Friday, 27 August 2010

Is A Cure In Sight?

Wow, I've just realised how long it has been since I've posted an update. A lot of the time the days just merge into each other so it's difficult to keep track of time properly. In fact, I often have to ask my girlfriend what day it is!

There is a decent chance that even those who don't actively follow M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome stories will have heard about the recent medical studies done around XMRV and I want to focus today's update on the subject.

As this relates to a viral infection, it probably makes sense to begin with a very basic overview of a virus. A virus is something that reproduces inside the cells of a living host. Infected cells are then forced to reproduce thousands of identical copies of the virus.

The reason this is potentially relevant to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) sufferers is that two studies have identified a large number of CFS patients having a particular viral infection. This infection is classed as a retrovirus due to the way it impacts our DNA and the proteins that envelope our cells. The most well-known example of a retrovirus is HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) but it's vital that I stress that HIV sits alongside many other types of retrovirii, including murine (mouse), avian (bird), bovine (cow), simian (monkey) and feline (cat) leukemia. What is NOT being suggested is that CFS directly relates to a sexually transmitted disease.

So, to make a long and rather complex story short, the reason all this gives hope to CFS sufferers is that it suggests a link between viral infection and CFS. Personally though, I am not convinced. Before explaining why, I should state that I have no medical qualification and that I am fully supportive of all research that aims to isolate the cause of CFS. Sufferers have for too long had to put up with their condition being regarded as psychological and the sooner we dispel that myth the better.

However, I'm yet to be convinced that XMRV or MLV or any other kind of virus is the answer. The fact that a high proportion of CFS sufferers have a virus seems to me to be more likely indicative of viral infection being a symptom rather than a cause. Let's take a brain tumour as an example. Severe and persistent headaches are present in many patients who are found to have a brain tumour. Can it therefore be deduced that headaches cause tumours? Of course not - the headache is a symptom rather than a cause. I see XMRV as the equivalent of the headache. CFS patients have poor immune systems and are prime targets for a host of infections such as flu etc. I think it's more likely to be the case that viral infection happens as a result of CFS rather than the other way around.

As I've said, I'm just an average joe who seems to have CFS and I am in no way medically or scientifically qualified. There is a huge chance I am completely wrong in my suppositions and I hope that I am wrong. If the cause of CFS can be ascertained and treated it will make a massive difference to my life and the lives of others and I shall watch this story unfold with great interest and hope.

My next update will hopefully focus on more personal matters such as my scan results and my immediate future in light of recent decisions I've had to make.

Take care,


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