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How Research into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Turned into an Ugly Fight

Posted Jul 24 2012 5:11pm

Judy Mikovits is a researcher who, in recent years, has focused on chronic fatigue syndrome. In her work she published a paper potentially linking chronic fatigue syndrome to XMRV ( Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus ). In her unpublished work, her team discussed the possibility that autism was also linked somehow to XMRV.

There has been much drama involving Judy Mikovits, her research and her former institution (the Whittemore Peterson Institute ) over the last year.

The Daily Beast has an interview with Judy Mikovits. The first since the legal issues arose last year. How Research into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Turned into an Ugly Fight . The interview gives her side of the story in much of the events. One can read them at the Daily Beast, but I’ll focus on this section here as it applies to the science involved:

Meanwhile, other research groups around the country were trying to replicate the 2009 results, but in the two years that followed, almost all had failed. The word “contamination” began to surface more and more frequently.

In the summer of 2011, Mikovits and her young lab assistant, Max Pfost, began poring through their notebooks, trying to find where such a contaminant might have entered their process.

In July, she says, she found it—an entry from March 2009 indicating that a culture of the XMRV virus had been placed into the same ice chest with the rest of the lab’s blood samples. Mikovits says she was out of town the day this occurred.

To this reader, this is a sign that the upcoming multi-center attempt to replicate the XMRV/chronic-fatigue-syndrome work is going to come out negative (like the multiple other XMRV/CFS studies published so far trying to replicate her work). There was contamination in her lab’s process.

This does not speak directly to the XMRV/autism work, but two papers have:

So, we have an unpublished result supposedly linking autism with XMRV from a laboratory where the principle investigator is telling us there was a contamination issue and two papers saying there is no detectable link?

While I doubt the XMRV/autism story will die out completely, it strikes this observer that it’s time to look elsewhere for answers.

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