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The novel retrovirus XMRV (xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus) was found in 68% of ME/ CFS patients in October 2009 by the Whittemore Peterson Institute, University of Nevada.[1] Following the publication of the research in the journal Science the researchers found XMRV in 95% of the patients[2] XMRV was also found in between 3% and 7% of the healthy control. The research found the retrovirus to be contagious, transmitted through bodily fluids but not airborne. Subsequently, these findings were tested in the UK[3][4], China[5], US[6] and the Netherlands[7]. Claiming to use the same methodology, this research did not find XMRV in ME/ CFS patients. Further research was carried out in the US by scientists from the Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health which found an association between XMRV and ME/ CFS patients, and offered an explanation of flawed methodology for the above 5 research papers[8].

XMRV is the fourth known infectious human retrovirus. The others are HIV and HTLV 1 and 2[9]. XMRV was first discovered in prostate cancer patients, found in up to 27% of tested patients[10].

Blood Donation Ban

In April 2010 Canada[11], Australia[12] and New Zealand[13] permanently banned ME/ CFS sufferers from donating blood to protect blood banks from possible contamination of retrovirus XMRV; citing Lombardi et al's 2009 research as the rationale for this decision. The UK NHS announced the same ban on 1st November 2010, stating their aim as protecting the donor from relapse , making no reference to possible XMRV contamination[14].


  1. Science Detection of Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Lombardi et al. 23 October 2009, Accessed 22 November 2010
  2. Whittemore Peterson Institute website XMRV Research Overview Accessed 26 January 2011
  3. PLoS One website Failure to Detect the Novel Retrovirus XMRV in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Erlwein et al. 6 January 2010, accessed 26 January 2011
  4. Retrovirology Absence of xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus in UK patients with chronic fatigue syndrome Groom et al. 15 february 2010, Accessed 26 january 2011
  5. Virology Journal Failure to detect xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus in Chinese patients with chronic fatigue syndrome Hong et al. 13 september 2010, accessed 26 january 2011
  6. Retrovirology Absence of XMRV infection in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy controls in the United States Switzer et al. 1 July 2010, accessed 26 january 2011
  7. British Medical Journal Prevalence of XMRV in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome in the Netherlands: retrospective analysis of samples from an established cohort van Kuppeveld et al. 25 february 2010, accessed 26 january 2011
  8. PNAS Detection of MLV-related virus gene sequences in blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy blood donors Lo et al. 25 May 2010, accessed 26 january 2011
  9. Whittmore Peterson Institute website Q&A Accessed 26 january 2011
  10. Nature The human retrovirus XMRV in prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome Silverman et al. July 2010, accessed 26 january 2011
  11. Canadian Blood Services Indefinite Referrals, accessed 26 January 2011
  12. Australian Red Cross Blood Service Blood Service Updates CFS Donor Policy, accessed 26 January 2011
  13. Kent Atkinson Chronic Fatigue set to disqualify blood donors 21 April 2010, accessed 26 January 2011
  14. NHS Blood and Transplant ME/CFS sufferers permanently deferred from giving blood 8 November 2010, accessed 26 January 2011