Med Hypotheses. 2008 Apr 24 [Epub ahead of print]
Is chronic fatigue syndrome caused by a rare brain infection of a common, normally benign virus?
Grinde B. National Institute of Public Health, P.O. Box 4404, Nydalen, 0403 Oslo, Norway.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disabling disease of unknown aetiology. A variety of factors have been suggested as possible causes. Although the symptoms and clinical findings are heterogeneous, the syndrome is sufficiently distinct, at least in relation to the more obvious cases, that a common explanation seems likely. In this paper, it is proposed that the disease is caused by a ubiquitous, but normally benign virus, e.g., one of the circoviruses. Circoviruses are chronically present in a majority of people, but are rarely tested for diagnostically. Normally these viruses do not penetrate the blood-brain barrier, but exceptions have been reported, and related viruses cause disease in the central nervous system of animals. The flu-like illness that often precedes the onset of CFS may either suppress immune function, causing an increased viremia, and/or lower the blood-brain barrier. In both cases the result may be that a virus already present in the blood enters the brain. It is well known that zoonotic viruses typically are more malignant than viruses with a long history of host-virus evolution. Similarly, a virus reaching an unfamiliar organ may cause particular problems.