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In October 2009 a team of researchers from the Whittemore Peterson Institute, in association with the National Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic in the USA, made a discovery that could potentially open the door to useful treatments for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
The researchers, led by Judy Mikovits, discovered a significant correlation between ME/CFS and an infectious retrovirus called xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV). XMRV is classified as a gammaretrovirus, belonging to the same broad family as HIV, but more closely related to a group of viruses that cause cancers such as leukaemia.
XMRV is the first member of the gammaretrovirus genus of retroviruses to be found in humans; the research to fully understand the connection between ME/CFS and XMRV, as well as what it means to have the virus, is ongoing.
The disastrous impact of AIDS on human health has significantly raised the profile of retroviruses as human pathogens, and XMRV has potentially serious health implications not only for patients, but also for those caring for people with ME/CFS.