Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome retrovirus XMRV in the media
October 10, 2009
Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS Retrovirus XMRV Science Express
Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome link to retrovirus XMRV in the media:
Media Round up 3
See also previous postings:
Science 9 October 2009: Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome link to retrovirus: 08.10.09: http://wp.me/p5foE-272
Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome link to retrovirus: 09.10.09: http://wp.me/p5foE-27v
Lastest media coverage here:
Round up 3 for 10 October:
From Dr. Marc-Alexander Fluks via Co-Cure mailing list
Source: National Public Radio
Date: October 9, 2009
URL: Here you also will find the WebRadio link,
Virus tied to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Researchers have found a virus that might be at the root of chronic fatigue syndrome. More than a million Americans suffer from the disease, which can leave them exhausted even after a good night’s sleep, cause debilitating pain in muscles and joints, and make concentrating difficult. Renee Montagne talks with Dr. Daniel Peterson, one of the first to recognize chronic fatigue syndrome.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We have news, now, of a scientific breakthrough about a disease that affects over a million people in the U.S. – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Chronic Fatigue affects the immune system, leaving its victims exhausted all the time. It can cause debilitating muscle and joint pain and cognitive problems.
According to a new study in the journal Science Express, two-thirds of a group suffering from Chronic Fatigue were infected with the retro virus called XMRV. Researchers can’t yet say whether XMRV actually causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but there is a strong association.
Dr. Daniel Peterson was one of the first to recognize Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a disease. He’s medical director of a neuro-disease institute in Nevada.
Thank you for joining us.
Dr. DANIEL PETERSON (Medical Director, Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease): Thank you very much.
MONTAGNE: Now, you’ve been in this field from the beginning and would have paid attention to how patients have often been ridiculed – as to somehow they don’t really have a disease. Why did people think that?
Dr. PETERSON: I think the reason for that is the abnormalities of the immune system are initially very subtle. And if a physician does just routine testing – CBCs, chemistry panels, urinalysis, things like that – you find they’re normal. And it isn’t until you look at the immune system that you realize there’s substantial dis-regulation of the immune system.
So, it’s very similar to asymptomatic carriers of HIV. They look just fine until time passes and their illness evolves and more symptoms are found. But I never felt this was predominantly a psychiatric disease or malingering. There was never any evidence to support that theory.
MONTAGNE: Was your work, though, in the early stages, in a sense, you know, looked down upon. Like you’re working on something that everyone knows isn’t really a disease.
Dr. PETERSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was a problem in the early ’80s, particularly, and this federal agencies never showed particular interest in this disease as well.
MONTAGNE: So, what was the path to this discovery?
Dr. PETERSON: Yeah, it’s an interesting story. Because once it was demonstrated that the patients had impairment of their natural killer cell function, regardless of what country they were in, we knew that there was an immune impairment.
And back in the 1990s, I was associated with Temple University and the researchers there that looked at the antiviral pathway – the natural defense against viruses – and they found very substantial abnormalities in the patients who had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And the illness is totally compatible with a viral illness that just doesn’t go away.
So, back then we didn’t really have the tools to really look for the inciting agent. So, we began the search probably about three years ago with the new technology and looking for a possible agent that could explain all these things. And lo and behold, through arduous scientific rigor, they located XMRV.
MONTAGNE: And does new study suggest any new treatments?
Dr. PETERSON: The real excitement of this kind of translational research is that with an agent we can target therapies specifically for that group of patients that is infected. There are antiretroviral drugs that should be potentially effective. And we know now, a target that we can go after in terms of immune stimulation and in terms of antiviral therapy, and that’s really the first time in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that this has been possible.
MONTAGNE: So, that’s really good news.
Dr. PETERSON: It’s super good news.
MONTAGNE: You now know what is associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Does it tell you how someone gets it?
Dr. PETERSON: It’s an excellent question, because I think it’s required probably to be a genetic predisposition like there are for most diseases. And then there has to be the infectious agent and then a combination of host factors, probably immune factors, et cetera, that propagate the disease.
And there’s many other questions, of course, that arise: should the blood supply be screened; what does this virus lead to in patients who have it 20 or 30 years; can it be prevented; can there be a vaccine? All the questions that come up in retrovirology.
MONTAGNE: Dr. Peterson, thank you very much.
Dr. PETERSON: My pleasure. Thank you for the courtesy.
MONTAGNE: Daniel Peterson is the medical director of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nevada.
