So here are my answers to The Brainstorm Challenge.

Some of you got real damn close to the ‘answers’ I was thinking of, but you all missed a great big one (which I think will make sense to you after I bring it up hehe!)

1– Lets say youve isolated white blood cells from CFS patients. You treat these cells with chemicals that interfere with normal DNA/histone methylation.
What do you think will happen?
Do you think that is a good diagnostic test for retroviral infection?

The Reno groups decision to use this as a diagnostic test is absolutely baffling. The idiomatic definition of ‘epigenetics’, histone and DNA modifications, probably evolved as a method of controlling pirate DNA. Pirate DNA like endogenous retroviruses.

Put ‘ERV methylation’ into PubMed. ‘LTR methylation’. You screw this up, you get particle production.

Treat cells with a chemical that messes up methylation… and you get retroviral particle production… XMRV or not.

2– Magic Johnson was diagnosed ‘early’ and got on antiretrovirals. Do you think there is any chance Magic Johnson will develop AIDS?

Maybe he will, maybe he wont. I would not say “Magic Johnson will not develop AIDS” in a million years.

Heres what happens with HIV-1 infected individuals:
Lets say you are diagnosed early. Get on HAART, viral load goes down, CD4+ T-cells stay up, YAY!

Well, there are always drug resistant variants present in the patients quasispecies.

Drug resistance comes at a fitness cost.

So, there are still HIV-1 viruses replicating in the patient. They might be real shitty, replicating real slow and awkward like, but theyre still going.

Some people are very very very unlucky, and in those few crappy replication cycles, the virus stumbles upon a secondary compensatory mutation. A mutation that allows it to be drug resistant AND able to replicate at a normal rate.

Some people are very very very lucky, and in those few crappy replication cycles, the virus just keeps banging its head against a wall.

The latter is like Magic Johnson. But there is no guarantee, with anyone who takes their antiretrovirals religiously, that they wont be unlucky tomorrow.

With todays technology, with todays antiretrovirals, we can extend the lives and improve the quality of life of people with HIV-1. But we cannot say they will ‘never’ develop AIDS.

3– Lets say you isolate a retrovirus from a sample from 1984. The sequence from that virus is not significantly different from sequences you are isolating from patients 25 years later. In other words, this ‘retrovirus’ is not acting as a quasispecies.
What are possible explanations for this?
If the virus does not mutate, why could the British group not find MLV sequences we know are conserved?
If this virus does not mutate, why would the PI looking for this virus be worried about PCR giving ‘false negatives’?


Fish gotta swim.

Birds gotta fly.

And retroviruses gotta act as a quasispecies.

They have to. They cannot help it. Its a side-effect of an error-prone reverse transcriptase and inter- intra-strand recombination. Even if it finds the most perfectest sequence EVAH!, it cannot keep it.

And that most perfectest sequence in Patient #1 might be awful in Patient #2, and Patient #3. Every individual is a different environment…

Certainly there are regions of a retrovirus that are functionally constrained– if they do not have sequence ABC, then the proper structure doesnt form, and viruses are non-infectious, therefore, sequence ABC is always there, but in a region like env? There is genetic plasticity, there is functional plasticity, there is selective pressure by everyones individual antibody repertoire! You cant stop the virus from mutating! If the virus stops mutating, the Red Queen race between us/retrovirus stops, and the virus is gone. I am not currently aware of any instance of anyone or any organism being ‘cured’ of a retrovirus ever.

But, quote Mikovits, “XMRV doesnt act as a quasispecies.”

I just dont see how this is possible.

4– Lets say we just discovered a new virus in humans. While most laboratories are being conservative/cautious about their statements and approach to this discovery, another lab is verbally, though not scientifically, ‘connecting’ this virus to CFS, breast cancer, chronic lyme disease, autism, and a cadre of other ‘medical mysteries’. Furthermore, the PhDs in these labs are giving medical advice like ‘take supplements X, Y, Z and immune modulators’ and suggesting ‘detox’. They are also heavily emphasizing ‘early detection’ of this new virus to prevent this list of diseases, and why, they have a test for sale right here.
Do you think that is the most scientific approach to this new virus?
What advice would you give this group of scientists?

