Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Link with XMRV Questioned

Viral link between CFS unable to be replicated

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex disorder that affects more than one million Americans. A couple of years ago, a study was released that claimed that XMRV (a gammaretrovirus) was a contributing factor in developing CFS. But now, scientists say that is not the case.

The journal Science has partially retracted an article from 2009 that reported a link between XMRV and the development of chronic fatigue syndrome. According to the journal, the study’s widely talked about findings could not be replicated by other scientists.

"New research has weakened the linke between XMRV and CFS."

CFS is characterized by multiple symptoms, including extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition, impaired memory and concentration, headaches, pain in the muscles and joints, and sore throat, among others. The cause of the disorder is unknown, though some experts believe that CFS could be triggered by viral infections, immune system problems or hormonal imbalances.

To be diagnosed with CFS, patients must undergo several medical tests to rule out other health conditions. If your doctor diagnoses you with the condition, he or she can give treatment for the symptoms of CFS, including fatigue, unexplained muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and poor sleep.

Back in 2009, the study looked at 101 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and found that 67% were infected with the retrovirus XMRV. Scientists voiced their doubts soon after the study was published.

In the following months, nine other research teams conducted the same experiment and were not able to report the same results. (But the two labs that were involved in the original experiment found the virus in CFS patients, but they also found the virus just as often in patients without CFS.)

In September, parts of the study were retracted. A month later, the Chicago Tribune published a story that questioned the authenticity of images that illustrated the alleged link. That may have prompted the journal’s retraction of the paper on December 22.

In the journal’s retraction letter, Editor-in-Chief Bruce Alberts says that the original study is unreliable. The report’s authors acknowledge that important information was left out of one image, and agreed that the findings should be retracted.

Doctors continue to look for clues about the risk factors for CFS. They know that women are four times more likely to develop the condition compared to men, and it most often occurs in people age 40-59, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 23, 2011
Last Updated:
January 2, 2012