Posts Tagged ‘myth’

XMRV: More nails in the coffin

5 June, 2011

Except that the title could be “More nails from the Coffin”, given the involvement of someone of that name in amassing the growing weight of evidence against XMRV as an actual natural pathogen – but I digress.

The Nature News blog of 31st May has a very damning collation of views and evidence from around the scientific community – but chief among these is the fact that Science, which published the original paper describing the finding of XMRV in human-derived specimens, has called on the authors to retract it.  The evidence – partly gathered by John Coffin – seems clear: XMRV is a recombinant retrovirus which is a chimaera of two mouse viruses which got into cells derived from a human prostate tumour when these were cocultured with mouse cells.  It is not a “natural” virus, but a laboratory accident; it probably has no relevance to any human disease.

Another interesting and more philosophical view derived from the XMRV saga is that of The Independent, of 3rd June: Steve Connor in “Science Studies” points out that this is, in fact, how science really works – or should work.  That is, that someone publishes something that is really interesting – but which becomes contentious because other can’t replicate it, and eventually is wholly or partially discredited.  All out in the open, in the scientific press.

Some folk – acting with perfect hindsight – then bemoan the fact that the original article was published at all; others are horrified at the waste of money as people dig around and around in the same hole.  What they forget is that progress has been made, whether or not the initial revelation was in fact true.  And that is how science should work.

And because of that sort of iteration, XMRV is going the same way as cold fusion, folks.  And here’s a goodbye….

…and again, XMRV. Or absence thereof.

14 May, 2011

So it is, again, we are driven to report evidence-based absence of evidence for a very contentious virus: the murine retrovirus known as XMRV.  From a preprint online publication in Journal of Virology:

Absence of XMRV and other MLV-related viruses in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
J. Virol., published ahead of print on 4 May 2011 doi: doi:10.1128/JVI.00693-11

Clifford H. Shin, Lucinda Bateman, Robert Schlaberg, Ashley M. Bunker, Christopher J. Leonard, Ronald W. Hughen, Alan R. Light, Kathleen C. Light, and Ila R. Singh

“Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a multi-system disorder characterized by prolonged and severe fatigue that is not relieved by rest. Attempts to treat CFS have been largely ineffective primarily because the etiology of the disorder is unknown. Recently CFS has been associated with xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) as well as other murine leukemia virus (MLV)-related viruses, though not all studies have found these associations. We collected blood samples from 100 CFS patients and 200 self-reported healthy volunteers from the same geographical area. We analyzed these in a blinded manner using molecular, serological and viral replication assays. We also analyzed samples from patients in the original study that reported XMRV in CFS. We did not find XMRV or related MLVs, either as viral sequences or infectious virus, nor did we find antibodies to these viruses in any of the patient samples, including those from the original study. We show that at least some of the discrepancy with previous studies is due to the presence of trace amounts of mouse DNA in the Taq polymerase enzymes used in these previous studies. Our findings do not support an association between CFS and MLV- related viruses including XMRV and off-label use of antiretrovirals for the treatment of CFS does not seem justified at present.”

I would have said “enough said, then!”  Except that this will not be the end.  Oh, no….