there is an infectious disease DR at Stanford University Hospital that is having success with the Antiviral called Valcyte or valgancyclovir. the article is actually from Britain and talks about a DR Kerr who is doing gene expression studies, but it also talks about this DR at Stanford: By JEROME BURNE, Daily Mail 11:33am 16th May 2006 A drug used to treat herpes infections has produced a dramatic improvement in patients severely affected by ME, or fatigue syndrome. Sufferers who for years had been unable to leave their homes now report being able to resume normal life. This is a remarkable result for a treatment for this complex and controversial disorder that is thought to affect as many as 240,000 people in Britain and for which there is no cure. The results, reported at a scientific conference earlier this month by Professor Jose Montoya of Stanford University in California, involved 12 patients who had been given the powerful drug valganciclovir, which targets the human herpes virus (HHV-6). Nine of the patients experienced a great improvement. One of Montoya's cases was onetime champion figure skater Donna Flowers, now aged 50 and working as a physiotherapist, who lives in California's Silicon Valley. "Two years ago, I was spending 14 hours a day in bed and my brain was so fogged I couldn't write a letter," she says. "I wasn't functioning at all. I'd been diagnosed with chronic fatigue, but the doctors didn't have anything to offer. I had to employ a full-time nanny just to look after my three-year-old twins." However, she is now back at work, treating young Olympic hopefuls, the nanny has gone and she's just started ballet lessons. 'Soaring energy levels' "When Donna came to see us, her energy levels were around 10 per cent of what she considered normal,' says Montoya. "Today, she is functioning at 90 per cent." One patient who could barely walk around the block is now cycling three hours a day, while another who could not even get down the stairs to breakfast is now up every day at 7am. The professor reported his findings at a conference on the HHV-6 virus, which was held in Barcelona earlier this month. While it's well known that some patients with CFS have signs of various viral infections, this is the first time that treating one of the viruses has been shown to be so effective. "I was amazed by the results," says Montoya, who runs the infectious diseases clinic at Stanford. "Donna was sent to me because high levels of another virus (Epstein Barr) had been detected in her system. "I found high levels of HHV-6 virus as well, so I treated her with valganciclovir to bring down her viral load. "I'd hoped it might help a bit, but I didn't expect the results to be anything like as dramatic. It was pure serendipity." 'Careful monitoring' Valganciclovir is licensed to treat HHV-6 infections of the eye, which can affect transplant or cancer patients with severely weakened immune systems. HHV-6 is not the same as the herpes virus responsible for cold sores. Most commonly, it causes roseola infantum in children, who get a fever and a rash. "I have treated hundreds of immune compromised patients with the drug, so I am very familiar with it," says Montoya. "It can have serious side-effects including anaemia, so you have to monitor patients very carefully. But so far none of the CFS/ ME patients have reacted badly to it." All the experts agree that a lot more research will have to be done before valganciclovir can be widely used as a treatment. "There is a long history of linking CFS/ME with some sort of viral infection," says Charles Shepherd, a medical advisor to the charity Action For ME. "About 75 per cent of cases begin with an infection which the patient never properly recovers from, so it is quite likely infectious agents lurk in the body. While the role of HHV-6 is certainly plausible, we will have to wait for a larger trial that is properly controlled." Montoya agrees: "These were individual cases and it is always possible the results were due to a effect," he says. However, that is unlikely because we saw a worsening of each patient's condition around week three to four of the treatment, probably when infected cells were dying off. After that came the improvement. "That is not a pattern you get with placebos. But we don't know yet why the drug makes such a difference." The possibility that valganci-clovir could eventually provide an effective treatment for some cases of CFS is just part of a wider picture. Over the past year, genetic research has provided a new understanding of the disease that could eventually lead to new therapies. For years, the conventional view has been that there is no known cause, no way to diagnose it and no effective treatment. Some doctors and health workers believe it is the result of social and psychological factors - and best treated with psychotherapy and exercise. Now it is becoming clear these patients have "a disturbance in their body's natural way of dealing with infection," says Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Sunderland. "Anti-viral drugs such as valganciclovir may be allowing it to re-set itself." Hooper was one of the speakers at a conference in London for ME Awareness Day on Friday. Another speaker was Dr Jonathan Kerr of St George's Medical School in London, who recently published groundbreaking work on the links between genes and CFS/ME. "We've found that the genes in patients' white blood cells - a key part of the immune system - are switched on and off in an abnormal fashion," he says. The hope is that a relatively old drug, called interferon beta, can help to restore the balance. A controlled trial is planned. What researchers such as Kerr find disheartening is that there seems to be little official support for this biological-based research in Britain. The bulk of the funding has gone to the psychological approach. But many hope a parliamentary inquiry looking at the progress of CFS/ME research will find that research involving genes, viruses and the immune system would benefit patients.