Potential Cure For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

People who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome(CFS) feel tired even after a good night’s rest. They often have debilitating pain in their muscles or joints, trouble concentrating and immunity problems. But in October 2009 came some energizing news: American researchers believe they had found a link between xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus(XMRV) and CFS. If that proves to be true, scientists could begin working on effectively diagnosing and treating the disease.


The results of the study were published in the journal Science in an article entitled “Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” Researchers sought to determine if there was a connection between a pathogen and CFS after observing that many people develop CFS after a bout with a flu-like illness. The new study compared samples of blood from 101 people with chronic fatigue to samples from 218 healthy people. Approximately 67 percent of those ill showed the presence of XMRV, compared with fewer than 4 percent of healthy people.

Researchers have suspected for some time that chronic fatigue might be caused by a virus. In the late 19th-century, American neurologist Dr. George Beard applied the term neurasthenia to a range of symptoms. Since then, the medical community has been unsure whether condition is a physiological or a psychological condition. It wasn’t until 1988 that the name chronic fatigue syndrome was offered by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control(CDC). In the United States, CFS affects between one to four million people, according to the CDC. Some estimates put the number of people around the globe with CFS at around 17 million.

While most viruses are eliminated from the body, XMRV belongs to a separate class known as retroviruses: they linger on in the body indefinitely. Some retroviruses are known to infect immune cells. XMRV has also been found in some prostate tumors in humans and is related to a retrovirus that causes cancer in animals.

Scientists also say it’s too soon to say whether XMRV actually causes chronic fatigue. In the past, some of the other supposed causes of CFS have included enteroviruses, Epstein-Barr virus, and the herpes virus. However, these have been found in a smaller percentage of CFS cases than has XMRV.

Source: “Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” Vincent C. Lombardi, et al. Science. October 8, 2009


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