Ian Lipkin note to Vincent Racaniello on the latest XMRV controversy: 6 May 2011

From Vincent Racaniello’s ‘Virology Blog’, 6 May 2011.

Late last year virologist Ian Lipkin was asked by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony Fauci to coordinate a multi-center study of CFS patients. Newly drawn blood samples from 100 CFS patients and 100 healthy controls from around the US will be blinded and sent to three groups – FDA, CDC and the Whittemore Peterson Institute – and assayed for the presence of XMRV. After the recent publication by Ila Singh on XMRV in CFS patients, Dr. Lipkin sent me the following note:

Dear Vince-

We have a plethora of explanations for how CFS/XMRV/MLV studies could go awry. However, we don’t have evidence that they have. Absent an appropriately powered study representing blinded analyses by Mikovitz and Lo/Alter of samples from well characterized subjects using their reagents, protocols and people, all we have is more confusion.

I remain agnostic. We won’t have answers until the end of 2011.

The NIH will post something on our study today.

Ian

7 thoughts on “Ian Lipkin note to Vincent Racaniello on the latest XMRV controversy: 6 May 2011”

  1. Will just add Dr Racaniello’s clarification of the Lipkin comment:

    ‘Dr. Lipkin is not saying that the Singh study is ‘worthless’ – he is merely stating that no number of studies will convince non-scientists that the Mikovits study was incorrect. He is saying that it is up to Mikovits and Alter to repeat their studies in an appropriately powered manner to resolve the issue. I’m not sure that will happen. As I’ve said before, the Singh study is extremely well done in all ways. For scientists, there is no confusion about the findings.’

    It can be found a little further down the comments, beneath the main article.

    1. To be thorough. It’s an interpretation rather than a clarification.

      Lipkin is quite specific in his final line:-

      “I remain agnostic. We won’t have answers until the end of 2011.”

      For Racaniello’s comment to stand he would have to assume that the highly respected Dr Lipkin is a ‘non-scientist’ in his own words. Which could end up being quite an insulting thing to say.

    2. Whilst I once thought that Prof. Racaniello was an expert virologist who is true to the scientific process, he is rapidly demolishing that belief with illconceived comments such as these.
      Such comments appear to be shaped all too rapidly,(especially by guests who appear on his “show”) as though he feels a kind of journalistic to be the first to respond with an “expert” opinion. The trouble is, that those opinions are now so often proving to be wrong.
      In future, he might be better advised to give himself the benefit of a strategic pause and thereby allow his scientific training to overide his urge for celebrity.

  2. That is not what Lipkin is saying at all. He is stating that there is no evidence that anything has gone wrong in Lombardi and Lo et al.

    Write to him and ask. He will confirm that.

  3. Clarification from Prof. Racaniello:
    ‘In my comment, I was not speculating on what I ‘thought’ Dr. Lipkin meant by his comments. I spoke with him after he sent the email to make it clear what he meant, and I based my comment here on that conversation. Whatever you choose to believe, the study that he is coordinating is exactly the kind of study that he believes will resolve the situation. Note that he says that the results won’t be available until the end of 2011.’

    From the link above and posted 18 hours ago.

    1. Racaniello has totally misinterpreted Ian Lipkin’s letter to him. Lipkin is not happy with his statements regarding Shin et al and knows there is no evidence that anything has corrupted the results of the two positive papers (Lombardi and Lo)

  4. Oh, dear. Must we rely on ‘interpretation’ of others opinions – that’s what psychologits (sic) do… and look where that’s got us.
    “Newly drawn blood samples from 100 CFS patients
    and 100 healthy controls from around the US will be
    blinded and sent to three groups – FDA, CDC and the
    Whittemore Peterson Institute – and assayed for the
    presence of XMRV.”
    Assuming they all use identical methodology, won’t that bring a note of certainty to the proceedings? Let’s wait for the results instead of growling at each other.

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