This is example #918356125 of how unprofessional the Reno group is. There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to autism. Nothing. There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to chronic Lyme disease. There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to breast cancer. So when youre talking to the general public, you say general things like “Lots of other labs are trying to see if there is a connection between XMRV and their disease of interest. None of this, including XMRV–>CFS, has proven to be causal yet. This is currently a neat phenomena in CFS that might turn out to be something real fantastic! But right now, everything is preliminary.”

Standing up in front of a group of laymen saying “THEYVE CONNECTED XMRV TO AUTISM AND BREAST CANCER AND LIEK EVERYTING!” screams insecurity and immaturity.

And a PhD, in any field, giving medical advice? Thats down right irresponsible.

Look, my epigenetic research, I just tell people “You know what? I eat my broccoli, LOL!”


I have no doubt CFS is a real disease. PhDs are not medical physicians qualified to treat diseases. End of story.

Furthermore, Ive heard it through the grapevine that a nice, normal diagnostic test for XMRV is in the works. It looks for anti-XMRV antibodies. Awesome!

Its not from the Reno group.

It will be for research purposes only, at this point, to study the epidemiology of this virus.

There is also lots of nice, normal basic science, basic virology being done on XMRV.

Not from the Reno group.

There is going to be lots of information coming though the pipeline on XMRV. Maybe it causes CFS, maybe it doesnt. Maybe it causes certain kinds of leukemia, maybe it doesnt. Maybe it causes certain kinds of prostate cancer, maybe it doesnt.

This information is going to come out through hard work done by normal scientists doing normal scientist things.

Not by PR releases accusing other labs of fraud.

Not by doing confusing, scary, and misleading conferences for prostate cancer patients.


  1. #1 Ben Rabb
    February 1, 2010

    There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to autism. Nothing. There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to chronic Lyme disease. There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to breast cancer.

    Smith, on this issue you have been nothing short of brilliant. Clearly, this is a case of a “virus in search of a disease.” These jerks are sub-par scientists trying to give false hope to CFS patients and make some big bucks by patenting a “test” for XMRV antibodies. Next thing, they’ll try to convince the American Red Cross to use this “screening” test on the blood supply — a lotta money to be made with this scam.

    You have smoked out these quacks with facts, logic and good science. Well done.

  2. #2 pochoams
    February 2, 2010

    I do not know who you are, I am not a scientist myself, and I get lost in most of your arguments. But for some reason it seems to me you have something personal against WPI and Judy M. which I do not understand why… maybe because you need visits into your blog that will generate traffic, which also will generate add revenues into your pocket? Could be… What I know is that WPI has no economical interest, is a foundation, the mother of a CFS patient is in charge. The benefits of the XMRV test are used for research, and you are wrong assuming that XMRV has not been linked to Autism, Fibromialgia or Rare Multiple Sclerosis. You are wrong because it was detected in 40%, 60% and 100% of the small samples they analyzed but was not published in Science, because in order to publish you need a big study as they did with CFS. But is worth to have a look given the small studies. In my view anybody can understand that…

  3. #3 Stephen Wells
    February 2, 2010

    pochoams, if you read and understood erv’s arguments about the handling of the science, you would understand why she’s unimpressed.

    100% of a small sample of people with autism had two legs. Let’s start the amputations right away, shall we?

  4. #4 F Hamilton
    February 2, 2010

    pochoams – there’s one thing I don’t understand about your argument (OK, that’s a lie) – why do you accuse this blog of having a conflict of interest, and in the same paragraph say that because the Reno group is led by a mother with CFS that is a good thing?

    Surely they are both ‘conflicts of interest’.

    On a side note – as a (somewhat) medically trained person, your blog does a very good job of explaining virology. Keep up the good work.

  5. #5 minimalist
    February 2, 2010

    This was a fantastic post, Abbie. Very clear and emphatic. Too bad at least one person still doesn’t get the point…

  6. #6 Prometheus
    February 2, 2010

    Which branch of the shadowy international cabal is paying you to weave your web of lies?

    Do they have any openings in legal?

    Have robe, will travel.

