Absence of xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus in UK patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

Retrovirology. 2010 Feb 15:7:10. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-7-10.


Background: Detection of a retrovirus, xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV), has recently been reported in 67% of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. We have studied a total of 170 samples from chronic fatigue syndrome patients from two UK cohorts and 395 controls for evidence of XMRV infection by looking either for the presence of viral nucleic acids using quantitative PCR (limit of detection <16 viral copies) or for the presence of serological responses using a virus neutralisation assay.

Results: We have not identified XMRV DNA in any samples by PCR (0/299). Some serum samples showed XMRV neutralising activity (26/565) but only one of these positive sera came from a CFS patient. Most of the positive sera were also able to neutralise MLV particles pseudotyped with envelope proteins from other viruses, including vesicular stomatitis virus, indicating significant cross-reactivity in serological responses. Four positive samples were specific for XMRV.

Conclusions: No association between XMRV infection and CFS was observed in the samples tested, either by PCR or serological methodologies. The non-specific neutralisation observed in multiple serum samples suggests that it is unlikely that these responses were elicited by XMRV and highlights the danger of over-estimating XMRV frequency based on serological assays. In spite of this, we believe that the detection of neutralising activity that did not inhibit VSV-G pseudotyped MLV in at least four human serum samples indicates that XMRV infection may occur in the general population, although with currently uncertain outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / virology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutralization Tests / methods
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Retroviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Retroviridae Infections / diagnosis*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral