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Chronic fatigue linked to virus

13th October 2009

Many people who have chronic fatigue syndrome have a little-known virus that does not affect the rest of the general population, according to recent US research.

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Chronic fatigue syndrome is a mysterious combination of body aches, severe listlessness, and other symptoms that affects 17 million people worldwide.

Doctors have sometimes suspected their patients of pretending to have chronic fatigue syndrome.

According to the researchers, 68 out of 101 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome were also infected with xenotropic murine leukaemia virus related virus (XMRV).

When the scientists examined people who had not reported chronic fatigue syndrome, 3.7% were infected with the same virus.

Judy Mikovits of the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, who was the lead researcher for the study, said that further studies have revealed that almost 98% of 300 people who reported symptoms of chronic fatigue were infected with XMRV.

XMRV is a member of the same family of viruses as HIV, and stores its genetic information in RNA instead of in DNA.

Mikovits and her colleagues said they were not certain if XMRV acted alone, or in combination with an underlying health problem. Previous studies have also shown a link between the virus and prostate cancer.

Mikovits said that she believed the finding established what had always been considered a psychiatric disease as an infectious disease.

She said her team would soon begin to test antiretroviral drugs like those used in the treatment of AIDS in an attempt to find treatments for XMRV.

In the event that antiretroviral drugs prove effective against XMRV, scientists will know that the virus causes chronic fatigue syndrome.

William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University said that, in interacting with patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, he got the impression that there was a biological cause for the disease.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is also sometimes called post-viral fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Previous studies have suggested that XMRV may be sexually transmitted.

 

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