[UK] Radio 5 Live | 9 October 2009 | Presenters
Broadcast on: BBC Radio 5 live, 6:00am Friday 9th October 2009
Duration: 180 minutes
Available on iPlayer until: 9:02am Friday 16th October 2009 Category:News
A 3 minute phone interview on BBC Radio 5 live, yesterday, with Dr Mikovits:
Slide to 1 hour:55 mins from start, just before 8am.
Information provided by Tate Mitchell via Co-Cure mailing list
(links to audio embedded on pages)
‘All Things Considered’ with Dr. Mikovits and Annette Whittemore – length: 03:37
‘Morning Edition’ with Dr. Peterson (includes transcript of interview) – length: 04:34
Guardian | 10 October 2009 [there is a comment facility]
Getting over ‘yuppie flu’*
Evidence of the virus XMRV has been found in ME sufferers. So will the condition finally be treated … and treated seriously?
*Ed Why are sub editors so reluctant to let go of this trite, inaccurate and insulting term?
Cleveland Clinic | 10 October 2009
Research Shows a Potential Retroviral Link Between XMRV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Scientists at Cleveland Clinic are part of new research showing a potential retroviral link between XMRV, a virus discovered by Cleveland Clinic and UCSF researchers in 2006 in cancerous prostate tissue, and chronic fatigue syndrome, known as CFS, a debilitating disease that affects millions of people in the United States.
FT.com | 9 October 2009 | Clive Cookson
Viral theory for chronic fatigue
“The controversial theory that viral infection leads to chronic fatigue syndrome has received a boost from a US study.
Researchers at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Nevada found that a recently discovered virus called XMRV was present in 67 per cent of people with CFS but only 3.8 per cent of healthy controls. The study appears in the online edition of the journal Science…”
University of Nevada | 8 October 2009 | Press Release
University commends research breakthrough by Whittemore Peterson Institute
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome discovery by University of Nevada School Medicine partner featured in Science magazine
Source: NHS choices site:
NB: Listed on NHS choices site in “Categories” under Mental Health along with “Mediterranean diet ‘fights’ for depression”, “Smacking and children’s IQ”, “Antidepressants and pregnancy” and others!
Behind the Headlines
Does a virus cause ME?
Friday Oct 9 2009
The front page of today’s Independent asks whether scientists have found the cause of ME (myalgic encephalitis), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The newspaper reported that researchers have found a “strong link” with a retrovirus called XMRV.
This study compared blood samples from 101 CFS patients with samples from 218 people without it. It found evidence of the XMRV virus in about two-thirds of the people with CFS and less than 4% of people without the disease.
These findings alone do not prove that the virus causes CFS, because they do not show whether the infection occurred before or after CFS developed. The research paper is cautious in its conclusions, saying that XMRV “may” be a contributing factor to CFS, but the opposite may also be true: CFS may make people more susceptible to infection with this virus.
Despite these limitations, these findings will be of interest to the research community, doctors, and patients. Larger studies and research that establishes whether the XMRV infection occurs before or after the onset of CFS will be needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
Where did the story come from?
The research was carried out by Dr Vincent C Lombardi and colleagues from the Whittemore Peterson Institute and other research institutes in the US. It was funded by the Whittemore Peterson Institute, the Whittemore Family Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Defense, the Foundation for Cancer Research, the Charlotte Geyer Foundation and Mal and Lea Bank.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.
What kind of scientific study was this?
This research looked for the presence of a retrovirus in the white blood cells of people with chronic fatigue syndrome. It involved a case-control study and additional laboratory experiments.
CFS affects a range of organs in the body, and patients show abnormal immune system function. The cause is not known, but one theory is that certain viruses trigger the disease.
This study investigated whether a retrovirus called xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV) might be involved. Previous research has found this virus in some samples of prostate cancer tissue. Other studies in mice have found that the immune response to some retroviruses are associated with neurological problems.
The study involved taking blood samples from 101 people with CFS (cases), and from 218 healthy people without CFS (controls). The DNA from white blood cells in these samples was examined to see if they contained any XMRV DNA. People with CFS had been diagnosed using standard criteria (1994 CDC Fukuda criteria and 2003 Canadian Consensus Criteria), and all had severe disability, prolonged disabling fatigue, cognitive defects and immune system abnormalities. They came from areas in the US where there had been reported outbreaks of CFS.
The full genetic sequence of the XMRV from two patients who had the viral DNA was then examined, to determine what strain of the virus it was. This strain was compared to the strain previously identified in prostate cancer patients and to a murine leukaemia virus (MLV), often found in laboratories, to discount the possibility that MLV was contaminating the experiments. Tests that looked for proteins from the XMRV virus in the blood cells were also carried out.
