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Doubts over Chronic Fatigue Syndrome virus link


British scientists have cast doubt on a new theory about the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

A US study, published in the journal Science, indicated that a virus could trigger the condition, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

The recently discovered virus, xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV), was linked to cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in the study

The study suggested that anti-retroviral drugs similar to those given to patients with the HIV virus could be use to treat CFS.

Several laboratories have since started offering treatment to CFS patients.

But a new study by British researchers shows no evidence of XMRV playing a role in the condition.

Professor Myra McClure, from Imperial College London, one of the authors of the British study, said: ”We are confident that our results show there is no link between XMRV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, at least in the UK. The US study had some dramatic results that implied people with the illness could be treated with anti-retrovirals.

”Our recommendation to people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome would be not to change their treatment regime, because our results suggest that anti-retrovirals would not be an effective treatment for the condition.”


Readers' comments (5)

  • One of the co-authors of this study, Simon Wessely, has staked his entire academic career on the (ludicrous) idea that diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis are caused by purely psychological factors.

    Therefore Simon Wessely would be the last person you would want in a study like this.

    I wonder just how hard he looked for this XMRV virus.

    Ever heard of confirmation bias?

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    Frankie Vigil
    R&R Partners for
    Whittemore Peterson Institute

    Official Statement from the Whittemore Peterson Institute Regarding UK Study

    The Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) has reviewed the paper entitled “Failure to Detect the Novel Retrovirus XMRV in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” This study did not duplicate the rigorous scientific techniques used by WPI, the National Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic, therefore it cannot be considered a replication study nor can the results claim to be anything other than a failure not just to detect XMRV, but also a failure to suggest meaningful results.

    The scientific methods used by WPI are very exact and require specific techniques to ensure accuracy. Differences in techniques employed by Erlwein et al. not only explain their failure to replicate the WPI study, but also render the conclusions meaningless. These differences include, but are not limited to the following:

    1)blood sample volumes and processing;
    2)patient criteria/population differences;
    3)number and type of tests done to assure accurate results, including white blood cell culture;
    4)use of a molecular plasmid control in water versus a positive blood sample; and
    5)different primer sequences and amplification protocol used to find the virus, which were not validated by a clinical control.

    The WPI study was published after six months of rigorous review and three independent lab confirmations, proving that contamination had not taken place and that infectious XMRV was present in 67 percent of CFS patients diagnosed according to the Canadian and Fukuda criteria. In contrast, this latest study was published online after only three days of review. Significant and critical questions remain as to the status of patient samples used in the UK study as those samples may have been confused with fatigued psychiatric patients, since the UK has relegated “CFS” patients to psychiatric care and not traditional medical practices.

    “Little is known about the prevalence of XMRV world-wide, much less the incidence of XMRV in ME/CFS or prostate cancer” emphasizes Dr. Judy Mikovits. “WPI and its NCI collaborators are actively engaged with international research teams to investigate these important questions.”

    WPI does not recommend the use of anti-retroviral drugs that have yet to be proven to be effective in treating XMRV infection. However, several large pharmaceutical companies have expressed interest in developing anti-retroviral and immune modulating drugs that will effectively treat XMRV associated diseases.

    WPI looks forward to the results of other scientific groups around the world, serious about replicating its scientific results, by using the same techniques as WPI and its collaborators. The fact that XMRV was detected in 67 percent of the CFS samples in the U.S. study determined a significant association between XMRV and CFS, demanding a much more serious inquiry by responsible health agencies around the world as to the cause of this debilitating disease.


    Whittemore Peterson Institute
    The Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease exists to bring discovery, knowledge, and effective treatments to patients with illnesses that are caused by acquired dysregulation of the immune system and the nervous system, often results in lifelong disease and disability. The WPI is the first institute in the world dedicated to X associated neuro-immune disease (XAND), and other X associated diseases, integrating patient treatment, basic and clinical research and medical education.

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  • There is an error in this article.

    "Several laboratories have since started offering treatment to CFS patients."

    It should read: Several laboratories have since started offering TESTING to CFS patients.

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  • It's a sad indictment of the philosophy of the Whittemore Peterson Institute that they consider mental health care to be a relegation from medical care.

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  • Hi Anonymous

    Apparently in the UK, mental health care, according to Wessely School psychiatrists, means that CFS/ME patients are considered liars and malingerers that are just faking their ME illness.

    So in one famous case, a boy with ME that had muscular paralysis, was thought to be faking it by his Wessely School mental health carers, and was thrown into a swimming pool, just to try to prove that the boy's muscle paralysis was fake.

    Only when the boy sunk to the bottom did they realize he might not be lying.

    See here:

    If you have a physical illness like CFS/ME, you need to be treated by neurologists, infectious disease experts, etc, not crazy psychiatrists whose first thoughts are to think you are a lair or faker.

    Simon Wessely and his colleges hold the view that ME is merely a “belief” held by those who think they suffer from it, and that ME patients’ muscle weakness is “simulated”.

    To be put in the hands of Wessely School psychiatrist's is indeed a terrible relegation from decent medical care.

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