INFECTIONS
October 23, 2009

Chronic Fatigue Linked to Virus

CFS sufferers, it is not just in your head. Researchers have discovered that a retrovirus (XMRV) is linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is still too early to say the virus causes CFS, but that's exactly what may be the case...

The elusive disorder known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), in which patients suffer from severe and long−term exhaustion, fatigue, and often pain, may be linked to a retrovirus, report researchers in the October 8th issue of Science. They caution that it is still too early to declare cause−and −effect (see our article, What's Good Health Information?), though it's likely that the relationship may be just this.

Judy A. Mikovits and her colleagues report that 67% of the 101 CSF patients they studied had a retrovirus called XMRV circulating in their bloodstreams. Only 3.7% of healthy individuals were infected with the virus. In the CSF sufferers, not only were blood cells infected but the cells also expressed high numbers of XMRV proteins and were actually generating new viral particles. Retroviruses are unique in that they carry their genes in the form of RNA rather than DNA as most typical viruses do. Retroviruses actually require the “machinery” of the host cell to convert their RNA into DNA. Another well−known retroviral disease is HIV.

Mikovits says that research conducted after the current study was published has found an even more substantial link: upwards of 98% of about 300 CSF sufferers were found to be infected with XMRV.

Mikovits says that research conducted after the current study was published has found an even more substantial link: upwards of 98% of about 300 CSF sufferers were found to be infected with XMRV. She warns, however, that she and colleagues have not shown a causal relationship between XMRV and CSF, only a Correlational study one. But it is likely that causality will soon be demonstrated, she adds. Earlier studies have shown the retrovirus to be involved in other diseases like prostate cancer, and it is possible that there are even more whose underlying cause is XMRV infection.

Mikovits says that her team’s research helps elucidate a biological mechanism behind the disease, which many doctors in the past have doubted: “I think this establishes what had always been considered a psychiatric disease as an infectious disease.” She also notes that “[t]his discovery could be a major step in the discovery of vital treatment options for millions of patients.”

The study was carried out by researchers at Whittemore Peterson Institute, the National Cancer Institute, and the Cleveland Clinic.

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