‘Mikovits finds a temporary home’, Nature News blog, 15 December 2011

December 15, 2011


From Nature News blog, 15 December 2011 (story by Ewen Callaway)

Judy Mikovits is taking her work on the road. The embattled chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) researcher will conduct her arm of a US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) sponsored study on the condition’s link to certain retroviruses at another US government laboratory, the scientist overseeing the study told Nature today.

W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection & Immunity at Columbia University in New York, says that Mikovits will team up with her former mentor Frank Ruscetti at his laboratory at the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, Maryland. They are one of three groups testing dozens of blinded blood samples from CFS patients and healthy controls for XMRV and related retroviruses.

Mikovits had been slated to perform the study while at the Whittemore-Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disorders (WPI) in Reno, Nevada. But she was fired from her job in September for not sharing a cell line with another scientist there. She was arrested in California last month and charged in Nevada with possessing stolen lab notebooks and other materials that belonged to WPI. She also faces a civil suit in connection to the materials, some of which have since been returned to WPI (read ‘Embattled scientist in theft probe’ for more details).

Mikovits and Ruscetti collaborated on a 2009 Science paper that suggested that CFS patients were far likelier to be infected with XMRV than healthy people.

After numerous labs failed to find the virus, NIAID tapped Lipkin last year to lead a multi-centre study examining the link. The ‘Lipkin study’ involves Mikovits and Ruscetti, researchers at NIH and the US Food and Drug Administration who identified sequences of viruses related to XMRV in CFS patients, and a team at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has been unable to find any trace of XMRV (for a run-down of the entire episode see our story ‘Fighting for a cause‘).

“[WPI] are no longer involved because the whole point was to have Mikovits try to reproduce her work, and having someone else at the institute do so wouldn’t address the questions,” Lipkin says. “It’s critical that she do the work. She doesn’t have a lab at present, so it’s going to be done at NCI.”

Lipkin had initially hoped to have the study done by the end of this year, but he now says that only about half the samples are ready to send to researchers. He plans to meet with Ruscetti and Mikovits tomorrow to hear their plans for conducting the study. “We’re going to get through this as rapidly as we can, but make certain what we present to people is going to be complete,” Lipkin says.

Lipkin says he is convinced by work from John Coffin’s team at NCI, showing that XMRV emerged in the 1990s as a lab contaminant and is unlikely to underlie CFS (see Science raises questions about XMRV). But he says those findings do not rule out the possibility that CFS patients are infected with related retroviruses that, for some reason, only Mikovits has been able to detect.

Lipkin came to Mikovits’ defence in her latest troubles. He says that she should be entitled to keep a copy of her laboratory records and lamented her arrest. “It’s very, very ugly and the sooner we put all this behind us the better off we’re all going to be,” he says.

Neither Mikovits nor Ruscetti could be reached for comment, but we will update this post if they get back to us.

Hat tip to CFS: A novel blog, which reported today that Mikovits and Ruscetti were looking for a site to conduct their portion of the Lipkin study.

1 thought on “‘Mikovits finds a temporary home’, Nature News blog, 15 December 2011”

  1. Where are the details on the study and how it is to be run?

    If they are taking samples before talking to the scientists have they taken those samples in accordance with their clinically validated assays?

    Will the controls be health controls or contact controls? Contact controls will mess up the results of a study such as this when the viruses are infectious.

    Has Dr Lipkin read Paprotka et al?

    “Lipkin says he is convinced by work from John Coffin’s team at NCI, showing that XMRV emerged in the 1990s as a lab contaminant and is unlikely to underlie CFS (see Science raises questions about XMRV).”

    There is no evidence in that paper that any virus was in those cell and they did not test those cells with assays sufficiently sensitive enough to have found a virus. The idea of a virus having been created in there is also so fantastical to have been impossible and again not proven in the paper with any evidence. There are also cell dating from 1977 said by Coffin to be infected with the same strain (why are they defining a virus by a single strain?) that cannot be ruled out of infecting any of cell lines.

    ” But he says those findings do not rule out the possibility that CFS patients are infected with related retroviruses that, for some reason, only Mikovits has been able to detect.”

    Mikovits is not the only one who has detected those viruses. Ruscetti, Alter, Lo and Hanson all have the same viruses. Since the retraction of Dr Silvermans data from the paper, no section of the viruses Mikvoits and Ruscetti discovered is xenotropic, they are polytropic, which is what they others have also found.

    It also stand to reason that now VP62 is not related to the viruses in ME, all the negative studies are not comparable and were looking for a different virus that was never found in nature. This is in addition none of those studies having clinically validated their assays.

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