Xenotropic Murine LeukemiaVirus-Related Virus (XMRV)
Blood Safety and Availability
Office of Public Health and Science
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Jerry A. Holmberg, PhD, SBB
October 30, 2009
The Office of Public Health and Science’s Blood Safety and Availability is aware of the recent literature suggesting linkage of chronic fatigue syndrome to a possible contagious rodent retrovirus, XMRV. XMRV has also been associated with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Antibodies against the virus have been detected in 3.7% of healthy controls in a study of a small number of individuals. Currently there is no commercially available test for infection with XMRV. While there is no known association of CFS or prostate cancer with history of transfusion, the finding that the virus is associated with white blood cells has led some to question whether XMRV could be transmitted by transfusion and might therefore pose a threat to the health of blood recipients and potentially also transplant recipients.
The HHS Blood Safety Committee works with all the PHS agencies (i.e., CDC, FDA, HRSA, and NIH) to ensure the safety and availability of blood products as well as transplantation safety. Under the leadership of that committee, steps are being taken to investigate the blood safety threat from XMRV and the potentially protective role of white cell removal, which is performed on approximately 70% of blood. An interagency Emerging Infectious Diseases working group that reports to the Blood Safety Committee is currently assessing the literature on XMRV, conducting meetings with experts on this retrovirus, and interacting with groups that could study the question of blood safety. A report is expected within several weeks. In particular, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Retrovirus Epidemiology Donor Study-II (REDS-II) investigators are aware of the report in Science and are assessing the prevalence of XMRV in blood donors to determine whether studies aimed at evaluating transfusion-transmission rate are warranted using NHLBI’s repositories of donor and recipient blood samples.
HHS will remain vigilant in assessing the safety of the blood supply and developing interventions as appropriate.