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Studies Refute Virus' Link to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Date:6/1/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- A virus identified two years ago as a possible cause of chronic fatigue syndrome now turns out not to be the culprit, new research says.

Experts say it's a major setback in the effort to understand and treat this mysterious and debilitating disease.

The authors of a new study published May 31 in Science find that the so-called XMRV viral pathogen spotted in human samples in the prior study (published by the same journal in 2009) likely got there as a result of "genetic recombination." That can occur in the laboratory when DNA from different viruses mix.

In this case, two mouse viruses combined and the product of that union then contaminated the human specimens via "reagent" compounds used in the lab, the new research shows.

This probable contamination of the samples with XMRV in the lab "means that this virus has no proven association" with chronic fatigue syndrome, said Stuart LeGrice, head of the lab that oversees all XMRV research at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, which conducted the new study.

"I believe the evidence is incontrovertible," he added. "It doesn't rule out the possibility that there's another retrovirus [involved] but, as of right now, we're close to 100 percent certain that this eliminates the virus as a causative agent of either condition."

The study was accompanied by a rare "Expression of Concern" from the editors of Science. While they did not call for an outright retraction of the original paper, the editors pointedly questioned the study's validity.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the editors of Science have asked the authors of the 2009 paper to voluntarily retract their paper. The authors have responded that any retraction would be "premature," the newspaper reported.

This sequence of events began two years ago, with the publication of a fin
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