As just about anyone with CFS/FMS knows, a study in the journal Science in 2009 launched a lively medical debate about the role of the XMRV virus in CFS/FMS, with at least 20 subsequent studies exploring it.
Unfortunately, for everyone hoping to have found a breakthrough, it's starting to look like the XMRV virus may have no connection to CFS/FMS. It appears instead to have simply been a contaminant in the lab chemicals used to measure the amount of the virus.
In fact, a story in the Wall Street Journal on October 3rd reported that the researcher who had linked the virus to CFS/FMS — Judy Mikovits, PhD, director of research at the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) — was let go.
Although this was a major brouhaha in the world of CFS/FMS, I'm inclined to simply let it pass into history.
But I also think the XMRV episode had an upside. It helped focus the world on the fact that CFS/FM is a real disease, with a real cause, and not the "Yuppie Flu" — the disparaging term so many in the media still use to describe the condition, implying it's an imaginary illness popular among the malingering middle- and upper-class. What nonsense! The very real nature of CFS/FMS was again shown in last month's Rituximab study. As there are now dozens of studies documenting that CFS /FMS are real, it's past time to move past that old silliness, and shift focus to effective treatments.
Perhaps it will turn out that XMRV is one more viral hitchhiker picked up by the weakened immune system of those with CFS/FMS. Perhaps not.
But as I've said in articles written from the very beginning of the XMRV saga, there's a simple way to determine whether or not XMRV plays a major role in CFS/FMS:
- Send 50 blood samples to the WPI laboratory (25 people with CFS/FMS and 25 people without the condition — without telling them which are which), and
- See if those with CFS/FMS have higher levels of XMRV, and
- See if they can tell who has the illness and who doesn't based on the blood samples.
If that simple study was conducted, we'd know whether the virus is a real factor in CFS/FMS. And until that study is conducted, we won't.
For now, unless more information comes up to suggest XMRV, I consider this "case closed."
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.