A Mysterious Illness
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a somewhat mysterious illness that strikes an estimated 1 million to 4 million Americans with a range of symptoms, including muscle pain, insomnia, memory loss and overwhelming fatigue. The malaise leaves many with a significantly diminished capacity for physical or mental activity often for years, if not decades and no amount of bed rest helps.
No definitive cause for the disease has ever been found, and some scientists believe that it is actually the common end stage of a number of different conditions caused by multiple triggers trauma, exposure to toxins or infectious agents, for instance. Several viruses have been named as possible causes, but none ever proved to be the culprit.
In 2009, however, researchers in Nevada and Maryland reported finding traces of a mouse-related virus called xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) in about two-thirds of blood samples taken from 101 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. This virus, they showed, was capable of infecting human cells grown in the laboratory.
Taken together, these results suggested that XMRV could be the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
"It gave great encouragement to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients," Levy said. "Many believed the cause had finally been found."
The 2009 paper was widely publicized and, according to Levy, it influenced both the direction of federal research spending and the way some doctors began to treat their patients.
Shortly after the paper came out, one of its authors contacted Levy and asked if he could confirm the findings by taking a look at other blood samples taken from patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Virus Discovered at UCSF in the 1970s
Levy's experience with the mouse-related virus goes back decades. He and his colleagues were the
|Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi|
University of California - San Francisco