Daily Mail coverage of today’s story in ‘The Lancet’, 21 June 2011

June 21, 2011


From the Daily Mail, 21 June 2011 (story by Sophie Borland)

Now doctors say M.E. is NOT caused by virus but is found in the blood

M.E. is definitely not caused by a virus despite past claims, leading scientists say.

They have ruled out a theory that the illness, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is triggered by little-known bugs found in blood.
Two years ago researchers claimed to have made a breakthrough when they discovered a virus in blood samples of those with the condition that was not present in healthy people.

But now scientists who have looked at numerous other studies published since the discovery have dismissed the idea as ‘another false claim'.

M.E., which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis, affects 250,000 Britons and is slightly more common in women than men.

Symptoms include extreme tiredness and muscle ache, and those severely affected spend most of the day in bed or are confined to a wheelchair. Experts do not know what causes it.

The condition was once dismissed as ‘yuppie flu', and sceptical doctors thought it was all in the mind.

In 2009 U.S. researchers discovered a little-known virus called XMRV in blood samples in nearly 70 per cent of sufferers.

It was not found in the vast majority of healthy people.

But writing in The Lancet, disease experts Dr Frank van Kuppevald and Jos van der Meer said recent findings ‘raise huge scepticism' about the idea that M.E. is caused by a virus.

And they added that three new pieces of research ‘provide the nail in the coffin'.

‘Sadly, we have to conclude that the world has witnessed another false claim that gave new hope to patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, who are desperately seeking a cause for their suffering,' the scientists from the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands concluded.

M.E. usually develops in the early 20s to mid-40s but teenagers can also be affected.

There is no cure so patients are given treatments including painkillers for muscle ache and behavioural therapy and exercise therapy for fatigue.
They are often advised to avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar and sweeteners in case they make symptoms worse.

Although scientists do not know exactly what causes M.E., they believe it may be triggered by a combination of factors such as exhaustion, a traumatic event and an infection which weakens the immune system.

Experts also believe there may be a genetic link, with some families more prone than others.

Surveys have suggested that three quarters of M.E. sufferers have lost their job because of the condition and 2 per cent cannot leave their homes.

But it was only properly recognised as a medical condition in 2002, when the then chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson classified it as a ‘debilitating and distressing condition'.

In 2005, a study by University College London found the physical symptoms of the disease were often exacerbated by psychological ones.
The condition is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and doctors usually classify it as sudden tiredness lasting more than six months that is not explained by another illness, exercise or hard work.

8 thoughts on “Daily Mail coverage of today’s story in ‘The Lancet’, 21 June 2011”

  1. Sophie Borland is bolder than anyone I know to declare that M.E, (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is “DEFINITELY [my emphasis] NOT caused by a virus … ” One very important principle is that, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

    No one is sure of a definitive cause of M.E. – some suggestions are viral infection, adverse reaction to vaccination, trauma, genetic predisposition, or a combination of these, all of which need thorough investigation. Since some patients recover, either completely or significantly from some of these, for example from Epstein-Barr virus (Glandular Fever) but others are plagued for life with recurrent symptoms and relapses, it may be that there is a reactivating infectious agent, possibly a retrovirus, at work, or something else, we do not as yet understand. As is often said, “Further research is needed.” It would be a more positive and optimistic step to fund research into what the cause of M.E. MIGHT be, rather than dubiously hypothesising what it is NOT,

  2. Dr Charles Shepherd, who is visiting ATOS today to look at their LIMA computer system, has just sent the following letter to the Editor of the Daily Mail:

    Dear Sir

    While it is true to say that there is a serious split in scientific opinion over the role of XMRV in M.E., it is incorrect to then conclude that other infections do not play a role in causation (Daily Mail story today, 21 June).

    Most people with M.E. report that their illness was triggered by an infection such as glandular fever or shingles – an observation supported by numerous research studies and the Chief Medical Officer’s Report into ME.

    Research also indicates that the triggering infection can produce an ongoing and overactive immune system response which may be responsible for some of the flu-like and neurological symptoms.

    With results from the most comprehensive study into XMRV and M.E. due later in the year, it is not yet time for the Lancet to reach such a definitive verdict.

    Dr Charles Shepherd
    Hon Medical Adviser, The ME Association
    7 Apollo Office Court, Radclive Road, Gawcott, Buckinghamshire MK18 4DF

    1. There is only a split on XMRV regarding those who have applied science and those who have not.

  3. Though I did comment, painful as it was to register with DM, but it keeps disappearing from their site, I don’t understand their system: Sophie Borland, I am wondering did you just cut and paste extracts from the internet to inform this article? ME has been classifed as neurological illness by WHO since 1969. The illness is most definitely triggered by a virus, in many cases – it is the mantaining mechanism of the illness which is still poorly understood – and would be more easily understood if biomedical funding were actually encouraged. It has been actively discouraged in UK in favour of wasteful psychosocial research. Please can you amend your article, to reflect that it is the role of XMRV which is under the microscope here, not the role of viruses in general?

  4. the only thing I am tired of is bad and tired reporting.
    How can any scientist say anything is definite when their general knowledge about illness and the human body is still so primative.
    psycholgical is an old throw away response to cover their lack of knowledge and insight.
    I feel very poorly which is not tired!!!!
    We ME/CFS sufferes will not stand for such poor reporting by sophie borland in the daily mail.

  5. Bacteria could not survive in the acid of the stomach according to science researcher’s doctors and all the experts everywhere in every country of the world. This was seen as fact no argument! Psychiatrists claimed ulcers were caused by stress .J Marshall had to prove that this was not true when he discovered Helicobacter pylori. Science is sometimes wrong and with stomach ulcers it was deliberately wrong .As J Marshall States no one could reproduce his findings which he says was untrue. He is a Nobel prise winning scientist so he knows what he is talking about .This article to discredit ME by discrediting XMRV .It is trying to kill two birds with one stone. It is written with the intention of sabotage investigation, the true purpose of science.

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