Overcoming Pain

Why people experience chronic pain, and the power they have to de-intensify it

The Terrorists of Health: The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Jihad

Eternal hell to the non-believers.

Recently, there were all kinds of blogging and blustering over the internet regarding the XMRV (xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus), a retrovirus researchers have found may be associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. However, it is a novel finding, and far from being the proverbial sure thing for those who are searching for the sure thing in the quest for the etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome.

But the Terrorists of Health, in full jihadist mode, are trumpeting XMRV as being "proof" that the mystery of chronic fatigue syndrome has been found.

Eternal hell to the non-believers.

Well, there is no proof. And what is more disappointing is the money that will invariably be wasted by desperate patients trying to figure out why they are fatigued; because, rest assured, there will be unscrupulous individuals waiting for the patient who wants to be tested. But a test result in a non-research setting means practically nothing at this time, whether it be a positive test result or a negative test result. There is no reliable test available commercially at this time; researchers have several different tests they are using now in their ongoing research on XMRV.

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XMRV was originally discovered in the tissue of cancerous prostates. This begs the question: Where else is XMRV found, and what does it mean when it is found? The diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome has generally been referred to as a "diagnosis of exclusion". How comfortable should we be in accepting the presumption that the study subjects described in the XMRV literature published thus far truly have chronic fatigue syndrome? What if the XMRV test is telling us there is a problem, but not necessarily chronic fatigue syndrome?

How will the chronic fatigue syndrome jihadists deal with, say, the discovery that XMRV causes an illness which leads to fatigue? But I can hear the internet IEDs exploding as I write this!

It is for the scientist to steer clear of the mine field of the politics of health. Studies have to be conducted with objectivity: Is XMRV just a bystander, and if so, why is it there?

I am looking forward to more data.

The Terrorists of Health should at least grant us a brief reprieve as we all await that data.


Mark Borigini, M.D., is a board-certified rheumatologist who has devoted his career to treating illnesses that cause chronic pain and disability.


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