Cytomegalovirus-related sequence in an atypical cytopathic virus repeatedly isolated from a patient with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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An atypical virus, cytopathic for human and animal fibroblasts, was

repeatedly cultured from a patient with chronic fatigue

syndrome. Viral particles, suggestive of cytomegalovirus (CMV)

were seen by electron microscopy. Infected cells did not,

however, stain with antisera specific for CMV, herpes, simplex

virus, or human herpes-virus-6. Polymerase chain reaction

(PCR) assays for these viruses were also negative. Two

distinct products of approximately 1.5 kilobase pairs were

amplified from virally infected cells using the human T

lymphotropic virus-II tax gene reactive primer, SK44, in low

stringency PCR. Sequencing of one of the amplified products

showed a region of highly significant partial homology with

the UL34 gene of CMV. The sequence of the other PCR product

did not correspond with CMV or any other virus. DNA was

extracted from the material pelleted by ultracentrifugation of

filtered culture supernatants. It migrated in agarose gels as

a single band of approximately 20 kpb. The banded DNA was

digested with EcoRI and cloned. A 2.2 kbp plasmid containing

the CMV-related sequence identified within the PCR product was

recovered. Sequencing of this plasmid extended the region of

partial sequence homology with CMV to include a portion of the

UL35 gene of CMV. Initial sequencing of additional plasmids

has confirmed the partial relatedness to CMV. The data

indicate a novel type of CMV-related “stealth” virus that is

able to establish a clinically persistent human infection.

Martin WJ, Zeng LC, Ahmed K, Roy M

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