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New drugs for chronic fatigue 'do not work'

A new theory about the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) has been thrown into doubt by scientists.

US experts published research last October indicating that the debilitating condition, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), can be caused by a virus similar to HIV.

A study published in the journal Science linked cases of CFS with the recently discovered virus, called XMRV.

It suggested CFS could be treated with anti-retroviral drugs of the type given to patients with HIV Aids.

In light of the findings, several laboratories in the US have started offering treatment to CFS patients.


But now researchers have conducted a new study which shows no evidence of XMRV playing a role in CFS.

The team analysed tissue samples from 186 patients with the condition using sensitive molecular testing techniques.

No molecular evidence of XMRV was found in any of the samples tested.

The scientists say anti-retroviral drugs should not be given to people with CFS as they are unlikely to be effective.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affects an estimated three in 1,000 members of the population, producing severe physical and mental tiredness that is not alleviated by rest.

Other symptoms include muscle pain, headaches, joint pain and depression. Although the condition is now recognised as a genuine and not imagined disorder, its cause remains a mystery.


Professor Myra McClure, one of the authors of the new study, said: "Our research was carried out under rigorous conditions - we looked at samples from well-studied patients, and we used very sensitive testing methods to look for the virus. If it had been there, we would have found it.

"We are confident that our results show there is no link between XMRV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

"The US study had some dramatic results that implied people with the illness could be treated with anti-retrovirals. Our recommendation to people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome would be not to change their treatment regime."