Retrovirus appears to be prime culprit for chronic fatigue

A single retrovirus fingered in some types of prostate cancer also appears to be primarily responsible for most cases of chronic fatigue syndrome, according to new research published in Science. And the breakthrough conclusion presents a fat target for developers.

Scientists at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Nevada say they reached their conclusion after analyzing samples from 101 people with chronic fatigue syndrome and found that 68 of them were infected with XMRV. That 67 percent infection rate compares with a rate of only about four percent in healthy people.

"It's a blood borne pathogen that we contract through body fluids and blood transmission," said study leader Dr. Judy Mikovits. "The symptoms of ME--chronic fatigue, immune deficiencies, chronic infections--are what we see with retroviruses. This discovery could be a major step in the discovery of vital treatment options for millions of patients."

XMRV is a retrovirus somewhat similar to same virus that causes AIDS. And like HIV, their genetic information is encoded in RNA rather than DNA. That's made it an elusive culprit, leaving many in the field to categorize CFS as a psychiatric illness. "In interacting with patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, you get the distinct impression that there's got to be something there. This is going to create an avalanche of subsequent studies," Dr. William Schaffner told the New York Times.

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