No evidence for xenotropic murine leukemia-related virus infection in Sweden using internally controlled multiepitope suspension array serology


Blomberg J, Blomberg F, Sjösten A, Sheikholvaezin A, Bölin-Wiener A, Elfaitouri A, Hessel S, Gottfries CG, Zachrisson O, Ohrmalm C, Jobs M, Pipkorn R


Section of Clinical Microbiology, Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden


Many syndromes have a large number of differential diagnoses, a situation which calls for multiplex diagnostic systems. Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also named chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a common disease of unknown etiology. A mouse retrovirus, xenotropic murine leukemia-related virus (XMRV), was found in ME/CFS patients and blood donors, but this was not corroborated. However, the paucity of serological investigations on XMRV in humans prompted us to develop a serological assay which cover many aspects of XMRV antigenicity.


It is a novel suspension array method, using a multiplex IgG assay with nine recombinant proteins from the env and gag genes of XMRV and 38 peptides based on known epitopes of vertebrate gammaretroviruses. IgG antibodies were sought in 520 blood donors and 85 ME/CFS patients and in positive- and negative-control sera from animals.


We found no differences in seroreactivity between blood donors and ME/CFS patients for any of the antigens. This did not support an association between ME/CFS and XMRV infection.


The multiplex serological system had several advantages: (i) biotinylated protein G allowed us to run both human and animal sera, which is essential because of a lack of XMRV-positive humans; (ii) a novel quality control was a pan-peptide positive-control rabbit serum; and (iii) synthetic XMRV Gag peptides with degenerate positions covering most of the variation of murine leukemia-like viruses did not give higher background than nondegenerate analogs. The principle may be used for creation of variant tolerant peptide serologies. Thus, our system allows rational large-scale serological assays with built-in quality control.


Clin Vaccine Immunol, 2012 Sep; 19(9):1399–410

Comment by ME Research UK

For our in-depth overview of the issues surrounding this study, see XMRV and ME/CFS — A tumultuous journey for scientists and patients.

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