Viruses Not to Blame for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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A scientific controversy appears to have been put to rest. At the behest of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers conducted a study of 293 people and found no link between chronic fatigue syndrome and retroviruses.

The debate dates back to 2009, when a since-retracted paper in the journal Science reported a possible connection between the retrovirus XMRV — a common mouse virus — and chronic fatigue, a disabling condition that causes memory impairment, concentration problems, muscle weakness, joint pain and persistent fatigue. A separate study published the following year linked the illness with another mouse retrovirus known as pMLV.

The potential for a viral cause of chronic fatigue caused a stir in the medical community — and offered hope to millions of sufferers who say their symptoms are not taken seriously by doctors — but when numerous other scientists tried to replicate the results of the initial research, they failed. The early findings are now attributed to lab contamination of the blood samples used in the original study. Science retracted the 2009 paper in December.

(MORE: The Chronic Fatigue Retraction: Good Science Takes Time)

Still, some chronic fatigue researchers and many affected patients did not consider the controversy resolved. So the NIH asked virologist Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University to get conclusive answers. “We went ahead and set up a study to test this thing once and for all and determine whether we could find footprints of these viruses in people with chronic fatigue syndrome or in healthy controls,” Lipkin said in a statement. “The bottom line is we found no evidence of infection with XMRV and pMLV. These results refute any correlation between these agents and disease.”

The researchers examined nearly 300 people in the study, about half of whom had chronic fatigue syndrome and half did not. They drew blood from the participants and tested the samples for genes specific to the XMRV and pMLV viruses. This was similar to how the previously studies were conducted, but unlike the earlier studies, the researchers took care to eliminate contamination of the enzym mixtures and chemicals used during testing, which may have been the source of the contamination in the initial research. The scientists reported that they did not find any trace of the retroviruses in the blood samples.

(MORE: Scientists Back Down From Viral Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

Several of the authors of the original research collaborated on the new study, published online in the journal mBio. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Judy Mikovits, who led the 2009 XMRV study and is an author of the mBio paper, said that although the recent effort found no association of the viruses with chronic fatigue syndrome, it helped develop a collection of CFS samples never before available to investigators, which would advance study of the disease.

“We are not abandoning the patients. We are not abandoning the science. The controversy brought a new focus that will drive efforts to understand [chronic fatigue syndrome] and lead to improvements in diagnosis, prevention and treatment of this syndrome,” said Lipkin in the statement. About 1 to 4 million Americans may suffer from chronic fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and treating the disease costs the U.S. about $7 billion each year.

12 comments
JMart
JMart

All of you need to stop focusing on the headline and being so negative.  The CDC and other agencies are continuing research at great financial expense.  Your disease is not being ignored.  I know you probably feel frustrated that there is no cure and won't be until its etiology is found. Acording to this article the US government is spending 7 billion a year on treating this alone.  Be glad its not cancer or HIV.  The fact these virusus have been ruled out leave hope that it's something far more simple to correct. 


YuliaStore
YuliaStore

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is invented by lazy people LOL

lsk141
lsk141

It's good that they are finally doing research. No, it cannot just be somatic/ emotional. I think the cause will be discovered as long as research persists. The collection of symptoms is too alike and reproducible to be written off as just hypochondria. So sad that this illness is still not treated with respect. Especially since the shortcomings are not due to the patients but owed to the progress of medical science.

Wendy McGregor
Wendy McGregor

i think they would benefit from diet and excersize. half of the sufferers are hypocrondriacs anyway...ive met a few

Nicki McAleer
Nicki McAleer

And anorexia can be cured simply eating a sandwich, trololol. You'd make a wonderful councillor. Even those who have everything can still be unhappy - meaning things are never as simple as you think. It's just ignorant to assume that diet and exercise are the solution to everything. Even if it were the one that cured all your ills, that's not likely to be the case for anyone else.

Ignotus Hebes
Ignotus Hebes

Absolutely not true. Are you trolling? If you are serious, then a lot of physical illnesses, such as M.S., R.A., Parkinson's, etc. present with emotional upset to some degree.

I've friends that have died from this, there is no way in the world its hypochondrial.  I wish that it were.

Ignotus Hebes
Ignotus Hebes

Totally agree with AndrewKewley!

What is this? There were TWO viruses debunked of a very specific type. This is very misleading because the person who just scans this article will come away with a sense that "All viruses" were "Not to blame" due to the headline...

Since most of us don't have time to read news at a very relaxed pace I get the feeling there is a campaign to say "Viruses not linked to CFS" rather than the more correct "XMRV type viruses not linked to CFS" 

I have not seen ONE article saying the later, more accurate, statement. Also what is with that image? I'd give my right arm to be functional enough to doze off at work! Roughly, this headline is like saying "There are no Blue Marlins in the Sea" because the latest research boat didn't happen to spot any...Don't you journalists have a responsibility to report facts accurately? 

lemonfoundation
lemonfoundation

Chapter 33 of Hillary Johnson’s: Osler’s Web: Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Epidemic is entitled “HIV-NEGATIVE AIDS.”Neenyah Ostrom’s book “America’s Biggest Cover-up: 50 More Things …CFS and Its Link To AIDS” cites as it’s #1 THING: “Some CFS Patients May Be Non-HIV AIDS Cases.” Will CFS Research ever make any progress unless we acknowledge this fact? Google "non hiv aids"

CarolineDavis1
CarolineDavis1

Er, no. Two viruses have been proved not to cause ME.

Saying all viruses have been ruled out is like saying all viruses have been ruled out of causing the common cold.

If it's not too much trouble, please could you correct your story? Right now, it's causing damage to ME patients who are (yet again) having to defend themselves from all the 'in your head' nonsense. Thank you.

andrewkewley
andrewkewley

The headline of this article is misleading, only two specific retroviruses were ruled out. Lipkin and colleagues as well as other research teams are now using the same blood samples to investigate the role of other pathogens. Secondly, the scientific literature has a long history showing that viruses are a key trigger for this disease.