‘Neurology Today’ report reviews the XMRV saga, 7 July 2011

From ‘Neurology Today’, 7 July 2011 (story by Gina Shaw)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Link to Retrovirus Likely the Result of Lab Contamination, Studies Find

ARTICLE IN BRIEF (follow the link to read full story)

Two papers strongly discredit the association of the XMRV retrovirus with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). One found no evidence of XMRV in blood samples from patients with CFS from a single clinical practice. The second study provides evidence that the XMRV found in the CFS patients in the original study is likely due to laboratory contamination from mouse DNA.

In 2009, when Science published a startling study linking chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) to an infectious retrovirus called XMRV, reaction was immediate. Patients battling the condition considered it a vindication in the face of skepticism by some in the medical community that CFS exists as a discrete condition, and hoped to see new avenues for treatment. Meanwhile, blood banks banned people diagnosed with CFS from donating out of concern that they might pass along XMRV with their blood.

But neurologists, for the most part, remained skeptical. In a Dec. 3, 2009 article in Neurology Today, several called the results premature and said they were wary of the hype. “It’s been one virus after another,” said Thomas D. Sabin, MD, professor of neurology at Tufts Medical Center and co‐editor of the 1993 book Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). “Each time, there’s been great excitement, and then it’s faded. Right now we should await confirmatory evidence from other laboratories.”

Less than two years later, much of that evidence is in, and it appears that neurologists were justified in their caution. A series of attempts to replicate the findings of the original authors — led by Judy Mikovits, PhD, research director of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro‐Immune Disease, a privately funded institution affiliated with the University of Nevada‐Reno — have proven fruitless. And on June 2, ‐Science published two papers that appear to strongly discredit the XMRV theory of CFS.


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