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W-P Institute Update: 95% of ME/CFS Patients Positive for XMRV Antibodies, with More-Refined Test

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“X Associated Neuro-immune Disease, or XAND – a new disease entity encompassing ME/CFS – will require additional research funding to find effective treatments…”

[Note: the WPI website has added an "XMRV" section to its website, offering more on the new research, including FAQ's, news, a power point presentation on retroviruses, and updates.]

Whittemore-Peterson Institute scientists discover significant link between XMRV and ME/CFS – WPI news release, Oct 8, 2009

A recently identified retrovirus called XMRV has been linked to a debilitating neuroimmune disease that affects more than one million people in the United States. Scientists from the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI), located at the University of Nevada, Reno, and their collaborators from the National Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic, have discovered a retroviral link to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).

They recently published their groundbreaking findings in the journal Science, one of the world’s leading journals of original scientific research, global news and commentary. The paper, entitled “Detection of Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in the Blood Cells of CFS Patients,” is a major breakthrough in understanding the origins of this disease.

“Since the original Science paper was submitted, we have continued to refine our test for XMRV and have surprisingly found that 95 percent ME/CFS samples tested positive for XMRV antibodies in the plasma. This finding clearly points to the retrovirus as a significant contributing factor in this illness,” said Judy Mikovits, PhD, director of research for WPI and leader of the team that discovered this association.

This landmark study was the first to isolate XMRV particles from the blood, and show that it can be transmitted between blood cells. XMRV was originally discovered in prostate cancer tissue of men with a specific genetic immune system defect by Dr. Robert H. Silverman of the Cleveland Clinic.

A similar immune system defect in patients with ME/CFS led researchers to look for the virus in banked blood samples donated from several medical practices throughout the United States.

Other retroviruses, such as HIV and HTLV-1, are known to cause cancer and immune deficiencies in humans. This study showed XMRV can be found in human blood cells and is infectious. Researchers have confirmed that this retrovirus is transmitted through body fluids and is not airborne.

WPI researchers have continued their in-depth studies of XMRV to clarify its effects on the human immune system. Scientists at WPI are clinically validating a blood test for the detection of XMRV in ME/CFS and other human diseases.

X associated neuro-immune disease, or XAND – a new disease entity encompassing ME/CFS – will require additional research funding to find effective treatments for patients. With anticipated funding, WPI will begin the work of determining if any currently approved drugs can suppress XMRV, followed closely by human clinical trials to advance the most effective patient treatments.

“This is the breakthrough that we have been hoping for. Now we have scientific proof that this infectious agent is a significant factor in ME/CFS,” said Annette Whittemore, founder and president of WPI and mother of a ME/CFS patient. “Patients and their doctors will soon have a blood test to verify their diagnosis and provide the answers that they’ve been seeking.”

Daniel Peterson, MD, medical director of WPI, added, “Patients with ME/CFS (XAND) deal with a myriad of health issues as their quality of life declines. I’m excited about the possibility of providing patients who are positive for XMRV a definitive diagnosis, and hopefully very soon, a range of effective treatments options.”

Information relating to XMRV associated neuroimmune disease can be found at www.wpinstitute.org. Those with XAND (ME/CFS) and/or fibromyalgia, interested in participating in research studies to further the development of diagnostic tests, should complete the questionnaire available at www.wpinstitute.org.

[Ed Note: In searching the site we have not found a link to a questionnaire. Another WPI news release advised that interested parties should "ask the WPI for a questionnaire by e-mailing Mike Hillerby at mike.hillerby@wpinstitute.org." HOWEVER, as of Oct 13, under the XMRV Q&A, the WPI answers the question "How do I volunteer for clinical trials or other research?" by noting "We are working on an interactive form for our website. It should be available in the next few days."]

The Center for Molecular Medicine, now under construction, at the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno, is the future home of the Whittemore Peterson Institute.

“We’re excited about the opening of our new facility next summer, which will not only add thousands of square feet to our existing laboratory space, but will also provide new space for comprehensive patient care,” added Whittemore.

Source: Whittemore Peterson Institute news release, Oct 8, 2009

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The Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease exists to bring discovery, knowledge, and effective treatments to patients with illnesses that are caused by acquired dysregulation of both the immune system and the nervous system, often results in lifelong disease and disability. The WPI is the first institute in the world dedicated to X associated neuro-immune disease (XAND), and other X associated diseases, integrating patient treatment, basic and clinical research and medical education.

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10 thoughts on “W-P Institute Update: 95% of ME/CFS Patients Positive for XMRV Antibodies, with More-Refined Test”

  1. capemark says:


    I’m assuming that “X-associated neuro-immune disease” means a link to XMRV – not definitively proven yet, but a potential new name (but one useful for research purposes for those with a positive blood test and either CFS or prostate cancer).

    I met Peterson once at the AACFS Conference in Boston and was very impressed by him. This sounds real.

    Mark Elliott

  2. susankeb says:

    This must be a mistake everything else says 67% of CFS sfferers have XMRV retrovirus, not 95%.

