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My reaction to the lastest study of XMRV

“Oh he is just like you were,” my Mum said over the phone, “You always had more than your fair share too.”

Most Mums love it when they are told how much their children resemble them.  But I felt that cold and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Unfortunately Mum wasn’t talking about something positive, like eating habits or friendships, but illness.  James had had a tummy ache and had been cycling between burning hot and freezing cold all night, although now seemingly better, and I was on the phone to my Mum at 8:30 on Tuesday morning trying to work out if I should take the day off work and take him to the doctor, or send him back into the nursery where he’d picked it up from.

In the end I went with my gut reaction to have him checked out.  As it was, it turned out to be a bad day for me too, with a migraine and severe pain, so being off work was good for me.  Of course, as a single Mum there is no-one else to rely on, and despite my own problems we walked down the lane to the Doctor’s Surgery, then later drove to the hospital to drop in a sample to test James for a UTI.

There was that sick feeling again.  UTIs were a hallmark of my early illness, not to mention stomach aches, temperatures and swollen glands just as James had now.  The last thing I want is for him to suffer in the ways that I have.  Generally he is healthy, but he does pick up anything that’s going round, just like I always did.

But with a new study published last week which suggests that the XMRV virus is present in 86.5% of ME/CFS sufferers, and the previous knowledge that as a retrovirus it being transmissible, like the more well-known retrovirus in its class, HIV, through bodily fluids, the worry is there that IF ME/CFS is indeed caused by XMRV, that I have set my son up for a lifetime of health issues too.  Hypothetically speaking, by giving my child ‘the best start’ and breastfeeding him, if I am in that subset of sufferers who have XMRV, I have potentially transmitted it to him.

Of course at this time, there is no way of knowing.  Perhaps I shouldn’t worry.  But while it’s OK for me to go through what I do, it is in no way, shape, or form acceptable for him to go through a fraction of what I have.  I am the Mama Bear, and I will protect my young at all costs, even when the enemy is my own self.  If faced with the choice again (as much as my choice with James was either keep my unplanned pregnancy or terminate it and not a choice to get pregnant in the first place) I would do it all again in a heartbeat, but it won’t stop the fear that comes with the new knowledge that a virus may be involved.

This is still a very hypothetical situation, but do you think the issue of XMRV, as more becomes known, will cause questions regarding transmission, and indeed, having children?  Bearing in mind transmission would be more likely from mother to child, as in the case of HIV infections in families, does this alter your viewpoint on having a family at all?  Over the years I have encountered women at either end of the spectrum – those choosing not to have children due to issues or heredity, to the more blasé attitude that we can pass on a predisposition to almost every condition, so why worry about just one (I admit to being in the latter camp).  Women, would you have a child if you might be infected?  Men, would you be willing to take a risk if your girlfriend/partner/wife was a potential carrier of XMRV?

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