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February 27, 2010

Chronic fatigue link to virus refuted

A new study has cast doubt on recent claims that a virus known as XMRV is linked to the development of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This is the third study to refute the original US study which reported the link.
Chronic fatigue link to virus refutedCFS, commonly referred to as ME (myalgic encephalitis), is a very debilitating condition which affects less than 1% of the Irish population. Those affected experience excessive tiredness even after adequate rest.

Other symptoms can include muscular aches & pains & frequent headaches. While the cause is unclear, many people say their illness started after a viral infection.

Last October, a group of US scientists published research in the journal Science, which suggested that the XMRV virus could be linked to CFS.In Jan-2010, a research team in the UK found no evidence of XMRV in 186 patients with CFS. A second study, published earlier this month also failed to identify XMRV in 170 patients.As part of this latest study, a team from the Netherlands investigated whether this link could be confirmed in an independent European group of patients with CFS.They examined the DNA from XMRV in the blood cells of 32 Dutch patients with the condition & 43 healthy controls, matched by age, sex & geographical area. Two highly sensitive tests were performed on two different target genes.

The researchers found no evidence of XMRV in any of the patients or the controls, adding to the negative evidence in the two previous studies. The team from the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre said, “Although our patient group was relatively small & we cannot formally rule out a role of XMRV, our data cast doubt on the claim that this virus is associated with CFS in the majority of patients.”

One reason why these results contradict the original findings may be that the US study involved patients from a specific outbreak of CFS in the mid-1980s that has already been linked to several viruses. The researchers concluded that it is possible that XMRV is implicated in that outbreak, but does not play a substantial role in most cases of CFS.

Details of these findings are published in the British Medical Journal. In an accompanying editorial, UK researchers noted that in order to reconcile these different findings, other US laboratories are currently investigating XMRV & CFS & the results are ‘eagerly awaited’.

“If the link fails to hold up, it will be another bitter disappointment to affected patients. Nonetheless, the current debate will still bring critical attention to the causes of CFS & XMRV may turn out to be important in the pathogenesis of other diseases,” they said.

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