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In the second study, Levy's team tested new blood samples from the same chronic fatigue patients used to make that first 2009 link with XMRV. This new testing, which avoided using lab products derived from mice, found no evidence of XMRV, further supporting the lab-contamination explanation.
In fact, substances in human blood can kill the mouse-related virus, Levy said. He argued it's time to move on, saying there's evidence that chronic fatigue involves an immune disorder: "Let's use the money to find the real culprit."
But the controversy isn't over. The Nevada researchers who first announced a possible link defended their findings and said critics haven't looked for the new virus the way they did.
In a letter to Science, Dr. Judy Mikovits of Nevada's Whittemore Peterson Institute said retracting the findings would be premature and "have a disastrous impact on the future of this field of science."
The National Institutes of Health already had begun still other, more rigorous studies to settle the issue.
The Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America said Tuesday's work is "the result of diligent effort by top experts" but that it awaited the final NIH studies.
Various viruses have been linked to chronic fatigue over the years, only to be ruled out as potential culprits. Chronic fatigue is characterized by at least six months of severe fatigue, impaired memory and other symptoms, but there's no test for it -- doctors rule out other possible causes -- and no specific treatment.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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