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

July 8, 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.

2 thoughts on “‘Neurology Today’ report reviews the XMRV saga, 7 July 2011”

  1. Perhaps a translation is in order.

    One paper used unvalidated methodology to test patients, so it is impossible to know if the virus was present. The other paper speculated with little evidence that the virus might have come from a prostate cancer cell line, that was never used in the labs who found the virus and which cannot account for the diversity of XMRV that is contained in the GenBank, so it cannot be the source or origin of the XMRV variant of human gammaretrovirueses.

    Why a neurolgist would be expected to know the intricacies of retrovirology is not explained.

    We also need to remember that no lab has ever attempted to replicate the methodology in Lombardi et al. that found a xenotropic, polytopic MLV virus in 2/3 patients. We do know that Lo et al. validated this finding by detecting polytropic sequences in patients at an even higher rate.

    Notice too that they do not mention the other labs who co-authored Lombardi et al. The Cleveland clinic, who originally discovered XMRV by FISH and IHC, which cannot be contamination, and the National Cancer Institute. Specifically Frank Ruscetti, the grandfather of retrovirology. The man to discover the first human retrovirus, HTLV.

  2. May I ask when the MEA is going to step in and counter this absurd quantity of misinformation?

    While so much of this is beyond the pay grade of a disabled layman, there are some alarmingly obvious flaws in the criticisms of Lombardi et al from many different sources.

    I’m alarmed at the lack of advocacy from any of the major M.E groups in this matter. I know a lot of people are starting to feel that the advocacy channels have been co-opted out of patient interest.

    The mere fact that I ask such a question instantly puts me in the ‘blame the patient’ firing line as well. As if one should be ashamed of applying any scrutiny to the most omnipresent part of one’s life.

    Will the MEA tell us, do they honestly believe a true replication has taken place, despite the compelling evidence that it has not?

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