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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Association With the Human Retrovirus XMRV

Watkins, Richard R. MD, MS

Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice: November 2011 - Volume 19 - Issue 6 - p 388-391
doi: 10.1097/IPC.0b013e31822949c8
Review Articles

Sequences of the gammaretrovirus xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) were first identified in tissue samples from human prostate tumors. It was subsequently isolated from the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). However, several follow-up studies were unable to duplicate the results. Immune dysfunction caused by XMRV has been suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis of CFS. Differences in the diagnosis of patients may be a factor in the negative studies, and resolving these discrepancies has crucial implications in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of patients with CFS. Currently approved antiretroviral drugs have been found to inhibit XMRV replication in vitro but should not be given to patients with CFS at present until further data demonstrate a clear benefit. Screening donated blood and organs to prevent transmission may become an important public health issue.

Since it was discovered, the association between the human gammaretrovirus XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome has been controversial. This review examines the data both for and against as well as principles of possible therapies.

From the Division of Infectious Diseases, Akron General Medical Center, Akron, and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Rootstown, OH.

Correspondence to: Richard R. Watkins, MD, MS, Division of Infectious Diseases, Akron General Medical Center, 224 West Exchange St, Suite 290, Akron, OH 44302. E-mail:

The author has no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.