Public health officials are calmly but vigilantly pursuing a possible new threat to the nation’s blood supply linked to prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome. The virus, dubbed XMRV for the awful-sounding xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus, may be present in the blood of 4% of Americans, and was shown to be present in more than half of CFS sufferers in a study. But whether it is actually malignant or benign, no one knows.
The virus was discovered in 2006 in a study of a rare prostate cancer. No tests for the virus have yet proven completely accurate, and, chillingly, researchers have suggested that XMRV is treatable with the same drugs used to combat HIV. Still, its effects are unknown. A federal working group is evaluating testing methods and screening blood transfusions back to the 1970s to see how the virus propagates and what ill effects it may cause. “You do not want to transfuse an infectious agent that causes problems,” the chairperson tells the Wall Street Journal. “But you do not want to take blood out of the system that is not causing any problems.”