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Researchers at the Whittemore Peterson Institute, Reno, have discovered a strong link between retrovirus XMRV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The Whittemore Peterson Institute, Reno, USA recently discovered a strong link between retrovirus XMRV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME as it is also known. Their findings are some of the most significant in recent medical history, especially for the millions of ME/CFS patients worldwide, who have struggled with the controversy and skepticism that has surrounded the illness for many years.
It has been described as living with "the worst hangover of your life, every single day". ME/CFS is a debilitating condition which affects approximately 1 million people in the USA alone. It is estimated to affect 17 million people worldwide. Its symptoms affect patients to varying degrees, but many are bed-bound with agonizing weakness, nausea and hypersensitivity.
The main symptoms are mental and physical exhaustion, nausea, and muscle/joint pain. Many patients also suffer with poor immune response, sleep disturbance, digestive disorders, cognitive problems, and related depression. These indicating symptoms have been the main factors in diagnosis in recent years, though many with Chronic Fatigue symptoms have never been given an "official" diagnosis.
The Whittemore Peterson Institute, Reno, reported a breakthrough in research on the 8th October, 2009, in Science magazine online. They found the presence of retrovirus XMRV in 67% of the 101 ME/CFS patients tested, and related antibodies in 95%. The healthy control group showed the presence of XMRV in only 3% of the 218 tested.
The XMRV virus was first described in 2006 and is also associated with prostate cancer. A link between ME/CFS and cancer has long been speculated. XMRV is only the third known human retrovirus, the other two being HIV, the disease that causes AIDS, and HTLV, which causes Leukemia. In light of the extensive research put into HIV/AIDS in recent years, it is hoped that some of the expertise can be channeled towards helping find treatment for ME/CFS patients.
In the past, immunologists who compared ME/CFS to HIV/AIDS have been met with ridicule, but the findings further exonerate their stances. Likewise, proponents of psychiatric theories have been left with more than a bit of egg on their faces.
In recent years, there has been mounting speculation and evidence that ME/CFS is a neuro-immunological disease but this breakthrough is the most compelling evidence yet. It explodes any psychiatric theories and has health officials around the world scurrying to update their official stance on the illness, while lawyers have already begun forming cases against practitioners, governments, psychiatrists, and psychiatric institutions.
Patients in the ME/CFS community have always maintained that the nature of their condition is mainly physical and neurological, with an organic cause. Despite this, the illness has been treated with huge skepticism in the medical world, many specialists considering it a psychiatric condition, some even denying its existence. Because of this, patients have been given conflicting advice and treatment from different practitioners, none of which has ever been convincingly proven effective. Some patients have even been put in psychiatric wards against their wills.
ME/CFS affects healthy men and women of all ages, and usually has a sudden onset. Sadly, because of the intense suffering, public and medical stigma, and lack of effective help, a significant proportion of ME/CFS patients have resorted to suicide.
The findings in Reno have given hope to ME/CFS patients for an effective diagnostic test and effective treatment in the near future, but equally importantly, an end to the widespread and abhorrent doubt in their sincerity and sanity.