Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and XMRV…Are They Related?

Last October we blogged about a promising development in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers believed they had discovered a retrovirus similar to the HIV virus as the culprit behind chronic fatigue and as a result would soon be able to treat the disorder with antiretroviral drugs. See ” XMRV Virus May Be Cause of Chronic Fatigue.” People with chronic fatigue tested for XMRV, and some began taking the toxic drugs used to treat AIDS. Now it appears the optimism was premature.

As many as five research teams attempting to confirm the finding say they have been unable to locate the XMRV virus in people suffering from chronic fatigue, reports the Los Angeles Times, “The Push and Pull Over a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Study.” http://www.latimes.com/news/health/la-he-chronic-fatigue-20100614,0,6928481.story.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that as many as 4 million people in the U.S. – most of them women — have the disease. Chronic fatigue cannot be diagnosed with any known lab test and no FDA-approved drug has been developed to treat it. That’s why the isolation of a possible cause and treatment caused such high hopes for people with the disorder.

Immunologist Judy Mikovits, lead author of the paper about the XMRV virus published in Science, says the research teams are biased. She calls the XMRV infection possibly “the worst epidemic in U.S history.” She told the Times her finding is “being ignored by a dithering, even hostile scientific world.”

“Even the best scientists can be wrong,” writes reporter Trine Tsouderos. “Findings must be tested and confirmed by other researchers before they can be trusted. And that has yet to happen for XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Disability insurers will likely use this debate over the cause of chronic fatigue to delay and deny claims from people with the disorder, some who have been fighting for years to get their physical suffering acknowledged. Still, the fact that so many researchers are now attempting to prove Dr. Mikovits either right or wrong could lead to scientifically tested and approved ways to diagnose and treat chronic fatigue.

If you suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and have been denied health or disability insurance benefits, call us at (800) 446-7529. We have years of experience helping people with chronic fatigue and similar conditions appeal benefit denials or challenge insurers or health plans in court, particularly when insurers refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of their disease.

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