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XMRV Retrovirus

Scientists have discovered a potential retroviral link to CFS/ME. Researchers from the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Cleveland Clinic, report this finding online in the Oct. 8, 2009, issue of Science.

"We now have evidence that a retrovirus named XMRV is frequently present in the blood of patients with CFS. This discovery could be a major step in the discovery of vital treatment options for millions of patients," said Judy Mikovits, PhD, director of research for WPI and leader of the team that discovered this association.

Researchers cautioned, however, that this finding shows there is an association between XMRV and CFS but does not prove that XMRV causes CFS.


On September 22, 2011, Science published online a nine-lab study widely seen as the final blow to the theory, championed by Mikovits and colleagues in an October 2009 Science paper, that a recently detected mouse retrovirus might play a causal role in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). A letter in the same issue of Science from one of the contributing labs to the 2009 report revealed that a contamination had marred its contribution-PCR detection and sequencing of the mouse virus, dubbed XMRV. Mikovits and colleagues defended the validity of the rest of the study, known as Lombardi et al., which detected the virus by several other methods, so Science issued a rare partial retraction of the original paper. Mikovits was fired from Whittemore Peterson Institute on September 29, 2011.


Researchers are aso looking into the possibility that CFS may be linked to Narcolepsy. In a recent article entitled, Sleep Quality and Psychological Adjustment in CFS, their conclusion was:

"Narcolepsy and CFS participants were very similar on psychological adjustment: both these groups had more psychological maladjustment than did control group participants."

In the book Sleep and Quality of Life in Clinical Medicine, written by Joris C. Verster, S. R. Pandi-Perumal, David L. Streiner, they say that:

"In a recent study evaluating the nature of CFS...we documented the presence and nature of sleep disorders in individuals with this diagnosis. Here, in a comparative investigation of CFS, narcolepsy, and healthy control participants, we found that approximately 60% of the sample of individuals with CFS had diagnosable primary sleep disorder such as sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome and that almost everyone with CFS complained of nonrestorative sleep and/or insomnia characterized by difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep."

Possible Link to Endometriosis

In 2002, researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the George Washington University, and the Endometriosis Association, conducted a study that was designed to analyze the association between having endometriosis and other immune system disorders.

They analyzed a survey conducted by the Endometriosis Association, in which 3,680 women stated they had been surgically diagnosed with endometriosis, to see how many would go on to be diagnosed with other types of disorders. What they discovered is that women with this condition were significantly more likely to have other autoimmune disorders.

In fact, they found the women were over one hundred times more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and more than twice as likely to experience fibromyalgia than the general American female population. In addition, of the more than 20 percent who had more than one other disease, 31 percent of those had either fibromyalgia or CFS.

Although the researchers were unable to confirm why these conditions appear to be related, they are now encouraging doctors to consider endometriosis when evaluating their patients for either CFS or fibromyalgia.

In the journal European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology researchers examined whether the prevalence of autoimmune, chronic pain and fatigue and atopic disorders is higher in women with endometriosis than in the general female population.

A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 1998 by the Endometriosis Association of 3680 USA members with surgically diagnosed endometriosis. Almost all responders had pain (99%), and many reported infertility (41%). Compared with published rates in the general USA female population, women with endometriosis had higher rates of:

  • hypothyroidism (9.6 versus 1.5%, P < 0.0001)
  • fibromyalgia (5.9 versus 3.4%, P < 0.0001)
  • chronic fatigue syndrome (4.6 versus 0.03%, P < 0.0001)
  • rheumatoid arthritis (1.8 versus 1.2%, P = 0.001)
  • systemic lupus erythematosus (0.8 versus 0.04%, P < 0.0001)
  • Sjögren's syndrome (0.6 versus 0.03%, P < 0.0001)
  • multiple sclerosis (0.5 versus 0.07%, P < 0.0001)

But not hyperthyroidism or diabetes. Allergies and asthma were more common among women with endometriosis alone (61%, P < 0.001 and 12%, P < 0.001 respectively) and highest in those with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome (88%, P < 0.001 and 25%, P < 0.001 respectively) than in the USA female population (18%, P < 0.001 and 5%, P < 0.001 respectively).

They concluded that hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, allergies and asthma are all significantly more common in women with endometriosis than in women in the general USA population.

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  • N. Sinaii, S.D. Cleary, M.L. Ballweg, L.K. Nieman and P. Stratton, High rates of autoimmune and endocrine disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and atopic diseases among women with endometriosis: a survey analysis, Human Reproduction, Vol. 17, No. 10, 2715-2724, October 2002, Accessed Dec. 1, 2009.

  • Associated Fibromyalgia Syndrome Conditions: Endometriosis, What is the Connection Between Fibromyalgia and Endometriosis?,, Accessed Dec. 1, 2009.

  • Whittemore Peterson Institute, Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease,, Accessed Nov. 1, 2009.

  • Joris C. Verster, S. R. Pandi-Perumal, David L. Streiner, Sleep and Quality of Life in Clinical Medicine, page 231.

  • Immunological aspects of chronic fatigue syndrome, Autoimmunity Reviews, Volume 8, Issue 4, February 2009, Pages 287-291.

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Changing the Name, cfs news org.

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  • "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Basic Facts" (htm). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 9, 2006). Retrieved on 2008-02-07.

  • Jason LA, Richman JA, Rademaker AW, Jordan KM, Plioplys AV, Taylor RR, McCready W, Huang CF, Plioplys S (1999). "A community-based study of chronic fatigue syndrome". Arch. Intern. Med. 159. PMID 10527290.

  • Centers For Disease Control (CDC), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Who's at Risk.
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