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Findings dispute fatigue infection

Wednesday 8 June 2011

From The New York Times (via Australian newspaper The Age):


The New York Times

Findings dispute fatigue infection

David Tuller
June 2, 2011

IN A blow to people with chronic fatigue syndrome, two new studies raised serious doubts about earlier reports that the disabling disease is linked to infection with XMRV, a poorly understood retrovirus.

The new papers were posted online in the journal Science, which in October 2009 had published research linking XMRV to chronic fatigue syndrome.

In an ''editorial expression of concern'' accompanying the two new studies, Bruce Alberts, the editor-in-chief of the journal, declared the earlier finding ''is now seriously in question'', probably due to laboratory contamination.

Based on those earlier findings, some with chronic fatigue syndrome tried to obtain access to antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV, which had been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit the replication of XMRV.

In one of the two new studies, however, researchers found no trace of XMRV or related viruses in the blood of 43 patients who had previously tested positive for XMRV. In the second study, scientists reported evidence that XMRV was likely a recombination of two mouse leukaemia viruses created accidentally in experiments.

Other researchers have been unable to duplicate the original findings implicating XMRV, although none of their studies fully replicated the methods of the original research.

A microbiology professor at Columbia University, Dr Vincent Racaniello, said in an interview that it now appeared unlikely that XMRV infection is a cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. But it also would be wrong to conclude that chronic fatigue syndrome is not an infectious disease, he added. ''These patients have a lot of signs of hyper-immune activation, with their immune systems firing almost constantly,'' he said.

A professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr Jay Levy, and the senior author of one of the new studies, said he nonetheless believed that many or most people with chronic fatigue syndrome are suffering from a disease initiated by one or more viruses.

Last week, the editors of Science asked the authors of the original research if they would retract their paper in view of the new findings about to be published. The senior author, Dr Judy Mikovits, said such a step was premature.

The New York Times


The above originally appeared here. The article also appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald.



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