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Mouse Virus Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A new study suggests a link between a retrovirus and chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, has been controversial for years. There is no definitive test for chronic fatigue syndrome, so doctors diagnose it based on the patient’s symptoms. The condition is characterized by a complete lack of energy, as well as insomnia, weakness, mental fog and muscle pain. There have been suspicions that chronic fatigue might be psychosomatic in nature. Many health professionals still doubt the existence of this syndrome.

The identification of a mouse-derived retrovirus in blood from CFS patients could change this perception completely. The scientists were looking for a mouse virus called XMRV that was previously found in association with chronic fatigue syndrome. They did not find it, but they did find related viruses in 86 percent of the patients’ blood samples. These retroviruses are known to cause leukemia in mice but had never been seen in human blood before this study. If future research confirms that a mouse virus is linked to chronic fatigue, it might offer insight into a treatment for this mysterious disorder.

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online Aug 23, 2010]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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