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article imageIs there a virus link to chronic fatigue syndrome?

By Kathleen Blanchard     Sep 24, 2011 in Health
In a new study, researchers find no link between the xenotropic-MLV-related virus (XMRV) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The latest study, published in the journal Science, failed to find evidence of the specific virus.
Nor did a working group of scientists find evidence linking other murine leukemia viruses, or M.L.V.s, to the disease.
Researchers taking part in the Blood XMRV Scientific Working Group looked at blood samples from nine labs that included the 15 people reportedly infected with M.L.V.’s and 15 healthy subjects.
Just two of the labs found evidence of virus in the samples, which was also found in the controls, contradicting previous studies suggesting chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by viral infection.
Previous studies, conducted by the Whittemore Peterson Institute, found XMRV virus in the blood of people with CFS. Later studies suggested the finding was the result of contamination of lab equipment or blood samples, though the study authors have contended they used strict controls to avoid contamination.
The study, published October, 2009 in the journal Science, led by Judy Mikovits, PhD, of the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nevada has been partially retracted as a result of the new finding.
In the retraction, the authors write:
“In our 23 October 2009 Report, ‘Detection of an infectious retrovirus, XMRV, in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome,’ two of the coauthors, Silverman .and Das Gupta, analyzed DNA samples from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients and healthy controls. A reexamination by Silverman and Das Gupta of the samples they used shows that some of the CFS peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) DNA preparations are contaminated with XMRV plasmid DNA."
Mikovits, in a separate comment published in the journal Science, says it’s a public “disservice” to negate XMRV as a cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. She said, “The virus is reaI. I have isolated it from patients. I know it's there."
One of the concerns about the virus and chronic fatigue syndrome is whether patients diagnosed should be barred from donating blood. If the virus is linked to the disease, it could put blood recipients at risk for illness.
Based on newest finding, researchers from the Blood XMRV Scientific Working Group say there is no recommendation for screening blood donors for the virus.
The researchers for the newest study suggest lab assays can’t detect the virus. They also explain levels of the virus could fluctuate over time, making them undetectable.
According to Mikovits, "The conclusion of the Blood Working Group was that we don't have a reproducible assay to detect XMRVs in the blood -- not that they weren't in the patients at all."
The National Institutes of Health is studying 150 patients that may lend more insight into whether chronic fatigue syndrome may be related to the XMRV or related virus. The results are expected to be available early 2012.
The disease itself remains a mystery and affects 17 million people worldwide. Some of the symptoms of CFS include memory problems, headaches, joint pain, lack of mental clarity and extreme debilitating fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
According to WebMD, Mitkovit's interpretation of the finding is “All this study really says is that we can’t detect it in the blood reproducibly.” The original researchers say XMRV can hide in the body in the spleen and lymph nodes, based on recent studies in primates.
Mikovits plans to continue her own studies and has just received a federal grant. “Clearly things aren’t over or they wouldn’t be awarding grants for people like us to study this virus and understand those questions,” she says. The newest study fails to find an association between XMVR and related viruses and chronic fatigue syndrome.
More about Chronic fatigue syndrome, XMRV, Mikovits, Blood XMRV Scientific Working Group
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