Is the XMRV the True Cause Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Researchers and the media are buzzing with the recent finding that a retrovirus called XMRV is found in 95% of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) sufferers, compared with only 3.7% in controls. For CFS sufferers, this further legitimizes the condition, whereas skeptics state that there’s no proof that the virus causes the symptoms, and that more studies must be done.


Dr. Jacob Teitalbaum, world renown expert on chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, published a response to this media blitz (click here for his response). Essentially, he acknowledges that a virus can cause or trigger CFS, but that there are many other infections (viruses, bacteria and fungal) that can cause or trigger this condition as well. In addition to infectious causes, there are 6 other areas that he addresses as part of his SHINE protocol: S is for sleep, H is for hormonal, I is for infections, N is for nutrition, E is for exercise. With this protocol, Dr. Teitelbaum found that 91% of CFS sufferers felt much better with his protocol. You can take his free symptom analysis quiz on his website at


I tend to favor Dr. Teitelbaum’s explanation for CFS. From my perspective as a sleep-breathing expert, sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome can be potent triggers, but the vicious cycle that ensues affects every system in your body (hormonal, metabolic, neurologic, digestive, cardiovascular, etc.). Anything that causes temporary or permanent narrowing of your upper airways can trigger this process. Additionally, anything else that increases your stress levels (whether internal/physiologic or external (physical, emotional or psychological) can also alter your energy balance mechanisms. Dr. T. uses the analogy of blowing a fuse in your body, with an energy crisis that results.


Everyone is looking for that one bug or gene that causes certain medical conditions. For example, the cold sore virus (herpes simplex) has been blamed for Alzheimer’s Disease. The same XMRV was found at higher levels in prostate cancers. The Epstein-Barr virus has also been implicated in CFS. So far, there’s no proof that these viruses actually causes the symptoms in CFS. 


One thing to take away from this post is that in general, the virus (or infection) that caused the initial illness is not what’s casing your current chronic long-term symptoms. Yes, other secondary infections can occur, with various other systemic problems, but the key point here is that you have to look at the entire person and treat all the problems simultaneously, rather than targeting just one problem. 


A simple example is with the Epstein-Barr virus and mononucleosis. This virus preferentially affects your lymphoid system. The tonsils are part of your lymphoid system. The larger your tonsils, the more likely your symptoms will be severe and last a lot longer. Since by definition your tonsils will be larger when your jaws are smaller, the smaller your airways will be, and the more likely you’ll suffer from repeated breathing obstructions, causing throat inflammation and even more swelling.


With all the media buzz about these new "discoveries," how do you deal with these findings? Do you take it with a grain of salt? Or do you get excited and can’t wait to get tested or try it out? Please enter your opinions in the box below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Is the XMRV the True Cause Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

  1. I find it interesting to hear what doctors have to say about CFS. My comment could be quite extensive and probably will be. Education comes in many forms. People learn knowledge through systems which have been set in place by other people who have been deemed as authorities in their field, but not always right and often proven in science to only have a fraction of the problem solved.

    There’s all kinds of opinions and views like a smorgesboard of knowledge. Just pick and choose what you prefer and hold onto it like a bulldog with lock jaw, to prove you are right. That’s when learning ceases. A wise man will search to see if it is so… not to set out and prove he is right. This is good research. This is wise.

    CFS was originally known as M.E., Myalgic Encephalomyelitis before it was reduced to this waste paper basket diagnosis of CFS in the 1980’s. Since CFS has been known as a fatigue illness doctors have taken a dim view of the seriousness of this illness. Reducing it as something you can get over with the right instructions of eating better, exercising and positive thinking to take you out of the slump.

    I am a sufferer of M.E. I do not give any regard to CFS although the educated medical society continues to use this description for the sake of confussion to the general public. No one knows what M.E. is., not even the general doctors because they are not being educated in the universities as to what it is or the difference between the two or know about the history of how CFS came to the forfront putting M.E. out of view.

    Let me tell you what the difference is. CFS is known as a fatigue syndrome which can cause tiredness, headaches, some muscle aches and sometimes short term memory problems… no big deal doctors know how to deal with that, right? M.E., Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is known as a neurological multi-system illness also effecting the immune and endocrine system, which dibilitates and ruins the quality of life. It devestates and alters ones life drastically and there is no recovery from it. One does not get better. Exercise causes M.E. sufferers to become worse. They cannot stand, walk or exhurt themselves for any great length of time, if at all. For some they are permanently bed ridden. There are over 60 symptoms documented.

