Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Shown to be Caused by Virus
Now researchers at the Whittemore Peterson Research Institute in Reno, Nevada have shown that CFS is likely caused by a virus. Known as xenotrophic murine leukemia virus – related virus, or XMVR, it is a retrovirus that is suspected of being transmitted by intimate human contact. The discovery means that a definite diagnostic rest can be created. And hopefully it means that scientists will be able to shortly find or create drugs to both prevent the disease and to treat those who have it. It also means that no loner will these patients be labeled as not having a real medical problem.
The researchers’ early studies suggest that perhaps 4% of us carry the virus. If proven correct, then an immediate goal is for a quick and inexpensive test to screen donated blood so that the virus is not transmitted inadvertently via transfusions. And it raises the intriguing question of why some but not all of those infected go on to develop CSF.
In study done at the Cleveland Clinic, scientists have found the same XMRV virus in prostate cancer samples. It is too soon to say that the virus is causative; if might be just a “passenger.” Additional research will be done to make a clear determination.
Meanwhile, the Whittemore Peterson researchers have suggested a new name – x-associated neuroimmune disease [XAND], a name that clarifies that this is a real disease and suggests some of its implications.
This finding of XMRV as the likely cause of CFS is a major medical advance.
Praise for Dr Schimpff
The craft of science writing requires skills that are arguably the most underestimated and misunderstood in the media world. Dumbing down all too often gets mistaken for clarity. Showmanship frequently masks a poor presentation of scientific issues. Factoids are paraded in lieu of ideas. Answers are marketed at the expense of searching questions. By contrast, Steve Schimpff provides a fine combination of enlightenment and reading satisfaction. As a medical scientist he brings his readers encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. As a teacher and as a medical ambassador to other disciplines he's learned how to explain medical breakthroughs without unnecessary jargon. As an advisor to policymakers he's acquired the knack of cutting directly to the practical effects, showing how advances in medical science affect the big lifestyle and economic questions that concern us all. But Schimpff's greatest strength as a writer is that he's a physician through and through, caring above all for the person. His engaging conversational style, insights and fascinating treasury of cutting-edge information leave both lay readers and medical professionals turning his pages. In his hands the impact of new medical technologies and discoveries becomes an engrossing story about what lies ahead for us in the 21st century: as healthy people, as patients of all ages, as children, as parents, as taxpayers, as both consumers and providers of health services. There can be few greater stories than the adventure of what awaits our minds, bodies, budgets, lifespans and societies as new technologies change our world. Schimpff tells it with passion, vision, sweep, intelligence and an urgency that none of us can ignore.
-- N.J. Slabbert, science writer, co-author of Innovation, The Key to Prosperity: Technology & America's Role in the 21st Century Global Economy (with Aris Melissaratos, director of technology enterprise at the John Hopkins University).