Chicago Trib publishes Dr Racaniello's retraction letter

urbantravels

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Just tweeted by Dr. R. a few minutes ago.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/letters/chi-101223racaniello_briefs,0,1990620.story

Studying viruses

December 23, 2010
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This is in response to "Studies cloud chronic fatigue research; Syndrome's link to certain viruses is put in doubt" (News, Dec. 21),

in which the Tribune published my reaction to four papers on the retrovirus XMRV, recently published in the journal Retrovirology. I was quoted as saying, "These four papers are probably the beginning of the end of XMRV and CFS."

I wish to retract this statement and explain my reasons for doing so.

Tribune reporter Trine Tsouderos asked for my thoughts on four XMRV papers that had just been released. I read all four papers and decided that they raised serious concerns about the role of XMRV in human disease. I wrote an e-mail to Tsouderos outlining my summary of the papers, and later that day her article was published. My statement was reproduced exactly from the e-mail I had sent her, so I was not misquoted.

I then set out to write about the papers for my virology blog. After rereading the papers, checking XMRV sequences in Genbank and discussing the issues with my virology colleagues and authors of three of the papers, I decided that my initial impression of the papers was incorrect.

Three of the four Retrovirology papers show that identification of XMRV can be fraught with contamination problems, but they do not imply that previously published studies are compromised by these findings. Clearly any new studies done on XMRV should keep in mind the potential for contamination from PCR kits and murine nucleic acids.

My conclusion is that these four papers point out how identification of XMRV from human specimens can be complicated by contamination, but they do not mean that previous studies were compromised. They serve as an important reminder that future experiments to identify XMRV need to be appropriately controlled to ensure that the results are not compromised by contamination.

In other words, these four papers are not the beginning of the end of XMRV and CFS. Rather, research on the role of this virus in human disease must proceed, with large, case-controlled epidemiological studies.

I wish to apologize to the Chicago Tribune and its readers for this error.

--Vincent Racaniello, professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Columbia University, New York
 

urbantravels

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I noticed that the discussion of the Hue paper was omitted from the letter, which is otherwise pretty much exactly what he posted on his blog yesterday. I wonder if that was thought just too technical?
 

WillowJ

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They printed it as an article or as a Letter to the Editor?

Because the Trib really should print a correction notice (although this would actually be less noticeable even then a Letter to the Editor) and do a new article, titled something like, "Virologist Retracts Statement, Proclaims XMRV Not Dead Yet", but I predict they will not. This would be the right thing to do, based both on integrity and on the general principle that controversy sells newspapers.

It was good of Racaniello to do everything in his power to make sure the paper and public were informed of his change of opinion based on a better understanding of the papers. Maybe he'll send the letter to the satellite papers, too.
 

lancelot

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thankful for the retraction and grateful for our freedom of press to print it!

i don't think the government controlled UK press will be printing this retraction. bbc, guardian = RUBBISH
 

WillowJ

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Good point Lancelot - that would not have seen the light of day in the UK. The Tribune printed it and quickly - good for them.
ok, that's true too. :) They did print it and print immediately, and deserve some credit for that