Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

The hunt for causes of chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disabling condition characterized by long-term debilitating physical and mental fatigue, along with associated systemic symptoms.  Despite much effort, the causes of CFS remain elusive and treatment options are limited.  A recent study identified xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) as potentially being linked to CFS, with 67 percent of CFS patients testing positive for XMRV versus 4 percent of healthy controls.  If corroborated, this would suggest antiretroviral therapy as a potentially effective treatment for CFS.  However, several follow-up studies were unable to replicate the original findings.

As further follow-up, VIDD associate member Keith Jerome, Center President and Director Larry Corey and colleagues developed independent protocols for detecting XMRV and tested samples from their own cohort of monozygotic twins where one individual was diagnosed with CFS while the other remained healthy.  Despite rigorous controls, no CFS samples from this cohort tested positive for the presence of XMRV, suggesting that XMRV is not associated with CFS.

Jerome KR, Diem K, Huang ML, Selke S, Corey L, Buchwald D.  Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus in monozygotic twins discordant for chronic fatigue syndrome.  Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2011 Sep;71(1):66-71.