A new study published last week in Science magazine announced that a retrovirus called XMRV may cause Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The virus’ actual name is xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus,and it was found in nearly 98 percent of about 300 patients with the syndrome. See, NY Times, Virus Is Found in Many With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by Denise Grady.

This discovery provides hope for researchers because if the retrovirus – part of the same family as the HIV virus that causes AIDS – definitively proves to cause chronic fatigue, the disease might be effectively treated with antiretroviral drugs. Currently, no treatment or cure is available for chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers also believe that they can create a blood test to determine if a patient is infected with XMRV virus, much the same way a blood test can determine HIV.

Chronic fatigue patients are also hopeful that their symptoms – severe fatigue and body aches – will now be taken seriously by doctors and insurers. Because chronic fatigue can only be diagnosed by ruling out other illnesses, some in the medical community refuse to treat chronic fatigue as a legitimate disease or attribute it to a psychiatric disorder. As a result, most health and disability insurers are skeptical about providing benefits for chronic fatigue sufferers who are too ill to work. Many are accused of “malingering,” that is, lying about or exaggerating their symptoms. Now the medical community may have valid research to back up a diagnosis of chronic fatigue.

The study is considered significant for two other reasons: First, the XMRV virus has been linked to prostate cancer. Second, about 4 percent of healthy people studied were carriers of the XMRV virus. According to the Wall Street Journal, that means that “10 million people in the U.S. and hundreds of million people around the world are infected with a virus that is already strongly associated with two diseases.”

The National Cancer Institute has authorized more research to find out if the virus is linked to any other diseases.

Dr. Judy Mikovits, one of the lead authors of the XMRV paper, told the Wall Street Journal, “Just like you cannot have AIDS without HIV, I believe you won’t be able to find a case of chronic-fatigue syndrome without XMRV.”

We have seen it time and time again… insurers downplaying the symptoms of CFS and even accusing our clients of being untruthful about their inability to function normally, all because there was no “objective evidence” of their Chronic Fatigue. Hopefully, this will all change soon as more is learned about XMRV. Has your insurer refused to consider your diagnosis of chronic fatigue seriously? Kantor & Kantor can help.

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