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XMRV – Puppet Master?

Posted by Cort Johnson

The idea that  XMRV could be a kind of ‘puppet master’  (eg. Dr. Bell) that allows other infections such as EBV or HHV6 or Lyme or enterovirus to  become exacerbated is generating discussion.  Dr. Coffin suggested such in his article “A New Virus For Old Diseases”. Dr. Huber, a researcher studying endogenous viral elements in ME/CFS has suggested that XMRV might be able to unlock endogenous retroviral elements in our DNA.  Based on the limited results from his clinic Dr. Cheney speculated XMRV could be a factor in autism and ADHD and (wondered about arthrits, asthma and cancer!).  Dr. Mikovits has reported that XMRV can be found in autism and ‘atypical MS’ patients. Its all a bit overwhelming.

Autism – The Nevada Autism Commission revealed that 40% of a ‘small group of children’  with autism tested postive for XMRV.  Dr. Mikovits verified this stating ” we have actually done some of these studies (in ASD children) and found the virus in a significant number of samples that we have tested for. It could be linked to a number of neuro-immune diseases, including autism” but that at best it would be one  several factor that contributed to the disorder.  Dr. Mikovits also speculated that the virus could be a factor in  vaccination triggered autism.

Infectious mononucleosis – No one’s mentioned a key factor in many patients journey  – infectious mononucleosis.   Could an XMRV infection be a risk factor for getting infectious mononucleosis; ie. do people who get the more severe form of Epstein-Barr virus infection (infectious mononucleosis) rather than the  less severe form (mild cold)  tend to carry the XMRV virus?

When the Dubbo and  Taylor  groups dig into their samples they could show that XMRV is not restricted to the ME/CFS patients. It turns out that if you have infectious mononucleosis you also have an increased risk of coming down with multiple sclerosis and the WPI has already reported finding XMRV in ‘atypical’ MS patients. Could the scenario go – XMRV infection in childhood = increased risk of infectious mononucleosis = increased risk of ME/CFS or multiple sclerosis.

Other Diseases – ME/CFS is not the only disease with disabling fatigue, cognition problems, sleep problems, etc. Besides related diseases like fibromyalgia there are also a number of diseases which don’t appear to be related to chronic fatigue syndrome at all but which have subsets of patients who look very much like chronic fatigue syndrome patients.  A significant subset of post-cancer patients, post ICU patients, post heart surgery patients, patients with liver disease and multiple sclerosis patients have a very CFS-like condition. Researchers have speculated that they are in fact chronic fatigue syndrome showing up in other diseases.

Still a Stress Trigger? What these conditions share is a stress trigger; whether it comes in the form of an infection, a physical trauma ( fibromyalgia), cancer treatment, surgery, etc.  This, of course that the stress response plays a critical role in the development of this illness. Note that this does not at all conflict with any of the statements that Dr. Mikovits has made regarding possible triggers for XMRV activation; two of them she mentioned – cortisol and inflammatory cytokine levels  – are increased during the stress response. Could the CFS-like post-cancer, post-ICU,  MS patients, etc. patients be harboring the XMRV virus? The possibilites for this virus – at this very early stage when we don’t know much – appear to go on and on.

Why might retroviruses at least theoretically be able to trigger so much disturbance?  Because we’re pretty much stuck with them; instead of eventually getting killed off in the body like other viruses they tend to linger in the body  – i.e. they are chronic – and  they can be pretty good (aka HIV) at creating a condition which other pathogens can take advantage of.

Let’s not forget , though, that most retroviruses are completely harmless. In fact our DNA is studded with the remnants of old retroviruses that have embedded themselves in our genome. Before we can get too excited we need evidence that this retrovirus is tied to the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome; i.e. the more retrovirus you have the sicker you are.

Dissenting Views – There is also some reason to believe that this virus might not be some sort of ‘Puppet Master’ that turns on a ‘viral cascade’ in patients. A study by Dr. Nicholson found that one virus does not appear to open the door to another virus in ME/CFS patients. Instead ME/CFS patients as a group tend to harbor one or another opportunistic viruses.  Dr. Natelson reports finding very, very few viruses in the patients that he sees.

Reports from the WPI, on the other hand, mention finding dozens of  different types of viral fragments in the sophisticated tests in chronic fatigue syndrome patients and very few in controls. Is technology the difference here? Or are these physicians looking at different types of patients? Clearly we’re still in the early stages of getting a clear picture of the viral component in this disorder.

The XMRV /XAND Pages On Phoenix Rising

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