    Under the advice of a family doctor a teenage boy was told he could and should continue his track racing. He died of a heart attack…. a teenage boy dies of a heart attack? The body cannot produce the energy or keep the body charged, not because of poor eating or a lack of exercise, but because the cells have been altered/damaged and cannot rejuvinate. This is what researchers are just now realizing. A women named Sophia, from England, who was at the peak of her life at 24, is the first to be diagnosed as having died from M.E., inflammation of the ganglion and heart failure. Check out the story on Youtube. Revolting at how ill she was treated by the medical society and reduced to a mental hospital, taken by force, as it being all in her head.

    It is alarming that there is such a poor understanding amoungst doctors around the world who want to prove they are right in their findings and refuse to be open to new understanding and research. Cletching their jaws onto their belief system.

    How were people with M.S, epilepsy and other illnesses treated before science discovered through continuous research, a diagnostic test, that the symptoms to these illnesses were legit and signaling something is seriously wrong. Did the doctors of those days not regard some of these illnesses as all in the head, mental, hysteria, etc. And yet, here we are in this modern, knowledge filled, world still treating people like they are in the dark ages.

    Please, please, please when you are getting knowledge don’t let education get in the way of gaining wisdom and understanding. Weigh it all out. Take in every possible consideration and if there is one incling of doubt… then dig to find the truth. Don’t stop learning once you have a degree. This is such a diservice to the betterment of man and the world at large.

    If a man removes his ego, he will see past himself. A humble doctor will allow a patient to educate him.

    We still don’t have the fullness of the XMRV study. This will take months and possibly years to conclude and will create new avenues of research. For those of us with M.E/CFS we understand better than anyone the suffereings of this illness and like those with M.S., Lupus, Polio, Cancer, etc. we want a cure. We want our lives back. We use to be active, ate well, exercised, travelled, worked and socialized, but now many of us lay in bed, unable to leave the house. Some of us are using wheelchairs, scooters, oxygen tanks, sunglasses and lead reduced lives. Some have died, but most suffer.

    There are too many of us around the world who want answers and are tired of… it’s just fatigue or it’s all in your head. No it’s not. It’s inflammation in our heads, spine, joints, pain in muscles, shortness of breath, extreme exhaustion, sensitive to light, noise, heat or cold, have seizures, muscle twitching, burning sensations, slurred speech, short-term memory, orthostatic intollerance, P.O.T.S., cardiac difficulties causing chest pain or heart attacks, nausea, weight loss and the list goes on.

    For myself I have many of the above symtoms I mentioned. If my heart races I can collapse. If I exercise, within 24-72 hours I am flattened out in bed with inflammation, headaches, shortness of breath, etc. for days and weeks to follow…. Just from exercising.

    For people who only have fatigue from stress, then yes, they can probalby recover nicely and regain themselves through exercise, proper eating and positive thinking. For those people they can mimic CFS… for a short period of time. For those who truly have M.E./CFS their symptoms go on past 6 months and into years with more than 4 symptoms. More like in the upwards range of 11 or more symptoms.

    I am in the XMRV retrovirus study, I am curious as to how this will turn. Either way, I still have bad news. The only good news I could recieve is that there is a treatment to improve the quality of my life. I always have to stay in first or second gear. I can no longer drive my body in third, fourth or fifth gear. On a good day I can go third gear. I keep pushing myself and I keep collapsing. I refuse to give in to this illness, but it dictates the pace I need to move at.

    All research is not in yet. But it’s underway.

    A word to the wise… be slow to speak, quick to learn and question yourself before someone else does.


  2. Renee,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that it’s difficult to make recommendations about a chronic illness when no one can agree with what’s causing CFS/ME. Every doctor and researcher is biased toward his or her background and basic beliefs. For example, many people in medicine believe in the germ theory as a cause of various illnesses. Whether or not the XMRV virus is the cause of CFS, that remains to be seen. Since I wrote this post, there have been multiple studies for and against XMRV being linked to CFS. The latest study suggests that previous studies were flawed due to contamination. Even if researchers show that there is a link, it doesn’t prove cause and effect. That will be another huge task.

