Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), the "yuppie flu" that 1 million people suffer from, which their bosses and some family members insist is imaginary, is probably a viral infection.
(Picture from a 2006 CBS News story on whether CFS exists.)
The virus is called XMRV, it has been found in many CFS patients, and it may also be in the bodies of men who suffer from a virulent form of prostate cancer.
CFS is also called Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Because its cause was unknown CFS has been treated with a number of homeopathic "cures," including yoga, meditation, and green vegetables.
Scientists at the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) in Reno, Nevada got lucky and identified the retrovirus in the blood of two-thirds of CFS patients they tested, against just 3.7% of people without the syndrome. A test for XMRV antibodies is now being developed that can provide sufferers with a diagnosis.
The founder and President of WPI, Annette Whittemore, is the mother of a CFS patient. Among the better known sufferers is Laura Hillenbrand, author of the book "Seabiscuit," from which the popular movie was made.
The link between XMRV and prostate cancer was revealed only last month by Ila Singh at the University of Utah. WPI investigated it because XMRV in prostate cancer patients turned on an enzyme that had been implicated in CFS.
XMRV appears to be a blood-borne virus that may be unlocking other viral mechanisms in the body, some of which cause cancer and others of which are linked to older diseases whose incidence is on the rise.
The most frightening aspect of the new discovery is that the virus may exist in 4% of all people, including millions who show no symptoms but who may not be at greater risk for cancer and other diseases.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com