No association between XMRV and autism?

15 Oct

Recently there has been growing interest in XMRV (Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus) and autism. I haven’t discussed it here on LeftBrainRightBrain as it has been very preliminary.

Well, it looks like I may not ever get into this story in depth as XMRV appears to not be associated with autism.

From ERV at ScienceBlogs, XMRV and Autism: Best conflict of interest EVAH! I learned of this new paper:

PCR and serology find no association between xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and autism

Here is the abstract.

Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) is a retrovirus implicated in prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Press releases have suggested that it could contribute to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this study we used two PCR assays and one antibody assay to screen 25 blood samples from autistic children born to mothers with CFS and from 20 mixed controls including family members of the children assayed, people with fibromyalgia and people with chronic Lyme disease. Using a real-time PCR assay, we screened an additional 48 South Carolina autism disorder samples, 96 Italian ASD)samples, 61 South Carolina ASD samples and 184 healthy controls. Despite having the ability to detect low copy number XMRV DNA in a large background of cellular DNA, none of the PCR assays found any evidence of XMRV infection in blood cells from patients or controls. Further, no anti-XMRV antibodies were detected, ruling out possible low level or abortive infections in blood or in other reservoirs. These results imply that XMRV is not associated with autism.

“These results imply that XMRV is not associated with autism.”

ERV noted this paragraph of the paper:

In an interview given on the same day as the Lombardi publication, Dr Mikovits stated that they had found XMRV in a ‘significant number’ of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) samples and speculated that ‘this might even explain why vaccines lead to autism in some children’ [6]. Shortly thereafter, widely circulated articles appeared, containing non-peer reviewed data with reports that XMRV may be present in ?40% of people with autism [7]. Given the recent controversy over the connection between ASD and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, a scientific evaluation of these statements is important [8,9].

Translation (via ERV):

Mikovits started talking to the media/patients/parents before she had any published science to back up her claims. She increased fear of vaccines. She still hasnt published anything. So I guess we are going to clean up this mess for her.

Also, ERV points out one of the most interesting competing interests statements in a paper:

BCS and RAG are employees of Cooperative Diagnostics. Cooperative Diagnostics is a commercial enterprise that owns the rights to the XMRV real-time PCR assay described in this manuscript, in addition to the Master Mix that was used. Publication of these results may well reduce the potential market that Cooperative Diagnostics could reach with its XMRV assay.

Yes, the authors are from a company which has rights to XMRV tests. If XMRV is not associated with autism, this company stands to make less money in the future.

Ironically, David Kirby is scheduled to present “breaking news” at an upcoming workshop in November:

Breakthrough News: David Kirby will discuss the recent research by Judy Mikovitz of the University of Nevada. Dr. Mikovitz helped discover that XMRV retrovirus was present in 95% of people with chronic fatigue, and she also found in 40% of a small sample of ASD kids. So far, virtually all of the kids whose moms have XMRV and chronic fatigue also have the XMRV virus.

Somehow I doubt the facts in this new study will divert Mr. Kirby from his “breaking news”. Facts have failed to stop him in the past.

9 Responses to “No association between XMRV and autism?”

  1. brian October 15, 2010 at 22:26 #

    Here’s a rather thorough background piece on XMRV (focused on CFS) that includes the statement that what the author terms rumor viruses “are seldom eradicated; they remain latent, waiting to be reactivated in a new disease.”

  2. kathy October 16, 2010 at 02:56 #

    Cooperative Diagnostics test didn’t work well for ME/CFS patients either. In this paper they did not confirm their test with a positive blood sample. PCR isn’t the best way to find the virus, and a 0% result is a clue that it didn’t work for them. The jury is still out if you don’t believe WPI studies backed up by NCI, FDA and NIH findings. More research money needs to be invested to find answers for everyone affected. WPI published poster presentations are available online from the Sept. XMRV conference.

  3. Abby October 16, 2010 at 08:34 #

    First of all ERV is not an expert at all in XMRV or anything for that matter . Why not quote a real source like the Science paper .

