Dr Oz came through for us. He was very empathetic towards CFS, and willing to discuss XMRV on his show with Donnica Moore, when no one else in the popular media wasn't. Overall, I think he did an excellent job in that 15 minute segment.
The rest of the story on CFS from that article points more to Racaniello's skepticism than to Oz's sensationalism--whatever THAT means.
In December an episode focused on chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious ailment scientists know little about. The journal Science had recently published a study reporting on evidence of a retrovirus called XMRV in about two-thirds of patients diagnosed with the syndrome.
The show started with a dramatic introduction "Today on the Dr. Oz show: Could the secret to your exhaustion be a retrovirus?" and featured a discussion between Oz and Dr. Donnica Moore, a women's health specialist.
"For the first time, we can say with confidence: We know this is not all in your head, we know this is not depression, and we know you don't have a midlife energy crisis," Moore said. "What we do know is that this is a serious, potentially debilitating neuro-immune disease that has an infectious component."
That kind of certainty is rarely justifiable weeks after publication of a paper. Indeed, weeks after the episode aired, other research groups began reporting that they had failed to replicate the study's findings.
"It's premature to conclude that XMRV causes CFS," Columbia University virologist Vincent Racaniello wrote in an e-mail. "It is still very much up in the air."
Moore also told Oz's audience that the virus was not contagious by air but may be by blood, that 10 million people may be infected and that a $400 commercial blood test is available to detect XMRV.
But according to Racaniello and Columbia University retrovirus specialist Stephen Goff, almost nothing is known about how the virus is transmitted, how many people may be infected, how the virus affects people, where it came from or the usefulness of the test.
When contacted, Moore said some of her statements were edited out of the program.
"The positive impact far outweighs any nitpicking about whether we were successful in being able to convey every aspect of the story," said Moore, adding that she posted a lengthy discussion of the topic on Oz's site.
Wagner, the medical producer, said the show was legitimately reporting on news. There were no factual errors, she said. "I hope we are not splitting hairs," Wagner said.