Research: contamination in samples from patients reported to have XMRV infection, PLosOne, 20 February 2012

From PLosOne, 20 February 2012.

Multiple Sources of Contamination in Samples from Patients Reported to Have XMRV Infection

Mary F. Kearney (1*), Jonathan Spindler(1), Ann Wiegand(1), Wei Shao(2), Elizabeth M. Anderson(1), Frank Maldarelli(1), Francis W. Ruscetti(3), John W. Mellors(4), Steve H. Hughes(1), Stuart F. J. Le Grice(1), John M. Coffin(5)
(1) HIV Drug Resistance Program, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland, United States of America,
(2) Advanced Biomedical Computing Center, SAIC, Frederick, Maryland, United States of America,
(3) Laboratory of Experimental Immunology, Cancer and Inflammation Program, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland, United States of America,
(4) Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America,
(5) Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America


Xenotropic murine leukemia virus (MLV)-related retrovirus (XMRV) was reported to be associated with prostate cancer by Urisman, et al. in 2006 and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) by Lombardi, et al. in 2009.

To investigate this association, we independently evaluated plasma samples from 4 patients with CFS reported by Lombardi, et al. to have XMRV infection and from 5 healthy controls reported to be XMRV uninfected. We also analyzed viral sequences obtained from supernatants of cell cultures found to contain XMRV after coculture with 9 clinical samples from 8 patients.

A qPCR assay capable of distinguishing XMRV from endogenous MLVs showed that the viral sequences detected in the CFS patient plasma behaved like endogenous MLVs and not XMRV. Single-genome sequences (N = 89) from CFS patient plasma were indistinguishable from endogenous MLVs found in the mouse genome that are distinct from XMRV.

By contrast, XMRV sequences were detected by qPCR in 2 of the 5 plasma samples from healthy controls (sequencing of the qPCR product confirmed XMRV not MLV). Single-genome sequences (N = 234) from the 9 culture supernatants reportedly positive for XMRV were indistinguishable from XMRV sequences obtained from 22Rv1 and XMRV-contaminated 293T cell-lines.

These results indicate that MLV DNA detected in the plasma samples from CFS patients evaluated in this study was from contaminating mouse genomic DNA and that XMRV detected in plasma samples from healthy controls and in cultures of patient samples was due to cross-contamination with XMRV (virus or nucleic acid).

Full paper HERE.


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