CFS Researcher Gets Grant from NIH to Study Retrovirus
Brigitte Huber, PhD, of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes for Health (NIH) to study the presence of a specific retrovirus (HERV-K18) as a predictor for CFS that follows a viral infection. The grant—jointly funded by the NIH’s National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH)—was awarded based on data from Huber’s pilot study, funded for 2 years by the CFIDS Association of America.
Research shows that Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) induces the HERV-K18 envelope gene to trigger the expression of a specific superantigen. In the Association-funded pilot study, Huber made genetic comparisons between groups of CFS patients with documented evidence of viral infection and healthy control subjects, looking specifically at the presence of certain HERV-K18 alleles that differ in their superantigen activity. This represents a novel genetic aspect of the EBV/CFS association.
Results of the pilot study showed statistically significant differences in the HERV-K18 alleles of the CFS study subjects versus the control subjects, indicating genetic evidence for the unique etiology of at least one subgroup of CFS patients. It also suggests the possibility of delineating different subtypes of CFS, depending on the clinical history of the patients.
With the NIH grant, Huber will work to substantiate these pilot results, using a much larger cohort of 400 CFS patients that has been assembled by coinvestigator, Dr. Renee Taylor, a researcher at the University of Illinois in Chicago. According to Dr. Huber, a positive association between CFS and either HERV-K18 alleles or expression patterns could open new avenues for the development of clinical treatments for CFS.
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