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Study links chronic fatigue syndrome to prostate cancer-related virus

  • 11 October 2009
  • Written by 
  • Published in Health
A U.S. study finds that xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMLV), which has been associated with the occurrence of prostate cancer, could be linked to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). If proven true, the research could eventually lead to an effective diagnosis and treatment of the debilitating disease.

A team led by Dr. Judy A. Mikovits, from the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro Immune Disease (Reno, Nevada), studied the relationship between CFS, sometimes called 'yuppie flu,' and the virus XMRV, or xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus.

Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus, sometimes shortened to xenotropic MuLV-related virus, is a recently identified gammaretrovirus.

Its name refers to its similarity to xenotropic murine leukemia viruses even though it displays various distincitve differences. It has also been linked to prostate cancer.

The results of the study were published on Thursday, October 8, 2009, in the journal Science. The article is entitled “Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”

It is authored by Vincent C. Lombardi, Francis W. Ruscetti, Jaydip Das Gupta, Max A. Pfost, Kathryn S. Hagen, Daniel L. Peterson, Sandra K. Ruscetti, Rachel K. Bagni, Cari Petrow-Sadowski, Bert Gold, Michael Dean, Robert H. Silverman, and Judy A. Mikovits.

According to the authors, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) afflicts about 17 million people worldwide. But, the reason it affects these people is unknown medically.

The Mikovits team analyzed 101 patients of CFS. Specifically, they looked at the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from these CFS patients.

Page two states the conclusions of the study.

The U.S. team found that 68 of them (about 67.3%), tested positive for XMRV genes. That is, they “identified DNA from a human gammaretrovisus, xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV).” [Paper]

{mosloadpostition william08}A control group of 218 healthy people (without CFS) had only eight people with XMRV genes (about 3.7%).

They concluded that their results “raise the possibility that XMRV may be a contributing factor in the pathogenesis of CFS.” [Paper]

Their study also raises the possibility, because of the fact that about nearly 4% of otherwise healthy people have the XMRV gene, that many more people could potentially acquire CFS.

The researchers estimate that as many as ten million people in the United States and hundreds of millions of people worldwide could be potentially infected with the virus.

As mentioned previously, the cause of CFS is not known. In fact the medical community is not sure whether it is a physiological or psychological condition.

According to the October 8, 2009 New Scientist article “Chronic fatigue syndrome linked to 'cancer virus',” British psychistrist Simon Wessely was said to have been “vilified by patient groups for his scepticism of cut-and-dried explanations for CFS and his asertion that psychological factors may play an important role. “

Dr. Wessely (from King’s College London) states, “It's a contentious area that lies somewhere between medicine and psychiatry."

Page three concludes with additional information on CFS and XMRV, and further sources of information on the two.

Some of the symptoms of CFS are debilitating fatigue and weakness, chronic pain, cramps, sleeplessness, and headaches.

XMRV is a retrovirus, which means that once the virus is inside the body it remains there permanently. When present, it degrades the immune system, which makes it easier to catch other diseases.

In the United States, CFS affects between one to four million people (according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and in the United Kingdom it affects about 250,000 (according to the New Scientist article).

In the past, some of the supposed causes of CFS have included enteroviruses, Epstein-Barr virus, herpesvirses. However, these have been found to only cause a small percentage of CFS cases.

With no treatment for CFS and diagnoses that involve eliminating other diseases, this study may prove very helpful in finally discovering the cause of CFS so that diagnoses and treatments can be effectively made.

In the October 9, 2009 Wall Street Journal article “Cancer-Causing Virus Linked to Chronic Fatigue,” it states, “Although Thursday's scientific paper doesn't demonstrate conclusively that XMRV is a cause of CFS, additional unpublished data make it a very strong possibility."

And, "Dr. Mikovits said that using additional tests, the scientists determined that more than 95% of the patients in the study are either infected with live virus or are making antibodies that show their immune systems mounted an attack against XMRV and now had the virus under control.”

In addition, Dr. Mikovits is quoted in the WST article to have said, "Just like you cannot have AIDS without HIV, I believe you won't be able to find a case of chronic-fatigue syndrome without XMRV.”

Additional information is found in the previously quoted New Scientist article “Chronic fatigue syndrome linked to 'cancer virus'.”

Also read the October 8, 2009 ScienceBlogs.com article “Virus linked to both chronic fatigue syndrome and prostate cancer.”

Additional information about chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is found on the Mayo Clinic website “CFS: Definition” and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”


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