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Retrovirus Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Last Updated: October 12, 2009.

A virus has been found in about two-thirds of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a study published online Oct. 8 ahead of print in Science.

MONDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- A virus has been found in about two-thirds of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a study published online Oct. 8 ahead of print in Science.

Noting that the human gammaretrovirus xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) has been associated with changes in an antiviral enzyme in some prostate cancers and in chronic fatigue syndrome, Vincent C. Lombardi, Ph.D., from the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nev., and colleagues examined whether peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 101 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 218 healthy controls contained DNA from the virus.

The researchers found that considerably more patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had DNA from XMRV (67 versus 3.7 percent). The virus sequences were very similar to each other and to the prostate cancer cases, forming a distinct family, suggesting that the virus was not a laboratory contaminant. Further experiments showed that the isolated virus was infectious and could be observed by electron microscopy.

"These findings raise the possibility that XMRV may be a contributing factor in the pathogenesis of chronic fatigue syndrome," Lombardi and colleagues conclude. Noting that nearly 4 percent of healthy patients had the virus, "this suggests that several million Americans may be infected with a retrovirus of as yet unknown pathogenic potential."

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