Chronic fatigue syndrome not caused by viruses

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Viruses excluded as the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is apparently not caused by viruses. After several publications in recent years have indicated a possible connection between chronic fatigue syndrome and retrovirus infection, the research team led by W. Ian Lipkin from Columbia University in New York has now been able to find no viral causes of the disease in a comprehensive investigation .

In 2009, the first study appeared in the science magazine "Science", which suggested infection with special retroviruses as the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. In 2010, further research results were published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS), which came to a similar conclusion. Since then, researchers around the world have tried to confirm the connection between chronic fatigue syndrome and a viral infection - to no avail. Instead, the largest study to date on the subject shows that such a connection does not exist.

No viruses in the blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome The research team led by Ian Lipkin has examined 147 patients on behalf of the US National Institutes of Health who were treated for chronic fatigue syndrome in six health centers in the USA. 146 healthy controls were used for comparison. The study was set up to “once and for all clarify a possible connection between the viruses and CFS,” explained the study leader. An infection with the suspected polytropic mouse leukemia virus (pMLV) or the xenotropic mouse leukemia virus-related pathogen (XMRV) could not be detected, the scientists report in the specialist magazine "mBio". Apparently, the two retrovirus types were wrongly the trigger of the CFS for three years. The results of the studies from 2009 and 2010 were clearly refuted. At that time, the samples were probably contaminated with the mouse viruses in the laboratory, the researchers report. The researchers in the study, who first recognized a connection between chronic fatigue syndrome and the viruses, were also involved in the current study.

Previous studies on chronic fatigue syndrome refuted In none of the 293 study participants were traces of XMRV or pMLV found in the blood samples, write Lipkin and colleagues. Neither the CFS patients nor the control persons were infected with the pathogens. The hopes of being able to treat CFS with antiviral drugs in the future must therefore be rejected. There are still no reliable methods of healing. Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by persistent mental and physical exhaustion, but also accompanying symptoms such as tiredness, headache, joint, muscle and limb pain, impaired concentration and memory. The patient's complaints intensify during exercise. According to the study authors, 42 out of 10,000 residents in the USA fall ill. Related to this is "direct medical costs of $ 7 billion annually."

Restarting the cause of research in chronic fatigue syndrome Now that the hypothesis of a viral cause of CFS has been finally ruled out, research practically starts all over again. "Although the once promising XMRV and pMLV hypotheses have been refuted, we are not giving up," emphasized study leader Ian Lipkin. In the current study, the systematic analysis of blood samples for pathogens, metabolic disorders or disorders of the hormonal balance generated countless data that are now available for further research. So far, however, it remains unclear what actually causes the disease.

Treatment options for CFS Accordingly, a reliable treatment method against chronic fatigue syndrome is not known to this day. Most attempts are made to help patients by compensating for any existing deficiencies, changing their diets and treating accompanying chronic infections. General measures that strengthen the immune system are also used here, and therapists may also opt for physiotherapy. If the patient suffers from accompanying pain, pain therapies also offer a good approach to alleviating the symptoms. With CFS, the selection of possibly suitable treatment methods is in the hands of the therapists and patients; a general recommendation for action has not been possible to date due to the lack of knowledge about the causes of the disease. (fp)

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