Federal researchers have uncovered a mysterious link between chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) — a debilitating disorder in which fatigue does not go away with rest — and a virus that’s known to infect mice.
The researchers found that the blood of 32 of 37 patients (86.5 percent) diagnosed with CFS contained murine leukemia virus-related viruses. But when they looked at healthy blood donors, they found that just three of 44 (6.8 percent) had the viruses, which can cause leukemia or cancers in mice.
So far, the researchers have no explanation about why the mouse virus might be so very common among CFS sufferers — or how it could cause the disease if indeed it does. “These results do raise as many questions as they answer,” a CDC official told reporters yesterday. One previous study, in 2009, had also found a link between chronic fatigue syndrome and the mouse virus, but since then a handful of studies have failed to find the same association. Those discrepancies, too, remain unexplained — whether the differences in study results are caused by differences in the patient populations under review, or by differences in research design.
It may be some time before answers emerge. But, until then, researchers are already recommending tests to identify the virus in blood donations — an attempt to keep the blood supply free from disease contamination.