Friday, February 18, 2011

Professor Racaniello: Why XMRV is difficult to detect in the blood

XMRV infection of Rhesus macaques

Professor Racaniello:

The first detailed study of infection of nonhuman primates with the retrovirus XMRV reveals that the virus establishes a persistent infection characterized by infection of multiple tissues.

Viremia (virus in the blood) is low and transient, with proviral DNA detectable in blood lymphocytes. The results show that the Rhesus macaque can be used to study XMRV infection, transmission, vaccines, and antiviral drugs.


Here are some other comments and conclusions drawn from this study:

The authors suggest that in Rhesus macaques, XMRV causes first an acute infection, followed by a persistent chronic infection. A persistent infection lasts for long periods of time; a chronic infection is a persistent infection that is eventually cleared. Since the monkeys in this study were all sacrificed, it’s not possible to determine if the infection was cleared.
The presence of XMRV in certain blood cells resembles the pattern in a cohort of ME/CFS patients

Virus is present in the prostate early in acute infection – XMRV was identified in prostate tumors

The presence of XMRV in reproductive tract tissues is consistent with sexual transmission of infection

After the acute phase, virus levels are very low, but there could be a different outcome in individuals with immune dysfunction

One animal produced virus after immunization; perhaps immune activation results in cycles of virus production

The virus has an initial acute phase followed by reactivation. The authors comment: “While our study has not linked XMRV infection with pathogenic mechanisms that might lead to prostate cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome, we submit that such link, assuming it exists, would be a temporally distant one.”

It would be informative to determine if XMRV is present in some of the same tissues in humans that were observed to be infected in rhesus macaques
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