Laboratory tests were carried out to see whether the samples contained infectious XMRV. The tests involved white blood cells containing XMRV from CFS patients being grown and mixed with prostate cancer cells, which are susceptible to infection with XMRV.
The prostate cancer cells were also exposed to fluid from the CFS patient or control blood samples that had been treated by removing the blood cells and concentrating any viruses that might be present. Similar experiments, in which attempts were made to infect T-cells (a type of white blood cell), were also carried out.
The researchers then examined whether CFS patients carrying XMRV DNA or healthy controls had antibodies against a similar virus, which would suggest that they had developed an immune response to XMRV.
What were the results of the study?
The researchers found that blood from 67% of people with CFS contained XMRV DNA compared with 3.7% of controls.
The viral DNA sequences were very similar to those identified in a previous study on prostate cancer. The sequences of these viruses were not similar enough to the MLV virus to suggest that these results were caused by laboratory contamination.
Testing the white blood cells from thirty CFS patients showed that 63% (19 people) of the samples tested showed viral proteins. Tests on samples from five healthy controls did not show any viral proteins.
Overall, samples from people with CFS were 54 times as likely to contain viral sequences as samples from healthy controls.
The researchers found that XMRV found in the white blood cells of CFS patients could be transmitted to prostate cancer cells when grown together in the laboratory. In 10 out of 12 people with CFS (83%), fluid taken from their blood samples could also infect the prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. Similar results were found when uninfected white blood cells were exposed to this fluid. Fluid from the blood samples of twelve healthy controls did not infect the prostate cancer cells.
The researchers found that half (nine out of 18) of CFS patients carrying XMRV DNA had antibodies against a similar virus, while none of the seven healthy controls tested showed an antibody response. This suggested that half of the CFS patients had had an immune response to the XMRV.
What interpretations did the researchers draw from these results?
The researchers conclude that their findings suggest that XMRV may be a contributing factor in the development of CFS. They suggest that infection with the XMRV virus could be responsible for some of the abnormal immune response and neurological problems seen in CFS.
What does the NHS Knowledge Service make of this study?
This research has identified an association between the presence of XMRV viral DNA and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
However, it is not yet possible to say for certain whether the virus actually causes CFS, a fact that is also acknowledged by the authors of the research. This is because the presence of the virus was assessed in people who already had CFS, and so it is not clear if the infection happened before they developed the disease.
An alternative possibility is that people who already have CFS have altered immune systems that make them more susceptible to these viruses.
The study has some limitations to note, some of which are raised in an accompanying editorial:
* A relatively small number of people were tested, particularly in some of the experiments.
* The CFS samples all came from patients who had severe disability, prolonged disabling fatigue, cognitive defects and immune system abnormalities, and who were from regions where there were “outbreaks” of CFS. It is possible these patients are not representative of the full spectrum of patients with CFS, which can range in severity. The selection of cases that were clustered together in “outbreaks” could mean that these cases have a different cause or trigger from more isolated cases.
* The characteristics of the healthy people whose blood samples were used were not reported, and there may have been more differences from the CFS cases than simply the disease itself that contributed to the differing rate of XMRV infection.
* Although the researchers attempted to rule out contamination of their samples, the molecular biologist who co-discovered the XMRV virus suggests in the accompanying editorial that they did not do enough to completely rule out contamination. He also points out that confirmation of the results by an independent group blinded to whether the samples came from cases or controls is “vital”.
* Although the study suggested that the virus could spread to other cells in the laboratory from white blood cells or fluid from blood, this does not mean that the virus would necessarily be able to spread from person to person.
Despite these limitations, the causes of CFS are not yet known and available treatments are limited, so these findings will be of much interest to the research community, doctors, and patients. Further research is needed to confirm these findings in more samples, and to establish whether the XMRV infection occurs before or after the onset of CFS.
Links to the headlines
Has science found the cause of ME? The Independent, October 9 2009
Links to the science
Lombardi VC, Ruscetti FW, Das Gupta J, et al. Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Science; Published Online October 8 2009
Chronic Fatigue and Prostate Cancer: A Retroviral Connection? Science October 9 2009: 326; p215
The Cochrane library does not address the causes of CFS but includes systematic reviews of treatments:
Price JR, Mitchell E, Tidy E, Hunot V. Cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 3
Larun L, McGuire H, Edmonds M, Odgaard-Jensen J, Price JR. Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 3
There is also a systematic review planned of drug treatments for CFS, including anti-viral agents:
Hard K, Rickards HE, Haque MS, Ward C. Pharmacological treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome in adults (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4