Friday, October 9, 2009

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  Cancer-Causing Virus
  Linked to Chronic Fatigue


  Researchers have linked an infectious virus known to
  cause cancer in animals to chronic-fatigue syndrome,
  a major discovery for sufferers of the condition and
  one that concerned scientists for its potential
  public-health implications.

  An estimated 17 million people world-wide suffer
  from chronic-fatigue syndrome, and the Centers for
  Disease Control and Prevention puts the U.S. figure
  at between one million and four million.

  CFS is characterized by debilitating fatigue and
  chronic pain, but there are no specific treatments,
  and the diagnosis is often made by ruling out other

  Thus there is disagreement in the medical
  community as to whether CFS is a distinct disease.
  A study showing a strong viral association with CFS
  could change that equation.

  But the significance of the finding, published
  Thursday in Science, extends far beyond the
  community of people living with CFS.

  Researchers are just as concerned about the finding
  that nearly 4% of healthy people used as controls in
  the study were also infected with the virus, called

  If larger studies confirm these numbers, it could
  mean that as many as 10 million people in the U.S.
  and hundreds of millions of people around the world
  are infected with a virus that is already strongly
  associated with at least two diseases.

  The study was done by researchers at the
  Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune
  Disease in Reno, Nev., the National Cancer Institute
  and the Cleveland Clinic.

  In September, researchers at the University of Utah
  and Columbia University Medical Center found XMRV
  in 27% of the prostate-cancer samples they

  That study also showed that 6% of the benign
  prostate samples had XMRV. The chronic-fatigue
  study is the first to find live XMRV virus in humans.

  Neither study conclusively shows that XMRV causes
  chronic-fatigue syndrome or prostate cancer. But the
  National Cancer Institute was sufficiently concerned
  to convene a closed-door workshop in July to discuss
  the public-health implications of XMRV infection.

  "NCI is responding like it
  did in the early days of HIV,"

  says Stuart Le Grice, head of the Center of
  Excellence in HIV/AIDS and cancer virology at NCI
  and one of the organizers of the July workshop.

  Like HIV, XMRV is a retrovirus, meaning once
  someone is infected, the virus permanently remains
  in the body; either a person's immune system keeps
  it under control or drugs are needed to treat it.

  The virus creates an underlying immune deficiency,
  which might make people vulnerable to a range of
  diseases, said Judy Mikovits of the Whittemore
  Peterson Institute and one of the lead authors on
  the paper.

  So far, XMRV, known fully as xenotropic murine
  leukemia virus-related virus, doesn't appear to
  replicate as quickly as HIV does. Scientists also don't
  know how XMRV is transmitted, but the infection was
  found in patients' blood samples, raising the
  possibility that it could be transmitted through blood
  or bodily fluids.

  Dr. Le Grice of the NCI said the highest priority now
  was to quickly develop a validated blood test or
  other assay that could be used in doctors' offices to
  determine who has XMRV.

  At the workshop, participants also raised the issue of
  protecting the nation's blood supply. Dr. Le Grice
  said there isn't enough evidence yet to suggest that
  people with XMRV shouldn't be blood donors but that
  determining how XMRV is transmitted was a critical

  "A large effort is under way to answer all these
  questions," he said. "I do not want this to be
  cause for panic."

  Although Thursday's scientific paper doesn't
  demonstrate conclusively that XMRV is a cause of
  CFS, additional unpublished data make it a very
  strong possibility.

  Dr. Mikovits said that using additional tests, the
  scientists determined that more than 95% of the
  patients in the study are either infected with live
  virus or are making antibodies that show their
  immune systems mounted an attack against XMRV
  and now had the virus under control.

  "Just like you cannot have AIDS without
  HIV, I believe you won't be able to find a
  case of chronic-fatigue syndrome without

  Dr. Mikovits said.

  At the July workshop, Dr. Mikovits also presented
  preliminary data showing that 20 patients of the 101
  in the study have lymphoma, a rare form of cancer.

  The link between XMRV and lymphoma is still being
  investigated, but it raised the possibility that XMRV
  may be associated with other cancers in addition to
  prostate cancer.

  NCI's Dr. Le Grice said studies will be launched to
  determine whether XMRV is associated with other
  diseases. At the Whittemore Peterson Institute, Dr.
  Mikovits said they also found XMRV in people with
  autism, atypical multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.

  The Science study was based on blood samples from
  a national repository at the Whittemore Peterson
  Institute collected from doctors in cities where
  outbreaks of chronic-fatigue syndrome occurred
  during the 1980s and '90s. One of the key questions
  that the NCI's Dr. Le Grice says must now be
  answered is whether XMRV shows up in large
  numbers of CFS patients all over the country.

  Robert Silverman, a professor at the Cleveland Clinic
  Lerner Research Institute who is one of the
  co-authors of the study and one of the discoverers of
  the XMRV virus, said he believes the virus began in
  mice and then spread to humans, and that:

  "in most cases, people's immune systems are
  probably able to control the virus."