    My general feeling is that CFS, Fibro and ME are all along a spectrum of conditions that can lead to multi-system organ failure, with various degrees of signs and symptoms. You’ll get neurologic, hormonal, biochemical, nutritional, and metabolic abnormalities, which can adversely affect every aspect of how your body works (or doesn’t work). I believe there are multiple pathways to develop these conditions, whether it’s from an infection of any type, emotional trauma, chemical exposure, menopause, or weight gain.

    However, the one common feature that I see almost consistently is how narrow the airway is, especially the space behind the tongue. Typically, people with CFS/fibro/ME can’t sleep on their backs, since supine sleep aggravates worsening tongue collapse and breathing disruptions. The problem is that even on the side or stomach, you still can’t ever get deep, efficient sleep, leading to a chronic physiologic stress state, which heightens your nervous and immune systems initially. Much later on, these systems can shut down.

    I’ve also noticed that many people with CFS/fibro/ME have very small jaws, and in many cases, have have numerous dental extractions as a child or a teen (in addition to wisdom teeth). This collapses the oral cavity, preventing proper breathing at night which allows for deep efficient sleep. During the deepest levels of sleep, due to muscle relaxation, you’ll obstruct partially or totally, and wake up from deep to light sleep. Some people will progress in formal obstructive sleep apnea, but many people will remain in the upper airway resistance syndrome state, where you have multiple breathing pauses, but no significant apneas or hypopneas.

    We also know from numerous studies that even mild levels of breathing pauses can cause hypoxic states that can lead to brain damage in critical parts that control memory, executive function, and autonomic control. Inflammation is heightened significantly, promoting blood stagnation and clotting, which can not be good for certain parts of the brain. Even if you don’t have significant apneas, the stress state that’s created causes vasoconstriction not only in your hands, feet, and bowels, but also in certain parts of your brain. Since your brain is the largest hormone producing gland, any degree of injury can result in the classic hormone imbalances that are seen.

    While not all patients with CFS/fibro/ME have sleep-breathing problems, the vast majority have at least some, if not a significant degree of breathing problems at night. When you treat the breathing problems, many patients can feel significantly better, whether or not you have obstructive sleep apnea. In many cases, you also have to support the various hormonal or energy disturbances that occur, such as your reproductive or thyroid hormones (which are suppressed with physiologic stress). Any coexisting infections should be addressed as well.

    I realize this is a hugely controversial area with no consensus for the etiology or how to even treat it, but I think it’s safe to say the breathing is the most fundamental physiologic process that needs to work properly if you want to be healthy. Most doctors take it for granted that humans are able to breathe well at night, but this is not true. What I show with my sleep-breathing paradigm is that all humans stop breathing to various degrees while sleeping. This is why my main focus is on breathing.

  3. My sleep apnoea began during and proceeded after the birth of my 2nd child.Although at that time I hadnt recognised it myself,only others within my family.
    I had gained weight,and not lost the weight from my 1st pregnancy.
    I have a very small oral cavity/jaw.and as a child had overcrowding of teeth.
    I had repeated tonsillitis as a child,and also into adulthood,and find this to be the main source of infection when I have a common cold,or influenza.
    I started with menopausal symptoms much earlier than I would have expected.
    I have always been a person with “low”energy levels,although it hasnt affected me in doing things in life.Exercise was,and is for me the best for increasing energy levels. However,since having sleep apnoea,which im trying to address, I have found “everything is much more of an effort”,and the “drowsy” feeling,and,forgetfulness can be very debilitating at times!-I have had symptoms over the years of underactive Thyroid gland,but the tests have never proven that I have this.
    Im not sure about the sufferers of M.E,and the difference in energy levels,but I do believe that “sleep- Apnoea”,and the problems which go with it,are very real,so I think there maybe is a link with “breathing” problems in other related illnesses!
    I think the cpap will work over time,as I have to do something to overcome this extreme tiredness! Ihave to carry on ,and stay positive,as I have to care for my young family. I also believe that a strong positive outlook helps,otherwise I can imagine how some may just “give up”! What about those who dont even know they have a problem with their breathing,if it hadnt been for my family realising i was stopping breathing,then what?
    I also add that previous to my sleep apnoea,I had pneumonia. I dont smoke,have mild asthma,and lead a fairly healthy lifestyle.apart from could do with losing 2 stone. I dont overeat,but i think i eat at the wrong times. Hope this is of some help.