Not as simple as supposed

“Serious doubt has been cast on the theory that…chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by a new retrovirus,” The Guardian reported. The newspaper said researchers from London have failed to replicate findings from the US that suggested a possible role for a virus called XMRV in causing CFS, also known as ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis).

In the new study none of the 186 UK CFS patients tested carried the XMRV virus, in contrast to the US study in 2009, which found that about two-thirds of 101 CFS patients tested had the virus. Why the two studies have different findings is not clear, but the results of the UK study do not support an association between XMRV infection and CFS in UK patients. This highlights the importance of different research groups repeating experiments in different populations.

CFS is a complex disease, and its causes are not well understood. Although an association with XMRV has not been established, this does not rule out the possibility that viral infection is involved. Much more research will be needed in this area.


I wrote about the original research when it came out in October. I also mentioned that some work with German populations seemed to give different results than US. Now this work adds even more complexity.

This is something science does all the time. Finding an interesting set of data, observe some of the things it correlates with and present a hypothesis. This leads to further research to investigate the hypothesis.

Thus, we now seem to have something either much more complex than originally proposed or perhaps there is no real correlation at all. More work will help. Such is research at the edge.

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