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Virologists on XMRV

Blog entry posted by Cort, Apr 8, 2010.

View attachment 822 Dr. Goff, one of the top retrovirologists in the field, taked with Dr. Racaniello about XMRV for almost an hour. This was a rare opportunity to hear how experts in the field assess the XMRV/CFS connection. Here's my take on what they said from the XMRV Buzz Page

XMRV and the Prostate - One way researchers figure out which types of cells a virus infects and which parts of the body it may damage is to determine which cells have receptors for it. Receptors are like hooks the virus can use to get into the cell and different cells will have different receptors. Despite XMRVs ability to grow in prostate cancer cells they do not have high levels of the receptor XMRV it needs to enter the cell. So why is it there? Because prostate cells have a transcription factor XMRV use to help it replicate - so if it XMRV gets into a prostate cell theres a good chance it can start reproducing. The researchers were surprised how vigorously XMRV grows in prostate cancer cell lines.

In fact, researchers have known of murine leukemia viruses - the type of virus XMRV closely resembles - for quite some time but they didnt get much interest because once these viruses got into a cell they generally didnt do much; they were considered weak viruses. That was before they attempted to culture in the cells theyre using now. Interestingly XMRV doesnt appear to do much in the immune cells it has been found in CFS - it appears to be a 'weak virus' , at least with regards its ability to replicate, in immune cells. (There are other ways it can do damage).

Cancer Virus or Not? - Theres been a lot of speculation about XMRVs ability to cause cancer given the propensity of similar viruses to insert themselves in areas of the genome populated by oncogenes - genes that can turn cells cancerous. Dr. Goff said, though, that none of the researchers that have looked at the integration sites of XMRV in prostate cells have found that its been inserted near an oncogene thus XMRVs cancer causing properties are unclear - it may not be the cancer causing virus researchers have thought it was.

XMRV Jumps Into People : Given the remarkable similarity between XMRV and murine leukemia viruses researchers have thought that XMRV must have jumped into humans recently - within the last couple of 1000 years. Dr. Goff said that the various isolates of XMRV that have been found are unbelievably similar to each other. He called that very odd and stated that theres something funny about its lack of evolution across a person or a group of people. It could mean that the viruses replication in cells is very slow.

ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome)

With regard to XMRV and ME/CFS he noted how It looked very striking and unbelievably exciting if you were in the field and stated that with regard the present situation

All the signs look good and still do look good as far as one can see in the (Science) paper but its also true that similar studies with even larger numbers of CFS patients have been looked at.an theyre not seeing it

He stated that slightly different strains occurring in Europe could be causing the lack of results thus far noting that 1 base pair difference is all you need to miss a strain. He felt, though, that The CFS connection is up in the air. He didnt feel confident to vote one way or the other on that yet.

'Politics' - Dr. Raccinelli is obviously a bit perturbed at the WPI rather aggressive defense of XMRV stating The people that found it are very vehement that its the cause and that everyone else doesnt know how to do PCR.

Dr. Goff responded Right, I think theyre at least adamant that the linkage is real and theyre coming out pretty strongly about cause and I think thats a very touchy call to make at this point. Theres no way I would feel comfortable claiming this is the cause of either prostate cancer or any other disease.

Dr. Raccinelli also apparently wasnt comfortable about statements regarding unpublished findings stating

I mean they claim to have data from all over the world implicating that the virus in CFS but we havent seen that in the literature. He apparently thought WPI researchers should have been at the big retroviral conference in San Francisco where XMRV was discussed asking Were they at the meeting CROIX? The answer was no but plenty of other conferences are coming up.

The Best Test? On a more positive note Dr. Goff acknowledged that when viral loads are really low (as they appear to be in XMRV) that antibody tests can be more effective at finding a virus than PCR tests -something Dr. Mikovits has stated. Dr. Goff also noted that if antibody results are positive they present a strong case for XMRVs presence stating Its very compelling if you do have seropositivity (antibody result) because then its not a cause of contamination.

How to resolve the different study results? Swap samples; he was amazed that had not been done yet stating

"Some of us looking at those papers are amazed that they didnt. I guess that theyre just working very fast for one thing. Theyre trying to get stuff out quickly and they havent taken the time to swap samples. So these studies that have reported zero recovery out of hundreds of samples of course they did the positive controls of clones of the virus so they know the PCR is working at that level but they havent taken true samples from someone and shown they can recover it. That is happening now. "

XMRVs Effects - He stated one team had followed primates over a year; they found that XMRV levels peaked at one week after infection, then declined to low levels for the rest of the year but that they found it in a lot of tissues. Its a real virus but whether it causes anythingany pathology..we dont know. Theres no dramatic pathology yet.

It does not appear to kill human cells. One researcher says he thinks he can see some subtle morphological changes in XMRV infected cells but you cant look at an XMRV infected cell and tell if its infected or not.

AZT: He said he would only take AZT if he knew XMRV was rapidly replicating in him. (AZT attacks the virus during replication; if the virus is not replicating much then AZT is not going to touch it). At least in the blood we dont have any evidence that XMRV is replicating much. IIn fact it appears not to be replicating much. Is it replicating elsewhere? No one knows.

He stated that in the next year were going to get a lot of information.
  1. Cort
    Sure - both may be able to infect the nerves - maybe its a one two punch. Since XMRV does not always cause symptoms or poor health - if its going to be 'it' in ME/CFS - somethings got to turn it on somehow.
  2. ladybugmandy
    maybe you need a herpes virus to co-infect at the same time as XMRV.....
  3. Cort
    You could think so - once its in the body the virus apparently multiples and spreads very quickly - thus causing the immune system to kick in - causing the flu-like symptoms, fatigue, etc. But then viral loads decline overall - putting the immune system on a lower level of alert - so why do the symptoms continue? That's a big question.

    These primates did not, interestingly, appear to get ill - they did not come down with CFS. That suggests either that they don't get CFS -even with XMRV - or that you need another factor to come along such as another virus or some abnormality somewhere to cause the symptoms in CFS. .

    The early part of the illness does appear to be key -whatever virus you have. The Dubbo studies found that CFS patients with acute onset had very high cytokine levels early in their illness . Although both the virus and the cytokine loads disappeared later on but the symptoms remained. Why? Perhaps those high cytokine loads dysregulated or damaged something in the brain (?)) Nobody really knows.
  4. jimbob
    could this early peaking in primates relate to the sudden onset myself and so many others had? hit hard for a week or so and then lessening some after that?
  5. Noreen Martin
    Thanks, in the interim, I will have the culture done, which takes longer. But having answers is a good thing.
  6. Cort
    I think you can only get antibody tests via research labs right now but they'll certainly be available at some point - it looks like several labs are working on them.
  7. Noreen Martin
    Thanks for the post. Does anyone know where to get an antibody test, as the lab in Nevada does a culture and won't have an antibody test until this summer?
  8. gracenote
    I love it when information is summarized for me. Thank you, Cort.

    Here's a great quote:

    Dr. Goff also noted that if antibody results are positive they present a strong case for XMRVs presence stating Its very compelling if you do have seropositivity (antibody result) because then its not a cause of contamination.