XMRV paper withdrawn

22 Dec

The paper that started the idea that XMRV (Xenotropic murine leukemia virus) might be linked to chronic fatigue syndrome (also called myalgic encephalomyelitis) has been fully withdrawn by the journal, Science. In a rare move, the journal has withdrawn the article in an “editorial” retraction. I.e. the editor, not the authors, have retracted the article.

ScienceInsider (a blog at Science) writes in In a Rare Move, Science Without Authors’ Consent Retracts Paper That Tied Mouse Virus to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:

After enduring more than 2 years of criticism that included evidence of contamination and misrepresentation of data, a Science paper that linked a mouse retrovirus to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) today received its last rites: Editor-in-Chief Bruce Alberts issued a full retraction. The study’s 13 authors in September signed a partial retraction after one of the three collaborating labs found that a contamination had marred its contribution, but they could not agree on the wording of the full retraction, so Alberts issued it without their approval. “Science has lost confidence in the Report and the validity of its conclusions,” wrote Alberts in a rare “editorial” retraction, which appears in the 23 December issue of Science. “It is Science’s opinion that a retraction signed by all the authors is unlikely to be forthcoming.”

The original article, Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is fully retracted. This follows a partial retraction by the authors:

In our 23 October 2009 Report, “Detection of an infectious retrovirus, XMRV, in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome,” two of the coauthors, Silverman and Das Gupta, analyzed DNA samples from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients and healthy controls. A reexamination by Silverman and Das Gupta of the samples they used shows that some of the CFS peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) DNA preparations are contaminated with XMRV plasmid DNA.

There was also an “editorial expression of concern

The story of the Science paper on XMRV and CFS has had even more twists. Nature News discusses this in XMRV paper withdrawn and the above mentioned Science Without Authors’ Consent Retracts Paper That Tied Mouse Virus to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I first heard of the retraction through Twitter and Trine Tsouderos of the Chicago Tribune. The Trib has an article by Ivan Oransky, Embattled chronic fatigue syndrome paper retracted is online at the Chicago Tribune.

The lead author in the Science article on XMRV and CFS also made public statements about XMRV being present in the blood of autistic children. This was picked up by David Kirby, whose work publicity work was key in promoting the now debunked link between mercury and autism. Not surprisingly, Mr. Kirby took the angle (attributed to the lead researcher on the CFS article, Judy Mikovits) that this might give evidence to the vaccine-epidemic notion of autism.

While Ms. Mikovits has not published any work on XMRV and autism, two other groups have.

Lack of infection with XMRV or other MLV-related viruses in blood, post-mortem brains and paternal gametes of autistic individuals.


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

Both articles are available free, but from the titles alone you can tell that the evidence goes against any link.

As reported here recently, there is a multicenter XMRV/CFS study ongoing, led by Ian Lipkin and Ms. Mikovits is continuing to work on this study at the National Cancer Institute.

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4 Responses to “XMRV paper withdrawn”

  1. Liz Ditz December 27, 2011 at 00:38 #

    Update: another CFS-XMRV paper has been withdrawn. The excellent Ivan Oransky has the details at Retraction Watch:

    Just days after the retraction of a paper in Science that had claimed a link between chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and the virus XMRV, the authors of a similar paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have retracted theirs.

    The PNAS paper, “Detection of MLV-related virus gene sequences in blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy blood donors,” was published online on August 23, 2010 by Shyh-Ching Lo, Harvey Alter, and colleagues.

    The game’s over.

  2. brian January 6, 2012 at 05:02 #

    While Ms. Mikovits has not published any work on XMRV and autism, two other groups have.

    This might be of interest:

    Switzer WM, Zheng H, Simmons G, Zhou Y, Tang S, Shankar A, Kapusinszky B, Delwart EL, Heneine W. No evidence of murine leukemia virus-related viruses in live attenuated human vaccines.
    PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29223.

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029223

    • Sullivan January 6, 2012 at 06:26 #

      Brian,

      article is already written and scheduled. Should go live in about 45 minutes 😉

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  1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Biopsychosocial Intervention Strategies | eitheory.com - January 26, 2012

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