‘Many still suffer as we probe the cause of chronic fatigue’, Boston Globe, 6 June 2011

Letter to the ‘Boston Globe’, 6 June 2011 (letter from Dr Alan Gurwitt, board member with the Massachusetts CFIDS/ME and FM Association).

RE “REPORT deals blow to fatigue sufferers’’ (Page A10, June 1): Deborah Kotz and the Globe are to be congratulated for the article on chronic fatigue syndrome, which updates readers on some aspects of the current research on this serious medical illness. It is estimated that 800,000 to 1 million Americans, and 17 million worldwide, suffer from this syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalopathy. In Massachusetts alone there are 27,000 people, with often more than one in a family. As many as 80 percent go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. While the severity ranges from mild to severe to the point of being bedridden, most patients experience major impairments over many years in their ability to function.

The fallacy that the cause of chronic fatigue is psychological has set back much-needed research. It is only recently that the National Institutes of Health has approached it seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to mount an effective research program.

While, as you report, recent studies raise serious questions about the link between the XMRV retrovirus and chronic fatigue syndrome, your reporter is quite right to indicate that some think it premature to dismiss XMRV until a definitive NIH-sponsored study is completed. Whatever the outcome, examining XMRV has reinvigorated the scientific and medical research communities to address this condition. Meanwhile, there is much evidence that other infectious agents, singly or in combination, and some chemical agents may be among the causes.

Dr. Alan Gurwitt
Newton Highlands

The writer is a board member with the Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association, an all-volunteer group focusing on chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, or myalgic encephalopathy, and fibromyalgia.

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