Was a C.F.S. Virus Discovered Years Ago?
Back in the early 1990s, Dr. Elaine DeFreitas at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia discovered a novel human retrovirus (very closely related to HTLV 2, with Spuma-viruslike aspects) in C.F.I.D.S. patients. This was subsequently confirmed by two other prominent researchers (and a commercial laboratory).
Dr. DeFreitas was almost done sequencing its genes and published a meticulous paper in a top journal. Then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health intentionally destroyed her reputation because it did not mesh with their vigorous assertions that C.F.I.D.S. was psychoneurosis. No one else has followed this up for fear that their career might likewise be destroyed. This was all detailed in the amazing book "Osler's Web."
Is this the same virus as the "novel" XMRV?
Dr. Klimas responds:
Dr. DeFreitas was doing exciting work and should be congratulated for her early results suggesting retroviral infection in C.F.S. Since that time, technology has advanced in a dramatic way, giving investigators new tools to search for viruses that were yet to be identified in 1990-92, including the XMRV virus.
New antiviral drugs have also been developed that could potentially be effective in controlling this sort of infection. We also have a much stronger understanding of these drugs' toxicity and safe use.
I congratulate the Whittemore Peterson Institute researchers for their diligent work. I am also very happy for Elaine today. I would also ask patients to be patient a little bit longer so that researchers can devise and perform the sort of clinical trials that will let us know if this virus is the linchpin in continued illness.