‘Controversial new virus tied to fatigue not transmitted by blood’, Bloomberg Business News, 22 October 2011

October 23, 2011


From Bloomberg Business Week, 22 October 2011 (story by Michelle Fay Cortez).

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) — A newly discovered virus that triggered a firestorm of controversy when it was linked to prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome isn’t transmitted through blood, according to researchers.

Tests designed to detect antibodies the immune system would normally produce to latch on to the virus, known as XMRV, failed to find solid evidence of transmission, researchers said. They analyzed 17,249 samples from blood donors.

Officials from Abbott Laboratories, the American Red Cross and Gen-Probe Inc. gathered soon after XMRV was identified in prostate tumors in 2006 to see if they could find it in the nation’s blood supply. A later study linked the virus to chronic fatigue syndrome and found it in blood, though further research failed to confirm the results. In the latest study, less than 1 percent of the samples were positive for either antibody test, and none were positive for both, said John Hackett, manager of emerging pathogens and virus discovery at Abbott.

“We found none that showed convincing evidence of antibody reactivity to XMRV,” Hackett said in a telephone interview. “Further actions with respect to XMRV and blood safety are not warranted.”

One of the original studies linking XMRV to chronic fatigue led the American Red Cross, the largest U.S. supplier of blood products, in December 2010 to ban blood donations from sufferers of the disease. Another study testing blood taken from 150 people with chronic fatigue and 150 without the condition is under way. Those results are expected by the end of the year.

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) — A newly discovered virus that triggered a firestorm of controversy when it was linked to prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome isn’t transmitted through blood, according to researchers.

Tests designed to detect antibodies the immune system would normally produce to latch on to the virus, known as XMRV, failed to find solid evidence of transmission, researchers said. They analyzed 17,249 samples from blood donors.

Officials from Abbott Laboratories, the American Red Cross and Gen-Probe Inc. gathered soon after XMRV was identified in prostate tumors in 2006 to see if they could find it in the nation’s blood supply. A later study linked the virus to chronic fatigue syndrome and found it in blood, though further research failed to confirm the results. In the latest study, less than 1 percent of the samples were positive for either antibody test, and none were positive for both, said John Hackett, manager of emerging pathogens and virus discovery at Abbott.

“We found none that showed convincing evidence of antibody reactivity to XMRV,” Hackett said in a telephone interview. “Further actions with respect to XMRV and blood safety are not warranted.”

One of the original studies linking XMRV to chronic fatigue led the American Red Cross, the largest U.S. supplier of blood products, in December 2010 to ban blood donations from sufferers of the disease. Another study testing blood taken from 150 people with chronic fatigue and 150 without the condition is under way. Those results are expected by the end of the year.

Worthwhile Endeavor

While the work didn’t yield a new product for the Abbott Park, Illinois-based company, it was worthwhile, Hackett said. Abbott already works with academic researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and elsewhere to identify and study novel infectious disease agents, he said.

“XMRV is a real virus, there’s no question,” he said. “The issue is whether it naturally infects humans and causes a health problem. The reality is that once something is identified, it takes time to work through the details and come up with a product that can detect the virus. If it had turned out there was a need and we weren’t in the field, it would have taken years longer.”

The study was presented today at the meeting of the American Association of Blood Banks in San Diego.

–Editors: Angela Zimm, Andrew Pollack

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at mcortez@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

While the work didn’t yield a new product for the Abbott Park, Illinois-based company, it was worthwhile, Hackett said. Abbott already works with academic researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and elsewhere to identify and study novel infectious disease agents, he said.

“XMRV is a real virus, there’s no question,” he said. “The issue is whether it naturally infects humans and causes a health problem. The reality is that once something is identified, it takes time to work through the details and come up with a product that can detect the virus. If it had turned out there was a need and we weren’t in the field, it would have taken years longer.”

The study was presented today at the meeting of the American Association of Blood Banks in San Diego.

– Editors: Angela Zimm, Andrew Pollack

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at mcortez@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

2 thoughts on “‘Controversial new virus tied to fatigue not transmitted by blood’, Bloomberg Business News, 22 October 2011”

    1. The article is misleading. What these studies have actually tested for is the VP62 clone. They spike a blood sample with that clone and alter their test until it can locate the clone. The VP62 clone, has also never been found in nature and bears no relationship to the viruses discovered in people with ME/CFS.

      The real ME/CFS HGRVs, and the real XMRV in prostate cancer, are integrated, not free floating as a clone would be. In addition these viruses integrate into areas with high C-G content, which simplified means they form unusually strong bonds and require very specific PCR conditions to break those bonds. They also will be at much lower levels in the blood than the clone is. So an assay (test) that is optimised to the VP62 clone, cannot be optimised to detect HGRVs. The assays have to be optimised again to detect those wild-type viruses.

      The labs above have also presented at conferences other studies where they have used different assays and those are finding the XMRV virus in 10% of prostate cancer patients. Several of the groups also hold patents on that particular variant of HGRVs found in prostate cancer, so they do believe the viruses are infecting people.

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