  7. #7 Stella
    February 2, 2010

    One aspect of this issue confuses me. I’ve heard that CFS is kind of an umbrella diagnosis, and that people whose symptoms have no confirmed cause often get a CFS diagnosis.

    Is it a disease, many diseases, a group of symptoms? I’m not a researcher, so I don’t know whether one assumption is more practical than another. Is it best to assume all CFS diagnoses have the same cause until proven otherwise? Are researchers trying to find one identifiable marker (such as XMRV) and eject all non-XMRV-infected, chronically fatigued people from the CFS diagnosis? Was my impression about the umbrella diagnosis all wrong?

  8. #8 heidi
    February 2, 2010

    Excellent question, Stella. I have heard CFS refered to as a garbage can diagnosis, a receptacle for patients who insist on an answer but the science is not available to supply one. Certainly, once the science does come up with something (perhaps XMRV) to define the disease, patients given an incorrect diagnosis will be shuffled off into the next garbage can diagnosis.

    And, erv, as for the connection to other diseases as mentioned in the original post, people with a diagnosis of CFS have scientifically and anecdotaly shown higher incidences of breast cancer, leukemia and other diseases. Families show evidence of being communally infected, and children in those families do have a higher occurance of Autism. Provided the connection between XMRV and CFS holds up, it is a legitimate theory, but, as of know, it is just a theory.

    As for a test that looks for XMRV antibodies, that brings up an interesting dilemma. Many of the usual tests for other diseases are not effective on people with damaged immune systems, simply because they do not have the ability to produce antibodies. Now, as of today, I do not have a way to scientificly prove that I have CFS. But tests have proven beyond any doubt that my immune system is lacking several components. Here’s another THEORY for you. Patients who become ill with CFS do so because they are unable to produce the antibodies needed to to stop XMRV in its tracks.

  9. #9 thomas_bernhard
    February 2, 2010

    Heidi, antibody deficiency is not common in CFS (nor is it common in HIV). That notion would directly contradict the claim of opportunistic infections (EBV, HHV-6, CMV, etc) in CFS patients. Most of those opportunistic infections are detected, after all, via abnormal antibody tests. If your body is not producing antibodies to common pathogens, it would be extremely unlikely that you’d end up with a CFS diagnosis.

  10. #10 thomas_bernhard
    February 2, 2010

    Despite the media gaffes, the WPI has made a huge contribution to the sufferers of CFS, their families, and to those yet to become sick with this truly pernicious and misunderstood illness. It’s a net positive, no matter how you break it down. More funding, more news, more hope, more research. Obsessively condemning a few speculations that J.M. made during a web seminar strikes me as really, really silly. Yeah, JM is not so savvy in front of the cameras. Are you?

  11. #11 thomas_bernhard
    February 2, 2010

    Also, during her lecture, JM went out of her way to advise CFS patients to wait for a better diagnostic test. I.e. an antibody test. She did not once explicitly recommend the VIP XMRV culture test for CFS patients.

  12. #12 pochoams
    February 2, 2010

    I enclose the last XMRV presentation given by WPI in case anybody is interested.

  13. #13 Prometheus
    February 2, 2010

    “Yeah, JM is not so savvy in front of the cameras. Are you?”

    Yes, she is. 😉

  14. #14 thomas_bernhard
    February 2, 2010

    Prometheus, even us lurkers know you’re in love with her.

  15. #15 Vene
    February 2, 2010

    “But, quote Mikovits, ‘XMRV doesnt act as a quasispecies.'”

    What? Just, what?

  16. #16 ERV
    February 2, 2010

    Thomas– You are not a lurker. Lurkers dont comment, or do so rarely. Youve only commented on a few XMRV posts, a very new topic on this blog, so technically, youre a newb.

    Also, your ‘newb dead giveaway’ is lurkers know that Ive done/do lots of presentations to the general public, which are available here on ERV, and some of them I didnt even know I was being recorderd. So Prom was poking fun at your newbness.

    hehe. Newb.


    One of the really interesting things about these studies is we only isolate one thing out of these people. When we do the sequencing, it’s clean. We don’t isolate quasi-species. We don’t have the virus have these changes here in one week or one year… we have patient samples across dozens of years. We isolated XMRV from a 1984 plasma sample from a patient. So we got it in 2008 and we got it in 1984, which again suggests that the virus has been around at least 25 years and it might have a role in disease. But it’s not plausible, so yes indeed, it could play a role in other things… Did I answer the rest of that question?

