New study casts doubt over ME virus link

February 26, 2010

A new study published in the British Medical Journal today casts doubt on recent claims that a human retrovirus known as XMRV is linked to chronic fatigue syndrome or ME (myalgic encephalitis).

This is the third study to refute the original US study reporting the link.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide with disabling physical and mental fatigue that does not improve with rest. Its causes remain unclear, but many people say their illness started after a viral infection.

A recent study from the United States detected XMRV in two thirds of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, but could not conclusively prove a direct (causal) link between the virus and the disease.

In January 2010, another research team found no evidence of XMRV in 186 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome in the United Kingdom. A third study, published earlier this month, also failed to identify XMRV in 170 patients.

So a team from the Netherlands, led by Professors Frank van Kuppeveld and Jos van der Meer, investigated whether this link could be confirmed in an independent European group of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

They examined the DNA from XMRV in the blood cells of 32 Dutch patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 43 healthy controls, matched by age, sex and geographical area. Two highly sensitive tests were performed on two different target genes.

They found no evidence of XMRV in any of the patients or the controls, adding to the negative evidence in the two previous studies.

"Although our patient group was relatively small and we cannot formally rule out a role of XMRV, our data cast doubt on the claim that this virus is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome in the majority of patients," say the authors.

One reason why these results contradict the original findings may be that the US study involved patients from a specific outbreak of chronic fatigue syndrome in the mid-80s that has already been linked to several viruses, explain the authors. It is possible that XMRV is implicated in this outbreak, but does not play a substantial role in most cases of chronic fatigue syndrome elsewhere, they conclude.

To reconcile these different findings, other US laboratories are currently investigating XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome, and the results are eagerly awaited, say researchers from Imperial College London and King's College London in an accompanying editorial.

"If the link fails to hold up, it will be another bitter disappointment to affected patients. Nonetheless, the current debate will still bring critical attention to the causes of , and XMRV may turn out to be important in the pathogenesis of other diseases," they conclude.

Explore further: Chronic fatigue syndrome linked to stomach virus

Related Stories

Chronic fatigue syndrome linked to stomach virus

September 13, 2007

Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as ME (myalgic encephalitis), is linked to a stomach virus, suggests research published ahead of print in Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Childhood trauma associated with chronic fatigue syndrome

January 5, 2009

Individuals who experience trauma during childhood appear more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome as adults, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. ...

Scientists link chronic fatigue ailment to retrovirus

October 8, 2009

( -- Scientists have discovered a potential retroviral link to chronic fatigue syndrome, known as CFS, a debilitating disease that affects millions of people in the United States. Researchers from the Whittemore ...

New virus is not linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

January 6, 2010

( -- New UK research, published today in PLoS ONE, has not reproduced previous findings that suggested Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may be linked to a recently discovered virus. The authors of the study, from Imperial ...

Further doubt cast on virus link to chronic fatigue

February 16, 2010

Researchers investigating UK samples have found no association between the controversial xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Their study, published in BioMed Central's ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.