XMRV linked to CFS


Retrovirus Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Could Aid in Diagnosis

By Katherine Harmon
October 8, 2009

Recently implicated in some severe prostate cancer patients, the retrovirus XMRV has now been found in many with chronic fatigue – – changing the landscape for diagnosis and possible treatment

OVERTAKING CHRONIC FATIGUE: An electron micrograph shows the XMRV retrovrius in the blood of a patient with cfs.
Source: WHITTENMORE PETERSON INSTITUTE

More so than many illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) frustrates those who suffer from it and those close to them, due to its nebulous assembly of symptoms, along with continued controversies over its etiology, diagnosis, treatment and even its nomenclature. Now, the discovery of a familiar retrovirus in many CFS patients could bring new energy to the field—and fresh hope for more specific medical care.
Chronic fatigue is in part a misnomer. The syndrome often has more to do with immune system abnormalities than pervasive tiredness—although the two can go hand in hand. The symptoms range from exhaustion to muscle pain, giving CFS a reputation among some as a “wastebasket diagnosis”. The slipperiness of the syndrome is in part because “it’s diagnosed based on exclusion,” says Judy Mikovits, director of research at the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nev., and co-author of research on the retrovirus findings published online today in Science. Doctors often apply the label if no other explanation can be found for a patient’s symptoms, which may be part of the reason it seems to pop up in everyone from overworked career women to continually sick children.
Roughly 17 million people worldwide are thought to have CFS, but given current diagnosis methods, the true number could be much higher or lower. Having a specific virus to look for would make for much more robust tests and possibly even be a step toward treatment. Mikovits’s team thinks they have found just such a candidate.
The xenotropic murine leukemia virus–related virus (XMRV) has recently been linked to strong cases of prostate cancer. Like CFS, this cancer involves changes in an antiviral enzyme (RNase L). The prostate cancer discovery got Mikovits and her team thinking: Would they find the same retrovirus in people with CFS?
After analyzing biological samples from more than 100 CFS patients for the retrovirus, two thirds of them were found to test positive for the virus—compared with 3.7 percent of 218 healthy volunteers who were screened.
Precisely how this virus is related to chronic fatigue, however, remains a mystery. One of the problems with tracking down CFS is that it may not be a single ailment. “We think that the problem is that CFS is a collection of many, many different diseases even though it has similar symptoms,” says Brigitte Huber, a professor of pathology at Tufts University’s Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences in Boston. She and others suspect that the retrovirus may be unleashing other underlying conditions and viruses in the body.
“This new retrovirus may be able, through infecting human cells, [to] induce a transcription of an endogenous virus,” says Huber, who has been studying the presence of an ancient retrovirus (HERV-K18) dormant in most people but active in patients with CFS and multiple sclerosis. “We’ve already shown that Epstein-Barr virus can do exactly this.”
Even in their testing for the XMRV retrovirus, Mikovits says, “We could see a human endogenous virus at the same time” as XMRV. “There are a number of old diseases that seem to be rising at an infectious rate,” she says. Although this background noise of various viruses may be difficult to sort though, it brings clues to help researchers find the root cause of CFS. “It’s possible, downstream, that this will all feed into the same mechanism,” Huber says.

*** Note: This post has been modified from the original for space & the excessive unnecessary extra scientific jargon included that was not necessary the express my point in this blog. The original in it’s entirety can be found here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=chronic-fatigue-syndrome-retrovirus ***

Posted via email from Kelli’s Posterous

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