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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Blood

Health written question – answered on 18th October 2010.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Health with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Stroud of 27 January 2010, Official Report, column 942W, on chronic fatigue syndrome, whether (a) the UK Blood Services and Health Protection Agency study of the prevalence of a rodent virus linked to myalgic encephalomyelitis and (b) his Department's risk assessment in respect of the study has been completed; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

There has been a consistent failure of independent European and American studies to confirm the original American study that described the detection of xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV), a virus related to rodent viruses, in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes referred to as myalgic encephomyelitis. An expert subgroup of National Expert Panel for New and Emerging Infections (NEPNEI) met in May 2010, to consider all available evidence about XMRV and conduct a risk assessment. The subgroup concluded that XMRV can infect humans but there is currently no evidence that it causes human disease and that on the evidence before the group, no public health action is required at this time. Since the subgroup meeting in May there has been no new scientific evidence that would change the conclusions of the subgroup but they are keeping it under review.

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), on the basis of current evidence does not recommend further measures at present but wishes to continue to monitor the situation. The NHS Blood and Transplant and Health Protection Agency study group concur with the views expressed both by NEPNEI and SaBTO but also recognise the need for further research on the prevalence of XMRV in the United Kingdom. In a recent unpublished pilot study conducted by the group a series of 540 randomly selected English blood donors were screened for XMRV and none were found to be infected.

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