Link Between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Xenotropic Murine Retrovirus

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • I just received notice of the following press release issued from the Netherlands yesterday:

    The FDA and the NIH have independently confirmed the XMRV findings as published in Science, October last. This confirmation was issued by Dr. Harvey Alter of the NIH during a closed workshop on blood transfusion held on May 26-27 in Zagreb. Two journalists from the Dutch magazine for health professionals, ORTHO, who have been working on XMRV stories for several months, were able to obtain a copy of the Alter lecture.

    In the October 8, 2009 issue of Science Express, the Lombardi-Mikovits group at the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI), the Cleveland Clinic and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reported that 67% of 101 chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients tested positive for infection with xenotropic murine retrovirus (XMRV). Only 3.7% of 218 healthy subjects tested were positive for this gammaretrovirus. Since that time, a number of research groups have proved unable to independently confirm these findings.

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    On Friday last, the AABB released an Association Bulletin recommending that its member blood collectors actively discourage potential donors who have been diagnosed with CFS from donating blood or blood components. This interim measure was proposed by the AABB Interorganizational Task Force on XMRV. This Task Force includes representatives from several government agencies, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    The fact that the measure was introduced suggests the presence of information not yet published. The ORTHO journalists were able to obtain a pdf document of the lecture given by Harvey Alter at the IPFA/PEI 17th Workshop on 'Surveillance and screening of Blood Borne Pathogens' in Zagreb. The International Plasma Fractionation Association (IPFA) represents the not-for-profit organizations around the world involved in plasma fractionation. The IPFA is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

    The highly-experienced Dr. Harvey Alter is Clinical Studies Chief at the Infectious Diseases and Immunogenetics Section of the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda. "The data in the Lombardi, et al Science manuscript are extremely strong and likely true, despite the controversy", was one comment on the XMRV findings reported by Alter in Zagreb. "Although blood transmission to humans has not been proved, it is probable. The association with CFS is very strong, but causality not proved. XMRV and related MLVs are in the donor supply with an early prevalence estimate of 3%‐7%. We (FDA & NIH) have independently confirmed the Lombardi group findings."

    My Thoughts...

    This is tremendously exciting news!  The initial announcement of the discovery of the XMRV retrovirus in ME/CFS patients made headlines, but the excitement was dulled somewhat when a few other researchers were unable to duplicate the findings.  Dr.  Mikovits, however, has remained steadfastly confident in the accuracy of their research and has questioned the techniques used by the other study groups.  This announcement appears to validate her confidence.

  • Although it is exciting to finally have a clue as to what is going on with ME/CFS, an illness that has baffled medical professionals for years, it is also a bit scary when you consider that three to seven percent of the blood supply may be contaminated with the XMRV retrovirus.  The fact that the American Association of Blood Banks has issued a bulletin to its members urging them to “actively discourage potential donors who have been diagnosed by a physician with CFS” indicates that they are taking this news very seriously. 

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    I will continue watching the XMRV developments and let you know when there is more news.  If you are interested in learning more about the science behind these studies, check out our ChronicPainConnection expert Cort Johnson's Web site, Phoenix Rising.  He does the best job of anyone I've found of breaking down technical scientific reports into understandable terms.  

    Source:  Original Press Release from the Netherlands: FDA and NIH confirm 'XMRV findings'. MD Newswire. June 22, 2010.

Published On: June 23, 2010