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Questions raised over virus link to ME

23rd September 2011

Scientists who linked chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) with a virus have withdrawn some of their findings.

depression

The study published in Science in 2009 showed that DNA from a mouse virus, XMRV, was present in 67% of patients with the illness but only 4% of the general population, though other scientists elsewhere were not able to find any evidence of the virus leading to suggestions there may have been contamination of the laboratory samples.

Science asked the authors to withdraw their findings and published an editorial "expression of concern" saying the validity of the study was "seriously in question".

The authors have now issued a partial retraction.

Dr Jonathan Stoye, virologist at the Medical Research Council National Institute of Medical Research in the UK, said: “I don't think this partial retraction has any meaning, it would have been nice to have a complete rather than a partial retraction.

“They're saying the rest of the paper still stands, but that is becoming increasingly difficult for them to maintain.”

One of the labs involved, the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Nevada, is participating in the retraction but continuing its work studying retroviruses in association with ME/CFS and other similarly complex illnesses.

Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, said it was now looking extremely unlikely that XMRV is either linked to ME/CFS or that it has a disease-causing role.

“Having had their hopes raised that a treatable component to ME/CFS had been identified, it’s not surprising that people are becoming increasingly disappointed at the way things are turning out,” he said.

 

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