  Researchers are already starting to test antiretroviral
  therapies developed for AIDS to see if they are
  effective against XMRV.

  The work on XMRV in chronic-fatigue patients initially
  was funded by Annette and Harvey Whittemore and
  the University of Nevada, Reno.

  The Whittemores set up the institute in 2006 after
  watching their daughter Andrea suffer from
  chronic-fatigue syndrome for most of her life. They
  spent millions of their own money to pay for
  administrative services, office space, lab equipment
  and research operations.

  They were frustrated by the lack of government
  funding for scientific research into the disease.

  At their home in Reno, Andrea Whittemore-Goad, 31
  years old, used oxygen before speaking about the
  devastating toll CFS has taken on her.

  Ms. Whittemore-Goad says she was a regular school
  girl, playing sports and involved in school activities,
  until the age of 10, when she became ill with a
  monolike virus that she couldn't shake.

  She said doctors first told her parents that the
  illness was psychological, that she had school phobia
  and was under stress from her parents. "We kept
  searching for an answer," says Ms. Whittemore-
  Goad, who says lymph nodes in her groin were so
  painful that her brothers and sisters used to have to
  carry her upstairs. She was diagnosed at age 12 with
  chronic-fatigue syndrome.

  Over the years, doctors have treated her symptoms,
  like intense headaches and severe pain, but the
  illness persists. She has had her gallbladder, spleen,
  and appendix removed because they became
  infected. She tried an experimental drug that she
  says gave her relief for years, but she then started
  experiencing side effects and had to stop taking it.
  Recently the illness has become worse; she began
  suffering seizures and can no longer drive.

  Sitting on the couch next to her husband, whom she
  married six months ago, Ms. Whittemore-Goad says
  the news that she is infected with XMRV "made
  everything that has happened to me make sense."

  Brian Goad, her husband, said he felt relieved
  knowing "now we can find a way to treat and
  hopefully cure it."

  For both of them, the discovery of the virus is
  life-changing. There are more than 10 families in the
  group where family members also tested positive for
  XMRV. Members of the Whittemore family are now
  being tested.

  Write to Amy Dockser Marcus at

  Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A4

  Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


  The Washington Post

  Virus Associated With
  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  Scientists have found evidence that a virus may play
  a role in chronic fatigue syndrome.
  Vincent C. Lombardi of the Whittemore Peterson
  Institute in Reno, Nev., and scientists elsewhere
  studied 101 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome,
  a baffling, debilitating and controversial condition
  that affects an estimated 17 million people

  They discovered that 68 of the patients -- 67 percent
  -- had a virus in their blood known as the xenotropic
  murine leukemia virus-related virus or XMRV.

  Only eight of 218 similar subjects who did not have
  chronic fatigue syndrome -- 3.7 percent -- had the
  virus in their blood, the researchers report in a paper
  published online Thursday by the journal Science.

  Further studies showed that the virus is indeed
  infectious, and can "provoke" the immune system to

  The researchers cautioned that the findings far from
  prove that the virus causes chronic fatigue. It may
  be just part of the picture. But they suggest that the
  virus may at least contribute to the development of
  the disorder.

  This isn't the first time a virus has been associated
  with the condition. Previous research has suggested
  that some herpes viruses and other viruses may also
  play a role.

  In an article accompanying the research, John Coffin
  of Tufts University in Boston and Jonathan Stoye of
  the National Institute for Medical Research in London

  They noted that there are many unanswered
  questions about the virus, including how it is

  But if the findings are representative of what's going
  on in the general public, perhaps 10 million
  Americans and hundreds of millions of people
  worldwide might be infected with the virus, which
  could turn out to be playing a role in a variety of
  diseases. The virus previously was found in some
  patients with prostate cancer.

  By Rob Stein

  October 8, 2009;

  © 2009 The Washington Post Company



  Scientists link chronic
  fatigue ailment to retrovirus

  WASHINGTON - Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a
  mysterious and debilitating exhaustion that is not
  relieved by sleep, appears to be linked to a
  retrovirus, researchers announced Thursday in a
  breakthrough study.

  In the latest issue of Science, researchers said their
  findings could lead to a treatment for an ailment
  affecting millions of Americans and that in some
  cases render them unable to work or engage in even
  moderately robust activities.

  The study was hailed as a breakthrough in
  understanding the perplexing syndrome for which
  there is no known treatment.

  "We now have evidence that a retrovirus named
  XMRV is frequently present in the blood of
  patients with CFS,"

  said Judy Mikovits, director of research for the
  Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) located at the
  University of Nevada, Reno, one of the organizations
  which led the research.

  "This discovery could be a major step in the
  discovery of vital treatment options for millions of

  Mikovits said.

  Other health agencies which contributed to the study
  were the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the
  National Institutes of Health, and the Cleveland

  Researchers cautioned that while there appears to be
  a relationship between the retrovirus and Chronic
  Fatigue Syndrome, they have not proven that the
  illness is caused by XMRV.