  17. #17 thomas_bernhard
    February 2, 2010

    Do a google search for “XMRV”. See what comes up. You’re #1.

  18. #18 gf1
    February 2, 2010

    re quasispecies

    I’ve still not seen the presentation and don’t know enough about retroviruses to really comment anyway, but the tone of the Mikovits quote certainly emphasises that she sees this as unusual and something that needs to be investigated. Have we heard from any other researchers working specifically on XMRV that it does behave as a quasispecies?

    It does seem that the WPI think XMRV is behaving unusally, and that certainly makes me nervous about their results. Data that implies a big change in our understanding is usually just wrong, but I’m nowhere near well informed enough to draw my own conclusions on this (I’m not sure that anyone currently is). However, unusually for CFS research, I’m confident we will be able to know one way or the other in the near future.

    @ ERV: have you e-mailed the WPI with your questions? I’d be interested to hear what they had to say to someone who think’s that they’re cranks (although I’m sure you’d phrase it rather more delicately in any correspondance).

  19. #19 ally
    February 2, 2010


    Virology. 2010 Jan 26.
    Host range and cellular tropism of the human exogenous gammaretrovirus XMRV.

    Stieler K, Schulz C, Lavanya M, Aepfelbacher M, Stocking C, Fischer N.

    full text is online:

  20. #20 gf1
    February 2, 2010

    I just stumbled upon this quote from John Coffin – would this relate to the quasispecies stuff?

    -This is part of what he said in his testimony to the CFS Advisory Commity in October, 2009:

    “It’s not that this virus has a lower mutation rate than HIV. These viruses probably have all about the same mutation rate. But its suggestive in fact that there are very few cycles of replication that separate the viruses that’s in one person from the virus that’s in another.”

    ” And in some ways the implications of that are both good and bad news. The bad news is that it suggests the virus is not actively undergoing ongoing replication during the course of infection of a single individual and that would not be good news if one were trying to use antiviral therapy. “

  21. #21 heidi
    February 2, 2010

    Thomas, you’re right. My diagnosis is actually fibro, with CVID and other immune defects. But we still have not figured out what is destroying my immune system, thus my interest in XMRV. I have been refering to my condition as the “mirror image of AIDS” for years.

    Over the years, we have discovered that many of my opportunistic infections go undetected using common antibody tests. We have to find alternative tests that use the sections of my immune system that are still intact or alternative methods.

    I have often suspected that many people diagnosed with CFS actually have immunodeficiencies similar to mine, thus the difficulty in diagnostics. After all, many of these patients have limited medical coverage and the testing gets expensive. If they can be put off by a trash can diagnosis without the testing, there is a temptation to avoid going any further to more specifically diagnose something that still cannot be cured, but only managed.

  22. #22 thomas_bernhard
    February 2, 2010

    Heidi, do you produce antibodies to Tetanus? And I’m curious: have you had a PCR for EBV, and if so, was there a detectable viral load?

    Actually, part of the CFS dilemma is how much money they inevitably cost to treat. I’m not sure it’s true that many of them “have limited medical coverage”. The typical CFS patient has had many, many tests done. But perhaps not enough of them are being sent to immunologists for extensive work-ups.

  23. #23 thomas_bernhard
    February 2, 2010

    And why do your docs think the CVID is secondary? Again, I’m just curious.

    Sorry you’re so sick.

  24. #24 heidi
    February 3, 2010

    Apologies for the confusion. I have seen a many professionals and have gotten as many diagnoses as I have had doctors. After a number of years, my immunologist, GP and I just kind of settled in with what we had, as even if we went further, we were not likely to find anything that was going to change treatment. I don’t think the Fibro is actually prioritized, but I do tend to mention it first, as most nonprofessionals have a better understanding of Fibro than CVID.

    We have done nothing but maintenance testing for the last two years. I was tested for EBV twice, although I am not certain which test was used. I suspect the second may have been PCR, as it was conducted after we discovered the immunodeficiency. Will have to check with MD on whether I produce tetnus antibodies.

