In the October 8, 2009 issue of Science, a multi centre study reported that 67% of 101 chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients tested positive for infection with xenotropic murine retrovirus (XMRV). Only 3.7% of 218 healthy subjects tested were positive for this gammaretrovirus. This is a virus that belongs to a family of viruses known as retroviruses that, in turn, contain oncogenes (cancer causing genes) associated with sarcomas and leukemias.
Retroviruses have the ability of intergrating their genes into their genes of the hosts genome. When this has occured the hosts cell becomes, in effect, a carrier for the viruses genes and passes this down to the next generation of cells… This process can lie dormant and the now infected cell genome, now known as a provirus, may never cause problems unless the environment changes in and or around the cell. Such a change can trigger a ‘latent response’ that, in effect, wakes up the dormant segment of inserted viral genome. This may then go on to start the production of proteins by the hijacked cell. However, it’s thought that roughly 8% of the human genome is comprised of similar provirus segments from inherated ancient viral infections. Interestingly, they are only infectious for a short period after which the viral segments aquire ‘knockout’ mutations effectivley making them ineffective. Research is ongoing as some retroviruses are and have been implicated in certain autoimmune diseaes and cancers which is why various health agencies in the US recommended that blood collection is actively discouraged from potential donors who have been diagnosed with CFS. The fact that the measure was introduced suggests the presence of new information not yet published. Dr Harvey Alter of the NIH commented that “Although blood transmission to humans has not been proved, it is probable. The association with CFS is very strong, but causality not proved. XMRV and related viruses are in the donor supply with an early prevalence estimate of 3%‐7%.” Two journalists from the Dutch magazine for health professionals, ORTHO, who have been working on XMRV stories for several months, contacted Dr. Harvey Alter today for a reaction. He did not want to comment, but confirmed that “a paper is soon to be published.” So… watch this space!