  They noted that earlier research has linked the
  retrovirus with prostate cancer as well.

  "The discovery of XMRV in two major diseases,
  prostate cancer and now chronic fatigue
  syndrome, is very exciting,"

  said Robert Silverman, a professor in the Department
  of Cancer Biology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner
  Research Institute, and co-author of the CFS study.

  "If cause-and-effect is established, there would
  be a new opportunity for prevention and
  treatment of these diseases,"

  he said.

  In the study released Thursday, WPI scientists
  identified XMRV in the blood of 68 of 101 (67
  percent) CFS patients.

  By contrast, the retrovirus was found in the blood of
  only eight of 218 healthy people (3.7 percent).

  "These compelling data allow the development of a
  hypothesis concerning a cause of this complex and
  misunderstood disease, since retroviruses are a
  known cause of neurodegenerative diseases and
  cancer in man,"

  said Francis Ruscetti, of the Laboratory of
  Experimental Immunology at NCI.

  Retroviruses like XMRV have also been shown to
  activate a number of other latent viruses. This could
  explain why so many different viruses, such as
  Epstein-Barr virus have been associated with CFS.

  "The scientific evidence that a retrovirus is
  implicated in CFS opens a new world of
  possibilities for so many people,"

  said Annette Whittemore, founder and president of
  WPI and mother of a CFS patient.

  "Scientists can now begin the important work of
  translating this discovery into medical care for
  individuals with XMRV related diseases."

  © 2009 AFP.



  Retrovirus May Be at Root
  of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  THURSDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- About
  two-thirds of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome
  sampled in a recent study were infected with a
  retrovirus called XMRV.

  The finding, albeit preliminary, has raised hopes that
  there might be a concrete cause for the mysterious
  malady and thus, down the line, treatments for the

  "This study does not prove that XMRV is the cause
  of chronic fatigue syndrome, however it does
  suggest it is a viable candidate for a cause,"

  said Robert H. Silverman, co-author of a report
  appearing online Oct. 8 in Science.

  "But if it can be proven that the virus causes the
  disease, that would be a breakthrough in
  diagnosing, combating and preventing the

  added Silverman, a professor of cancer biology at the
  Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. "There
  could be an antiretroviral drug that could prevent this
  virus from replicating."

  Another expert was similarly hopeful.

  "This article could give a spark of hope, one, that
  chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by something,
  and two, if that bears out, maybe we could do
  something about it,"

  said Dr. Tamara Kuittinen, an emergency physician
  with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

  Chronic fatigue syndrome was first recognized in the
  late 1980s and initially dubbed the "yuppie flu,"
  resulting in an enduring credibility crisis.

  Some segments of the medical community do not
  believe it is a discrete illness because there is no
  known cause, and diagnosis can only be made
  through excluding other conditions, such as

  "There's no test, no clear etiology, the symptoms
  are vague, there's no treatment and no cure,"
  said Kuittinen. "It's very frustrating."

  Possible explanations for the disease have been
  far-reaching, ranging from different viruses, including
  Epstein-Barr, enteroviruses and herpes, to childhood

  The illness affects an estimated 1 percent of people
  worldwide and, as its name implies, involves
  crippling fatigue as well as aching joints, headaches
  and various other symptoms.

  Recently, XMRV was detected in prostate cancer
  patients and in prostate tumor biopsies. Like other
  retroviruses, it can activate latent viruses in the
  body, such as Epstein-Barr, which has been linked to
  chronic fatigue syndrome.

  For this study, researchers analyzed 101 blood
  samples taken from patients with chronic fatigue
  syndrome and found the virus in 68 of the samples,
  as compared with only eight samples in 218 healthy
  patients (67 percent versus 3.7 percent).

  Although 3.7 percent seems a small proportion, the
  authors do note that this could mean millions of
  people are infected with a virus whose effects are as
  yet unknown.

  Retroviruses, a group that includes both
  XMRV and HIV, have genomes made of
  RNA instead of DNA.

  "When the virus infects cells, the RNA gets copied
  into the DNA, then the DNA inserts itself or
  integrates into the host DNA,"

  explained Silverman.

  "One of the many problems with infections with
  retroviruses is that it's very difficult to actually
  cure the patient because the virus DNA becomes
  part of the infected person's DNA. Patients need
  to continually take drugs to keep it from

  XMRV is simpler than HIV, though, Silverman added,
  which is a good thing.

  "It's a kind of stripped down version of a
  retrovirus. It has just the genes required for
  infection and replication. We could probably stop it
  with an antiretroviral drug."

  There's also the possibility that a vaccine would
  prevent people from being infected in the first place.

  But, stressed Silverman, "there are lots of
  qualifiers because it hasn't actually been proven
  that it causes disease, although the evidence looks
  pretty intriguing. This is an area that needs more

  More information

  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  has more on chronic fatigue syndrome.

  Copyright © 2009 ScoutNews,


  Much more links can be found at:

  ~jan van roijen

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