    I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten to an immunologist very early in my treatment. My grandfather was a test patient for Dr. Chediak, and when I informed my GP of this, he sent me to the immunologist immediately. I strongly suspect I may never have gotten there under other circumstances, and agree that many of those with Fibro and CFS should make this an early stop on their journey.

    Anything is particular I should run past my MDs?

  25. #25 MadScientist
    February 3, 2010

    “I have no doubt CFS is a real disease”

    Disorder perhaps, like the Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Not any particular thing (which a disease is), but a number of things not understood yet which have common symptoms. Unfortunately people who have such problems don’t seem to have anywhere to go when they’re diagnosed with “non-specific illness” and there’s a growing business in preying on such people.

  26. #26 Weller Industrieller
    February 3, 2010

    Thomas Bernhard love your quote “De natuur duldt geen ongeneeslijke gezondheid.”

  27. #27 LM
    February 4, 2010

    As CFS has been used as a dumping group for many diseases, including ME, it is not suppressing that it doesn’t make sense to you. If XMRV is the cause, it will most likely be for a subset of patients.

    John Coffin said that the ‘Science’ paper was as good a first paper as you will ever get, but that it was a first paper. After the UK study, he said that both papers may be right. After all the tests were different. He called the PLoS ONE paper too “preliminary” to settle the debate and said XMRV could show more genetic variety, and thus be harder to detect, than anyone assumed.

    I’m going to see what happens over the next 6 months to a year, leave the scientists investigating the link to discover the truth. Hopefully by then the answer will be know. Just one last point, I think the PLoS team overstepped the mark suggesting that,

    “we take no pleasure in finding colleagues wrong or dashing the hopes of patients, but it’s imperative the truth gets out.”


    “Based on our molecular data, we do not share the conviction that XMRV may be a contributory factor in the pathogenesis of CFS, at least in the U.K.

    What truth? The investigation is on going. They should have left their paper to speak for itself.

  28. #28 Caller
    February 4, 2010

    I call BS on “XMRV could show more genetic variety, and thus be harder to detect, than anyone assumed.” McClure used XMRV AND MuLV primers so WTF. Every CFS XMRV sequence from WPI is like almost 100% identical to Silvermans sequences but now you say people in London have a XMRV which is not recognizable as a MuLV? Do you know how stupid that sounds?

    Poor dude probaly got misquoted.

  29. #29 SC
    February 4, 2010

    ERV – Here’s a question for you.

    If the Imperial College in London did not find one single positive CFS patient for XMRV in their PLoSOne study, would it be cynical and money grubbing of them to offer their own XMRV test?

    I’m not saying thing about JM and I’m not going to claim that the way that everything she has said in public was done in the best manner but this to me takes the cake. Care to give your thoughts on the IC?

  30. #30 Jason
    February 4, 2010

    Follow the bouncing ball, SC:

    How do they stand to benefit from offering such a service if they are the ones publishing a study saying that CFS and prostate cancer do not show a positive correlation with a positive XMRV test? What’s more, they are super up-front about it.

    They have a pipeline they have developed for the test – they are making it available for a fee. They are making it available for medical practitioners – perhaps those wanting to test their own patients. It’s not clear to me why – and to that extent, I think we agree. But they’re very up-front about everything, even their own work, as well as work that has been with conflicting results. What you are calling money grubbing, others might call, “transparency.”

  31. #31 LM
    February 4, 2010

    Money is a benefit. £200 a test.

  32. #32 LM
    February 4, 2010

    Science 15 January 2010:
    Vol. 327. no. 5963, pp. 254 – 255
    An Indefatigable Debate Over Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
    Sam Kean

    But some scientists, including Coffin and McClure, fear that the Viral
    Immune Pathology Diagnostics clinic (VIP Dx) took advantage of that
    hunger by offering the $650 diagnostic test for XMRV, 300 of which
    have been administered so far and which already has a 4 to 6 week
    backlog. “Leaving aside the issue of who’s right and who’s wrong,”
    says Coffin, “the original paper did not establish the virus [caused
    CFS] and didn’t establish it as a viable marker.”

