Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But for sufferers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromylagia, and Atypical MS it may become a household word. Many will probably use its acronym, XMRV. Still others will take the easy way out and call it simply The Retrovirus.
There is more than one known retrovirus however. XMRV joins ranks with HIV and the HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 retroviruses. HIV causes AIDS and HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 cause T-cell leukemia and T-cell lymphoma.
Some of us are looking around nervously wondering if there are more. The world of bacteria and viruses has always been a bit creepy, a bit fantastic, to those of us without microscopes and scientific bents. This week, things just got a bit creepier.
Information on XMRV came to light due to recent research by the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease, with the National Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic. These scientists found XMRV in the blood of people with CFS. A study involving 330 CFS patients demonstrated XMRV antibodies in more than 95% of this study group's blood samples. Only about 4% of healthy controls had these antibodies.
XMRV was first discovered in prostate cancer tumors three years ago by Dr. Robert Silverman, Ph.D. Silverman is a professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.
Dr. Silverman was asked by Dr. Judy Mikovits, Director of Research for the Whittemore Peterson Institute, to analyze blood samples for 101 CFS patients and 218 healthy control subjects. XMRV DNA was found in immune cells of 67% of the CFS patients but in only 3.7% of the healthy controls.
A retrovirus can merge its DNA with our genetic makeup, becoming a permanent fixture in our cells. We can become chronically ill with inflammatory diseases, neurological disease immune deficiency, or cancer. XMRV shows up in relation with CFS, Fibromylagia, Atypical MS (all of which these researchers call neuro-immune diseases) and prostate cancer.
There have long been theories involving retrovirus involvement in CFS. Nothing solid has emerged until now.