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In what may prove to be the first major breakthrough in the fight against the mysterious and controversial disorder known as chronic fatigue syndrome, researchers reported Thursday that they had found traces of a virus in the vast majority of affected patients.
"We are in the very early days," said Stuart Le Grice, director of the National Cancer Institute's Center of Excellence in HIV/AIDS and Cancer Virology, who organized the meeting but was not involved in the new study. "The data need to be confirmed and repeated. . . We need to know that it is a cause and not just a passenger. In a sense, we are at the same stage as we were when HIV was first discovered. Hopefully, we can take advantage of what we learned from working with it."
"It is almost unheard of to find an association of this magnitude in any study of an infectious agent and a well-defined disease, much less an [ill-defined] illness like chronic fatigue syndrome," he said in an e-mail. It is extremely difficult to prove causation with a ubiquitous virus like XMRV, and it "is even more difficult in the case of CFS, which represents a clinically and epidemiologically complex illness," he said.
...I wonder if it may be related to Fibromyalgia...
According to the Whittemore Peterson Institute, one of the partners in this research, scientists tested some blood samples from people diagnosed with fibromyalgia and found a high prevalence of XMRV in those samples. However, they point out 2 major short comings of this research:
1. The small number of blood samples tested
2. The possibility that some of those samples came from people who were misdiagnosed or had undiagnosed co-morbid chronic fatigue syndrome
The major finding was that DNA from the XMRV virus could be detected in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of over two-thirds of ME/CFS patients’ samples from the blood bank in the Whittemore Peterson Institute tissue repository, but in less than 4% of healthy control samples. Also, the researchers reported that XMRV proteins were being expressed in blood cells from ME/CFS patients at very high levels compared with controls, and that patient-derived XMRV was infectious and transmissible.
These findings have caught the attention of the scientific world, but the next steps are equally important. Chief among these is for independent laboratories across the world to attempt the replication of the WPI findings among their own local populations of ME/CFS patients — it is sometimes said that replication studies are where the rubber meets the road in science!