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XMRV And Public Health: Its Association With ME/CFS Appears Unreliable

Friday 9 June 2017


From Frontiers in Public Health:



XMRV and Public Health: The Retroviral Genome Is Not a Suitable Template for Diagnostic PCR, and Its Association with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Appears Unreliable

Simona Panelli,1,2
Lorenzo Lorusso,3
Alessandro Balestrieri,4
Giuseppe Lupo,1,2
Enrica Capelli1,2,*

1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Section of Animal Biology, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
2Centre for Health Technologies (C.H.T.), University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
3Neurology Unit, A.S.S.T. Franciacorta, Chiari (Brescia), Italy
4Department of Biosciences, University of Milano, Milano, Italy

Edited by: Mohiuddin Md. Taimur Khan, Washington State University, United States
Reviewed by: Jean Challacombe, Los Alamos National Laboratory, United States; Md. Asaduzzaman, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
*Correspondence: Enrica Capelli, ti.vpinu@illepac.acirne
Specialty section: This article was submitted to Environmental Health, a section of the journal Frontiers in Public Health

Published online 2017 May 22


A few years ago, a highly significant association between the xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a complex debilitating disease of poorly understood etiology and no definite treatment, was reported in Science, raising concern for public welfare.

Successively, the failure to reproduce these findings, and the suspect that the diagnostic PCR was vitiated by laboratory contaminations, led to the retraction of the paper.

Notwithstanding, XMRV continued to be the subject of researches and public debates.

Occasional positivity in humans was also detected recently, even if the data always appeared elusive and non-reproducible.

In this study, we discuss the current status of this controversial association and propose that a major role in the unreliability of the results was played by the XMRV genomic composition in itself.

In this regard, we present bioinformatic analyses that show:

(i) aspecific, spurious annealings of the available primers in multiple homologous sites of the human genome;

(ii) strict homologies between whole XMRV genome and interspersed repetitive elements widespread in mammalian genomes.

To further detail this scenario, we screen several human and mammalian samples by using both published and newly designed primers.

The experimental data confirm that available primers are far from being selective and specific.

In conclusion, the occurrence of highly conserved, repeated DNA sequences in the XMRV genome deeply undermines the reliability of diagnostic PCRs by leading to artifactual and spurious amplifications.

Together with all the other evidences, this makes the association between the XMRV retrovirus and CFS totally unreliable.

Keywords: ME/CFS, retroviruses, XMRV, murine leukemia virus, PCR, retroelements, ERV, mouse


Full article…



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