    Or look at the work the National Cancer Institute did ? Derse test ring a bell probably not . The CDC couldn’t find X anywhere . Then cooperative diagnostics used a CDC assay ? Hello! I know 2 mothers and their children that have tested positive for Antibodies to XMRV. You can’t have antibodies to a contaminant . ERV is a complete idiot . Ask Dr. RUscetti or better yet read the entire International workshop on XMRV presentations . don’t quote a useless nutty weirdo. Quote Science because Science always speaks for itself.

  4. passionlessDrone October 16, 2010 at 17:38 #

    Hello friends –

    The failure to find any XMRV or other similar viruses in cases or controls is difficult to reconcile with several other findings that seem to find hits in both case and control populations.

    For example, the recent PNAS study that found similar viruses in several controls.

    Similarly, in Japan, it was reported in ~ 2% of control cases.

    Somewhere along the way some groups are doing tests inappropriately; either contamination is resulting in false positives, or inappropriate scanning is resulting in blanket failures to detect anything. We also have several studies that seem to show increases in conditions like prostate cancer or CSF, which tends to argue against contaminiation contributing to false positive readings.

    Considering the very, very odd immunological profiles of the individuals from the WPI study in particular, I am of the opinion it is likely a problem with analysis in groups failing to find any XMRV in any patient or control case studied.

    Finally, if COIs are to be discussed, several of the studies that came out immediately post WPI were performed by psychologists with a long history of painting CSF as a purely pschological condition.

    – pD

  5. daedalus2u October 16, 2010 at 22:26 #

    I think this is a smart business move by WPI. With the Autism Omnibus case lost, with the mercury causation idea pining for the fjords, with the FDA coming down on chelation and acting against chelation providers, with mainstream media not giving pseudoscience equal time any more, with the Australian Vaccination network being smacked down by the Australian government, there is a whole gigantic group of desperate parents out there, just looking for the next magic cure, just looking for someone, something, anything to hitch their hopes to (and a rat hole to flush all their discretionary funds down).

    What was the reason that people with autism were tested for being “infected” with XMRV? Because WPI had this nifty, new, neat-o-rific test for that virus, which kind of, sort of works, sometimes. Oh, and also because the person promoting the test (who isn’t a neurologist, immunologist or autism specialist), can speculate that if vaccines cause autism, then maybe a virus is related to autism too. The problem with that speculation is that autism is not associated with vaccines, other than in the wishful thinking of people dreaming about hitting the legal lottery and collecting trillions. But mentioning that speculative vaccine connection was pure marketing gold. Her target audience would hear that dog whistle, turn off their critical thinking skills and open up their pocket books … Cha-Ching!

  6. Prometheus October 19, 2010 at 20:20 #

    To date, the data linking XMRV (or murine retroviruses in general) to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are ambiguous. There is one large well-run study that found a correlation and one large well-run study that didn’t find a correlation. Until a “tie-breaker” study is completed, we’ll just have to settle with “it isn’t clear”.

    Although we now have one study failing to find a correlation between XMRV and autism, the muddle we have with CRF and XMRV should lend a note of caution. However, there also isn’t any reason to – a priori – suspect that XMRV has anything to do with autism. Dr. Mikovits’ premature articulation on the topic seems to have more to do with her sponsor than with any data she is willing to share.

    Mind you, that won’t matter a bit to the “vaccines-cause-autism” crowd, if they can somehow link XMRV to vaccines.


    • Sullivan October 19, 2010 at 20:59 #


      I haven’t yet seen anyone ask if XMRV is present in stem cells, an expensive alt-med “therapy” for autism. I have seen questions raised about vaccines, though.

  7. passionlessDrone October 20, 2010 at 04:31 #

    @ Sullivan –

    I haven’t yet seen anyone ask if XMRV is present in stem cells, an expensive alt-med “therapy” for autism.

    Hehe. Valid point.

    @ Prometheus –

    There is one large well-run study that found a correlation and one large well-run study that didn’t find a correlation.

    I’m curious as to how you would define well run studies in these instances; I ask because we’ve seem to have lots of studies, but it is very difficult to really understand which ones are well done, and which ones arent. Too further mess things up, it seems that among the two ‘types’ of studies, they frequently seem to be studying people with very different, and situationally salient features.

    – pD


  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - No association between XMRV and autism? « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - October 15, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev and Liz Ditz, Todd W.. Todd W. said: RT @lizditz: From leftbrain/rightbrain New paper: no association between autism and XMRV […]

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