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Virus Tied To Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Virus Tied To Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Virus Tied To Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Virus Tied To Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Researchers have found a virus that might be at the root of chronic fatigue syndrome. More than a million Americans suffer from the disease, which can leave them exhausted even after a good night's sleep, cause debilitating pain in muscles and joints, and make concentrating difficult. Renee Montagne talks with Dr. Daniel Peterson, one of the first to recognize chronic fatigue syndrome.


Thank you for joining us.

D: Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: Now, you've been in this field from the beginning and would have paid attention to how patients have often been ridiculed - as to somehow they don't really have a disease. Why did people think that?

D: So, it's very similar to asymptomatic carriers of HIV. They look just fine until time passes and their illness evolves and more symptoms are found. But I never felt this was predominantly a psychiatric disease or malingering. There was never any evidence to support that theory.

MONTAGNE: Was your work, though, in the early stages, in a sense, you know, looked down upon. Like you're working on something that everyone knows isn't really a disease.

D: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was a problem in the early '80s, particularly, and this federal agencies never showed particular interest in this disease as well.

MONTAGNE: So, what was the path to this discovery?

D: So, back then we didn't really have the tools to really look for the inciting agent. So, we began the search probably about three years ago with the new technology and looking for a possible agent that could explain all these things. And lo and behold, through arduous scientific rigor, they located XMRV.

MONTAGNE: And does new study suggest any new treatments?

D: The real excitement of this kind of translational research is that with an agent we can target therapies specifically for that group of patients that is infected. There are antiretroviral drugs that should be potentially effective. And we know now, a target that we can go after in terms of immune stimulation and in terms of antiviral therapy, and that's really the first time in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that this has been possible.

MONTAGNE: So, that's really good news.

D: It's super good news.

MONTAGNE: You now know what is associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Does it tell you how someone gets it?

D: It's an excellent question, because I think it's required probably to be a genetic predisposition like there are for most diseases. And then there has to be the infectious agent and then a combination of host factors, probably immune factors, et cetera, that propagate the disease.

MONTAGNE: should the blood supply be screened; what does this virus lead to in patients who have it 20 or 30 years; can it be prevented; can there be a vaccine? All the questions that come up in retrovirology.

MONTAGNE: Dr. Peterson, thank you very much.

D: My pleasure. Thank you for the courtesy.

MONTAGNE: Daniel Peterson is the medical director of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nevada.

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