Scientists' claim to have found the cause of ME is 'premature'

British researchers say US team should have waited for more evidence of viral link before publishing findings

British scientists have failed to find a link between a new kind of retrovirus and chronic fatigue syndrome in a study that contradicts previous findings by American researchers claiming to have found a possible viral cause of the debilitating condition.

The UK scientists could not detect a recently discovered virus called XMRV in any of the blood samples collected from 186 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, which is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). The researchers believe this demonstrates that XMRV is not implicated in the illness, at least not in Britain.

One scientist involved in the latest research also criticised the previous study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, saying it was premature and that the journal should have waited until there was stronger, corroborating evidence of such a link.

"When you've got such a stunning result you want to be absolutely clear that you are 1,000 per cent right and there are things in that [previous study] I would not have done. I would have waited. I would have stalled a little," said Professor Myra McClure, a virologist at Imperial College London and a leading member of the British research team.

Chronic fatigue syndrome affects about three in every 1,000 people and results in severe physical and mental exhaustion. After the release of the apparent link with XMRV, many patients have asked their doctors about being tested for the virus and whether they should be taking antiretroviral drugs.

The earlier study, published last October, was carried out by a team led by Judy Mikovits, director of research at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nevada. They found the murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV) in blood samples of 68 of 101 patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Just eight out of 101 healthy "controls" drawn at random from the same parts of the US also tested positive, suggesting that XMRV played a key role in triggering the condition. Dr Mikovits told The Independent at the time that further blood testing had found the virus in as many as 95 per cent of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. She also said that preliminary testing on a batch of blood samples sent from Britain showed that the "same percentages are holding up".

However, Professor McClure's study, published in the online journal Plos One, failed to find any evidence of the XMRV's DNA in blood samples taken from 186 patients who had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome for at least four years. She also failed to find any virus related to XMRV.

"We are confident that our results show there is no link between XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome, at least in the UK. The US study had some dramatic results that implied people with the illness could be treated with antiretrovirals. Our recommendation to people with chronic fatigue syndrome would be not to change their treatment regime, because our results suggest that antiretroviral would not be an effective treatment for the condition," Professor McClure said.

The British study was carried out under the most rigorous testing conditions that minimised the risk of cross contamination, Professor McClure said. The testing was also conducted "blind" meaning the scientists involved did not know which samples came from patients and which came from the healthy controls until the end of the experiment.

The DNA test used to detect the presence of XMRV in the blood samples is so sensitive that it would have shown up positive if just one molecule of the virus's genetic material had been present in the blood samples. However, the tests were only carried out on blood. It is possible the XMRV virus integrates its genetic material into other tissues of the body, although this is not supported by the American findings.

Anthony Cleare, reader in psychiatric neuroendocrinology at King's College London, which collected the blood samples, said the apparent link between chronic fatigue syndrome and XMRV generated a lot of excitement among doctors and patients but the latest study had failed to replicate those results.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN TA's apply now! West Midlands

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week