Have you read the recent news stories about the discovery of the XMRV retrovirus and other murine leukemia virus-related viruses (MLV) in ME/CFS patients and wished you could know whether or not you have the retrovirus? Well, tests are now available.
VIP Dx, a clinical laboratory dedicated to the development and analysis of tests for neuro-immune disease, has announced the availability of both the XMRV PCR/culture test and the WPI-licensed XMRV serology test. According to VIP Dx (formerly RedLabs USA), the methods they use will detect all known human MLV viruses.
You may be wondering about the difference between the two tests.
- The serology test looks for evidence of antibodies to Human Gamma Retroviruses that include XMRV and its variants, human MLV-related viruses. The problem with just using the serology test is that if the body is not currently producing antibodies, it may not show up positive even though the viruses may be there.
- The PCR test cultures and grows the virus if it is present. It is considered by many to be the “gold standard” of XMRV/MLV tests.
Ordering the Tests
There is a very specific procedure that must be followed if you decide to have the tests done.
1. Order a test kit, which contains all the necessary supplies and instructions.
2. Your doctor will need to order the tests, sign the requisition and provide a diagnosis code.
3. All tubes in the kit must be filled and shipped at room temperature by FedEx Priority Overnight. ( VIP Dx provides the clinical pack envelope and air bill.) Specimens must be received within 24 hours for proper analysis.
VIP Dx does not bill insurance companies. You must pay for the testing up front. VIP Dx will then send you a proper statement of services and fees, which you can submit to your insurance company. The tests are fairly expensive, so it would be a good idea to make sure your insurance company will reimburse you before you order them.
The costs of the tests, as of today, are listed below. Of course, as with anything else, prices may vary over time.
Kit deposit – $65
Serology test – $249
PCR/culture test – $450
Discounted price for both tests at the same time – $549
Should You Be Tested?
Whether or not you should be tested now is something you and your doctor will have to decide together. Here are some questions to consider before making a decision:
- Of course, we would all like to know if we have the retrovirus, but is it worth the cost of the tests to satisfy your curiosity?
- Will the results make a difference in your treatment plan since there are no studies yet that confirm the effectiveness of any particular anti-viral or anti-retroviral treatment protocol on humans?
- Is your doctor willing to prescribe an anti-viral or anti-retroviral medication for you on an off-label basis?
- Would it be better to wait for awhile to see if better testing methods are developed? (For example, the current serology test does not measure the level of antibodies – only whether or not there are any. The Whittemore Peterson Institute is reportedly working to develop a test that will measure antibody levels.)
Ultimately, we each have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of testing and make the decision that is best for us at this time. Personally, I'd like to be tested but since I don't have medical insurance and can't afford the tests on my own, that won't be happening anytime soon. If you decide to be tested, I hope you'll let us know the results and how those results will or will not affect your treatment plan by commenting below.
Note: The Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro Immune Disease is nonprofit. Their net proceeds from licensing of the tests to VIP Dx will be used to support ongoing research at WPI.
WPI-Licensed Test for XMRV & Variants Now Available. ProHealth. August 23, 2010.