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Science magazine: The Waning Con?ict Over XMRV And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; 9/30/11

Discussion in 'Media, Interviews, Blogs, Talks, Events about XMRV' started by justinreilly, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. justinreilly

    justinreilly Senior Member

    NYC (& RI)

    The Waning Con?ict Over XMRV And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

    OTTAWA, CANADALess than a day after a new study dealt what many
    consider a lethal blow to the controversial theory that a newly
    detected virus, XMRV, is linked to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS),
    proponents and skeptics of the theory squared off in a meeting here.

    In one corner was Judy Mikovits, research director at the Whittemore
    Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) in Reno, Nevada, and
    the main champion of the idea that XMRV and its relatives play a role
    inCFS. Her opponent, an erstwhile supporter,was heavyweight
    retrovirologist John Cof?n of the Tufts University Sackler School of
    Graduate Biomedical Sciences in Boston. When Mikovits and Cof?n took
    the stage at the meeting, which was organized by IACFS/ME (an
    international association devoted to the disease)and attracted 460
    researchers and patients, they sat on opposite sides of the lectern.
    During their introductions, Cof?n clasped his hands in front of his
    mouth, looking like a man in prayer who wished this would all stop.
    Neither addressed the other by name, and they avoided eye contact.

    The controversy began shortly after Mikovits and colleagues published
    a paper (http://scim.ag/mikovits) 8 October 2009 in Science that made
    the startling link between XMRV, a mouse retrovirus, and CFS (23
    September, p. 1694). But the ?nding, heralded by many patients as the
    long-sought cause of their baf?ing disease, soon met a barrage of
    criticism as lab after lab failed to replicate it.

    The new study published by Science (http://scim.ag/xmrv-cfs) on 22
    September and presented at the conference for the ?rst time
    convincingly showed that not one of nine labs, including WPI, could
    reliably ?nd XMRV or its close relatives known as murine leukemia
    viruses (MLVs) in people who previously had tested positive for them.

    Both Mikovits and Cof?n were among the co-authors of the paper by the
    so-called Blood Working Group. At the same time, Science also ran a
    partial retraction (http://scim.ag/R-H-S) of the October 2009 paper
    after one of WPIs collaborators discovered that a contaminantas many
    critics had assertedexplained the XMRV DNA it found in some patient

    In Ottawa, Mikovits came out swinging. But she didnt make the case
    for XMRV, which stands for xenotropic murine leukemiavirusrelated
    virus. Instead, she offered new evidence that people with CFS (known
    as myalgic encephalomyelitis in some countries) had a virus highly
    related to XMRV.

    Unlike the original study that appeared in Science that showed entire
    sequences of XMRV and infection of fresh cells, Mikovits revealed only
    partial viral sequences that she said were from the XMRV and MLV
    family known as gammaretroviruses. She said her team, which includes
    Francis Ruscetti of the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Frederick,
    Maryland, also had preliminary data that suggest these
    gammaretroviruses may travel through the air. Thats pretty scary,
    she said.

    Cof?n began by stressing that he initially thought the XMRV-CFS theory
    was a wonderful hypothesis. But it rested on three legs of a stool.
    After removing blood from CFS patients, Mikovits and co-workers had
    used the polymerase chain reaction to pluck out DNA from the virus and
    sequence it, found antibodies to XMRV, and shown that the isolated
    virus could infect cells in lab experiments. All the legs have now
    been kicked out for both XMRV and MLVs, he said. To claim that
    theres more than one XMRV, youre going to have to show a virus that
    has a sequence thats different from XMRV, he said.

    Mikovitss presentation underwhelmed several of the scientists
    attending. Without the full sequence, its hard to judge, said
    Graham Simmons, who presented the data for the Blood Working Group.
    Simmons, who works at the Blood Systems Research Institute in San
    Francisco, California, also said he was dubious about her claims
    that the virus can be aerosolized. Virologist Konstance Knox of the
    Wisconsin Viral Research Group in Milwaukee said Mikovits was just
    reaching. Knox, who once consulted for WPI and had a falling-out with
    the institute, added that this is obfuscating what the community ?nds
    to be obvious. Jonas Blomberg, a retrovirologist at the University of
    Uppsala in Sweden who like Knox has failed to ?nd XMRV in his own
    studies of CFS patients, said its hard to handle Mikovitss
    morphing theories. Its like the argument follows the availability of
    the data, Blomberg says.

    Two other presentations offered some support for gammaretroviruses in
    CFS patients, but both detected just antibodies and not the virus
    itself. One study, led by Kenny De Meirleir of Vrije Universiteit in
    Brussels, had WPI run its assays. When asked whether the new findings
    invalidated his data, De Meirleir said, Im not going to say yes or
    no. The other report came from Maureen Hanson, a plant geneticist at
    Cornell University, who collaborated with CFS clinicians. Even though
    the XMRV sequences may be wrong, its still certainly possible that
    theres a virus in these patients that we need to identify, she said.

    Cort Johnson, a CFS advocate, says many patients have held fast to
    XMRV for good reason. It was as if the medical gods, after years of
    neglect, had bent down and offered up an apology in the form of a
    simple answer that came gift-wrapped with hundreds of eager

    Nancy Klimas, a CFS clinician at the University of Miami in Florida,
    stressed that the Blood Working Group had analyzed samples from just
    15 people who had tested positive for gammaretroviruses in earlier
    reports. I would be much more con?dent putting these putative
    retroviruses to rest if I had a larger, more powerful study, Klimas
    said. Simmons agrees that a larger study would have more power, but he
    says the 15-person study is enough to make conclusions about the
    assays being totally unreliable. Results of a larger study of 150 CFS
    patients are expected early next year.

    Mikovits said she hopes to have full sequences of her new viruses in
    a couple of weeks.

  2. justinreilly

    justinreilly Senior Member

    NYC (& RI)
    Is Blomberg saying he's having trouble following Mikovits' theories because they conform to the facts and she adjusts them to conform to newly-found data?? Isn't that the definition of science?? He will only accept a theory that is contra to available data?

  3. Daffodil

    Daffodil Senior Member

    great article! thanks
  4. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

    Logan, Queensland, Australia
    Hi, on available data: you can't change your hypothesis in the middle of an experiment, but afterwards you are entitled to. The best hypothesis should match all the available data - as data evolves, so should the hypothesis until you get one that is fully explanatory and as simple as it can be. I have no problem with someone advancing their views this way. I wish the biopsychosocial researchers would bother to fit the data - they explain almost none of it.

    My other point is this: whose data? Mikovits would have a lot more data than most, a large percentage unpublished.

    The Lipkin study may have seemed redundant with the BWG going on, but its a good thing it was funded the way things have turned out. Baring some really good data in the near term from the WPI, the only way HGRV research is going to get any credibility in the next year is if the Lipkin study shows the WPI can reliably find HGRVs using their preferred methods.

  5. Bob


    England (south coast)
    "Two other presentations offered some support for gammaretroviruses in
    CFS patients, but both detected just antibodies and not the virus

    That's news to me. Does anyone have any more info on this please?
  6. santi


    For what I know, data comes first.

    Furthermore Mikovits says the virus can be aerial transmitted.

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