to remove all viral, fungal and bacterial infections instantaneously by moving the virus into a hyperspace co-dimension where the virus turns into energy. So either way, low energy or virus, we have both covered. My recommendation is to test the seven vortices, and if they are working properly, then remove any viral infection. Low energy or fatigue can be also caused by some unfriendly person placing spiritual sponges in the top chakra. The person then cannot receive energy because the sponges absorb it first. In this case, the pendulum will not move because there is no flow of energy into the body. We have a method for treating this condition also. Because humans are a physical/energy being, it is necessary to cleanse the energy field everyday using hyperspace physics techniques. Hope this helps.

Posted by: JohnStClair | August 23, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

The flippant remarks here are posted by persons who don't have the slightest idea how devastating this condition can be. I have it, and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, or even idiots like JohnSt Clair........

Posted by: windhill1 | August 23, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

The flippant remarks here are posted by persons who don't have the slightest idea how devastating this condition can be. I have it, and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, or even idiots like JohnSt Clair........

Posted by: windhill1 | August 23, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

All viruses are coming from poor quality foods. FActory farms are feeding chicken meat to chicken and cow meat to cows ...
Stuffing animals with harmones, antibiotics, pesticides...
Eat more vegetarian, organic foods. Increase intake of organic fruits. MAke sure your butcher gets organic free range meats. Do not buy from Walmart. Buy appalchia free range beef and chicken.

Posted by: Virginian_Ace | August 23, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Ever notice that any condition more common in women than in men is always labelled as "neurotic"?

Men are really sick; women are stupid inferior subhuman crazy malingering lunatics who are just making things up, probably for attention.

The first thing any reputable psychiatrist does with a new female patient is conduct a full physical exam. Half their referrals are physically ill and have been sent to a shrink because of the stupid assumption that female+sick=crazy.

Posted by: Blurgle | August 23, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse



A veteran journalist's shocking report -- that the government cannot deny:

Posted by: scrivener50 | August 24, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

As a mother ,with ME/CFS, of a son also afflicted, I thank the Post for bringing to light this new information. I was a personal trainer and body builder when I could not walk up the steps to my bed one day. This illness has effected my body from my heart rate to my ability to stand. The fall from an athlete to almost bed bound took very little time, about a week. Hopefully, as our government takes the public's health into consideration, the spread of this devastating illness will be minimized. As a parent, I have wishes for my child just as all parents do. I want my son to live a "normal" life, something impossible right now. I wish for him to be happy, and I wish that for your child too.

Posted by: karen60 | August 25, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse


Association with 8-12 pathogens in SUBSETS of CFS patients in the peer-reviewed literature is not necessarily considered a dead end. As the statement is unattributed I can't speak as to the source.

However, in testimony to the DHS scientific advisory committee on CFS Dr. Ablashi, co-discoverer of HHV-6, stated that many viruses can cause the same disease - or possibly several diseases with core symptoms. That's the modern expansion of Koch's Postulates.

CDC research in 2006 found that regardless of which virus triggered CFS, the severity of the infection not psychiatric factors was the defining variable.

Successful clinical trials of antivirals in subsets of "CFS" patients with specific viruses are also in the scientific literature - although not for retroviruses at this time.

Anti-virals are virus specific unlike antibiotics which are more generalized. Patients with more than one virus present were less responsive. Check PubMed for original sources.

Although the CFIDS Association and the CDC are more well known, one of the best sources of information by scientists is the International Association of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

The largest organized professional group of biomedical and behavioral experts representing clinicians, researchers and educators the IACFS holds international research conferences every other year.

The IACFS has repeatedly urged the CDC CFS research program, which is housed in the viral division, to expand their parameters by partnering with extramural biomedical researchers to do research on biomarkers, metagenomic studies and more extensive research into subsets. Currently the CDC CFSRP focuses almost exclusively on psychosocial factors using the little used 2005 Empiric definition.

It should be noted that the CDC CFSRP program has not requested additional funding since funding was restored in the early part of the decade following a government (GAO) investigation finding funds were being spent on everything but CFS.

Out of the top 100 diseases funded by the NIH CFS is consistently ranked at the bottom of the pile and funds were reduced to $3 million in 2009. That is less than is typically spent on one breast cancer study.

Diseases with insufficient biomedical funding do have a tendency to remain baffling.

A 2005 report titled, "A Broken Pipeline? Flat Funding of the NIH Puts a Generation of Science at Risk" on NIH funding in general stated, "...The harmful effects of these breaks in the scientific pipeline are felt, ultimately, in America’s health and economy. Conservatism and delays at the research bench reduce the scope and pace of scientific discovery and, eventually, the rate at which medical advances improve health outcomes for all of us."

Posted by: KAL6196 | August 25, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

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