Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Experts now generally believe that infectious agents set off a persistent, hyperactive immune response that causes chronic fatigue syndrome

By DAVID TULLER Published: February 6, 2012: An estimated one million people in the United States suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, which is characterized by profound exhaustion, a prolonged loss of energy following minimal exertion, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, cognitive dysfunction and other symptoms. Experts now generally believe that one or more infectious agents, or perhaps exposure to toxins, set off a persistent, hyperactive immune response — the likely cause of many of the symptoms.

¶ The events of the past couple of years, though disheartening to chronic fatigue syndrome patients, may have a silver lining: Research into the disease, much of it privately financed, is ratcheting up.

¶ A new research and treatment center has been created at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The Hutchins Family Foundation is investing $10 million in the Chronic Fatigue Initiative, an effort to find causes and treatments that has recruited top researchers from Columbia, Harvard, Duke and other institutions.

¶ “The disease had languished in the background at N.I.H. and C.D.C., and other scientists had not been paying much attention to it,” said John Coffin, a professor of molecular biology at Tufts University. “This has brought it back into attention.”

¶ Dr. Coffin, who at first supported the mouse retrovirus theory but later disputed it, noted that the illness “does seem to have characteristics that would suggest infectious origins” and that other retroviruses could be involved.

¶ Despite the personal and professional setbacks for Dr. Mikovits, many patients, like Ms. Solomon, continue to believe that a retrovirus is causing their illness.

¶ “But even if the retroviral research does not pan out, her work, and the publicity it has brought to our illness, has forever changed the landscape,” said Ms. Solomon.

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