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Earlier parallels to the XMRV debate and disagreements

Discussion in 'Media, Interviews, Blogs, Talks, Events about XMRV' started by Hip, May 28, 2011.

  1. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    While reading a book recently, I came across an anecdote so similar to the current XMRV debate and disagreements, that I felt compelled to type it out:

    In the book Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease (Anchor, 2002, see page xvii), the author Paul W. Ewald talks about the nasty debates that took place, just over 10 years ago, when researchers at Vanderbilt University discovered the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae in multiple sclerosis patients.

    This association between multiple sclerosis and Chlamydia pneumoniae was greatly criticized by other researchers at that time, whose experiments did not confirm the association.

    Sound familiar?

    The Vanderbilt group explained the discrepancy by pointing out several features of their own protocol that they had introduced, to make it much more sensitive than previous protocols. The other labs, however, did not replicate the Vanderbilt protocol exactly. Instead, as is often the case in modern medical research, each lab used its own particular variations.

    Seems that not much has improved in medical science over the last 10 years.

    To resolve the contentious issue, Carolinas Medical Center sent all the labs 22 samples of spinal fluid from multiple sclerosis patients, and 22 samples from healthy controls. The specimens were coded (blinded) so that the labs did not know which was which. The result: the Vanderbilt group detected the Chlamydia pneumoniae in the MS patient samples at a significantly higher rate than the other labs. As Vanderbilt had claimed, their protocol was more sensitive.

    Now I believe that the association between MS and Chlamydia pneumoniae is generally accepted. What this story does illustrate is that the medical research field needs to engage in more cooperative, more intelligent communication with itself, and between labs, not obstinate isolationism. The health of many people, not just CFS patients, depends on this.
  2. In Vitro Infidelium

    In Vitro Infidelium Guest

    It depends what is meant by 'association'. The infectious agent most widely accepted as having a strong association with MS is the EB virus, while the literature generally only talks of Chlamydia (Chlamydiophila) pneumoniae e.g http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966842X06002277 as having a role in a subset of patients.

    Wanting research groups to have increased co-operation is understandable, but one has to go back and ask why groups are in competition to come up with any workable answer. In fact many groups do co-operate but comptition is inherent in the system and this is seen as desirable, certainly by those who favour free market economics. Almost all open grant giving process are based on competitive bidding and of course the rewards of discovery offer incentives to not share data which may give an edge to a competing group. These 'circles' are not 'unsquarable', however they do require society level changes to effect solutions, blaming the researchers misses the underlying problem.

  3. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    Agreed, it is EBV, probably followed by HHV-6, that has the strongest association to MS.

    I don't see that there is anything wrong with a good healthy competition amongst research groups, but it does seem odd when one lab like the one at Vanderbilt University devises a new, more sensitive testing methods (for Chlamydia pneumoniae in their case), and then other labs fail to get details of this new method, and fail to use it in their own replication studies. This is why the Vanderbilt story struck me, as the same thing has occurred in the XMRV replication studies. If I were a researcher and wanted to replicate the WPI, I would want to use the original method. I am agnostic as far as XMRV as the cause of CFS is concerned, but find it odd that of the dozen of labs that repeated the WPI study, none used the exactly the same protocol.

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