    That would be a slam dunk if it were correct!!!!

    1. mer815 says:

      The Science Express article says 67% of CFS samples had XMRV DNA. The WPI press release says more recent results show 95% of CFS sufferers checked have antibodies to XMRV.

      These are different types of tests and are performed on different numbers of samples. For the healthy controls, 3.7% have the viral DNA. The press release doesn’t say what percentage of healthy controls have antibodies– but it could be more than 3.7%.

    2. DiamonDie says:

      No, it is an error, which you’ll see if you read carefully. “Since the original Science paper was submitted, we have continued to refine our test for XMRV and have surprisingly found that 95 percent ME/CFS samples tested positive for XMRV antibodies in the plasma.” (The paper was submitted to Science in the summer and they have since come up with a more sensitive way to look for the infection – there are many different ways to test for microbes.)

      Many of these articles about XMRV have created more questions than answers, so I wrote an article that explores the real meaning and consequences of the new finding. http://chronic-fatigue-syndrome.suite101.com/article.cfm/cfsme_and_retroviruses

    3. GFK says:

      In case anyone thinks I am referring to the Prohealth article, please note I am talking about the article contained in the link on the post above. I submitted a comment about the inaccuracies of the article, and its questionable agenda, to this link but – surprise, surprise – it didn’t appear.

  3. GFK says:

    I’m not sure what your agenda is but your “article” contains several blatant inaccuracies which attempt to diminish the force of the Mikovits’ data and paper. This research group have finally injected some genuine scientific rigour into the CFS field. The days of making half-assed comments about CFS without good quality evidence are over. Let’s all try to keep to these new standards.

  4. wkgina says:

    I am a current CFIDS sufferer and have been for 7 years. I am being treated for CMV and HHV-6 through the use of an antiviral. I am unclear as to how they believe that this virus may be the “cause” of this illness. Could it be possible that the reason so many have the anti-bodies to this virus is because their immune systems are compromised? I am not buying this yet. However, I am rejoicing that ME/CFS and CFIDS is finally getting the attention it deserves after so many have suffered and are still suffering. I will be speaking with my physician in a couple of weeks. He is a highly qualified infectious disease researcher and I am anxious to hear his opinion.

  5. WPI says:

    Post #1Whittemore Peterson Institute wrote5 hours ago
    XMRV is strongly linked to patients with ME/CFS. This initial finding was confirmed in three different laboratories, the National Cancer Institute, the Cleveland Clinic and the Whittemore Peterson Institute.
    Patient samples were donated from different locations around the US. This was not one cohort. All patients met the Fakuda and Canadian definitions for CFS and the study included age and sex matched controls with zip codes but Science did not feel that information was important to this publication. Not all patient samples that were positive had the biological markers of low NK cell function and RNase L defect.
    The importance of this finding is two fold. One that XMRV is an infectious retrovirus found in significant numbers in the blood of people who are ill with CFS and only in a very few without symptoms of ME/CFS. Number two is that it was found in 4% of healthy controls which means that 10 million Americans may be infected with this retrovirus.
    What you ultimately call this disease is not important. We must now try to understand how this virus is acquired and how that relates to disease and immune deficiencies. Human infectious retroviruses are not ubiquitous or benign. This virus should not be confused with benign endogenous retroviral particles that we all have in our genome. This is only the third human infectious retrovirus found to be replicating in the blood of humans to date, the other two are HIV and HTLV-1 & 2. It is a gamma retrovirus not a lenti retrovirus which means it is a simple vs. a complex retrovirus.
    Delete Post

  6. CandC says:

    I was reading your comment and I had to ask. Is your Internist, Dr. Martin Lerner? If so, I would love to talk to you about your experiences with him and if his treatment plan is working for you.

    If not, I would be curious to find out who your physician is. I also have Fibro, CFS, IBS, positive CMV, HHV-6, and the list goes on. I was really excited to see this episode on Dr. Oz today about this XMRV and it sounds like the treatment for it is quite similar to what Dr. Lerner was doing for me in the beginning.

    You can contact me at sguerreso@gmail.com if you would like to “compare notes.”


  7. Dasvid says:

    1st–I am a long studied CFS patient diagnosed by an internationally known clinician and CFS expert in 1990, BY THE NIH-CDC CRITERIA, and followed up consistently from then till this day. I just received my results of the XMRV–I am positive. That’s a 1in 25 coincidence, or it supports the research.

    2nd– I believe both percentages are correct.

    67% reflects samples of established CFS patients in which active virus was detected and replicated.

    95% reflects, in their words– “95 percent ME/CFS samples tested positive for XMRV antibodies in the plasma.”

    My understanding of this is that the antibodies are cells produced specifically by the body’s reaction to the presence of this particular virus. (I am not a Dr., just a patient).

    Retro-viruses like HIV are known to go dormant and hide for long periods of time. The presence of these antibodies shows the virus has BEEN in the body.

    Please fact check this all you want.

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