  33. #33 Jason
    February 4, 2010

    LM — you’ve completely missed my points.

    The major point is this: if they are up-front about the lack of association, then it’s not snake oil. They’re up-front about the lack of association, and their methods (please see previous posts) are clearer and are considered to be less error-prone / more conventional. They’re making this test available for a fee – reagents, time of those people responsible for sample processing, equipment upkeep are not free – but they’re not selling it as a panacea.

    It would be more profitable for them to make such a test available if they found their results to be aligned with those of JM and her collaborators.

    I’m not sure if you and I are miscommunicating, but my response was to SC, who posted the competing lab with the study showing no association, also had a vested interest in the diagnostic test. My reply spoke to the idea that the argument was without merit.

  34. #34 qetzal
    February 4, 2010

    SC (#29) –

    As one who has been quite critical of WPI & VIPDx for offering XMRV testing on patient samples, I’m equally disappointed to see Imperial College doing the same thing.

    I see absolutely no current reason for XMRV testing of any patient samples except as part of a scientific study. (If someone can offer a good reason, please do!) There’s no conclusive evidence that XMRV plays a clinically relevant role in any disease. Even if there was, knowing that a given patient was positive for XMRV would have no value in treating that patient. Not given our current knowledge, that is.

    So I suspect you’re right – IC is simply trying to cash in on the recent XMRV notoriety.

    Rather disgusting, IMO.

  35. #35 SC
    February 4, 2010


    It’s not that they say there is no positive correlation. As far as I know, they’ve never said (nor is there any evidence) that they’ve ever done a single XMRV PCR that was positive. That’s cynical and money grubbing.

    The IC study authors even suggested that one explanation is that there is no XMRV is the UK.

    LM, As for Coffin’s comments about the VIP Dx (not the WPI), that wasn’t the question. And that horse has been beaten to death. Sorry, off topic.

  36. #36 LM
    February 4, 2010

    It comes as a real surprise, after McClure told Science that VIP Dx took advantage of patients, for them to do the same.

  37. #37 LM
    February 4, 2010

    Jason I agree, I was only highlighting what McClure had said.

  38. #38 SC
    February 4, 2010

    Jason, I forgot to add the accusations of contamination and sloppy methodology leveled at the WPI by the IC to explain the IC finding NOTHING and the WPI’s 67%.

    Doesn’t anyone else here think that this is just hilarious?

  39. #39 SC
    February 4, 2010

    I agree completely with qetzal:

    I see absolutely no current reason for XMRV testing of any patient samples except as part of a scientific study.

  40. #40 LM
    February 4, 2010

    Judy Mikovits said the same thing at the recent Pro Health presentation. She there’s no need to be tested, get involved in a study, and be tested for free.

  41. #41 windy
    February 4, 2010

    “The bad news is that it suggests the virus is not actively undergoing ongoing replication during the course of infection of a single individual and that would not be good news if one were trying to use antiviral therapy.”

    If one were trying to use antiviral therapy, one would be trying to block viral replication. So if the viruses are already not-replicating, why is this bad news?

  42. #42 ERV
    February 4, 2010

    Caller– It depends on what your primers are looking for. There are really conserved regions (these are inaccessible to your immune system, or when they become accessible, escape from your immune system comes at a fitness cost), like regions of gag.

    Then there are regions of env that are extraordinarily diverse. One patients sequence might look nothing like anothers, so theoretically, it could be possible.

    However Ive BLASTed every primer from both papers, and the top hits from the British cohort are sequences uploaded by the Reno group.

    The primers are a silly excuse for why the British group couldnt find the virus.

    windy– Just add that to the list of things that dont make sense about XMRV :-/

    others– Its weird they are offering the test, but at least their page is pretty up-front about the expected results.

  43. #43 gf1
    February 4, 2010

    @ windy: My understanding is that current treatments for HIV target the virus when it’s replicating. If XMRV replicates far less frequently then it’s likely that current AIDS drugs will less helpful for XMRV. (I can’t remember where I read this though).

  44. #44 windy
    February 4, 2010

    Maybe it’s a homeopathic virus?

  45. #45 windy
    February 4, 2010

    gf1- “My understanding is that current treatments for HIV target the virus when it’s replicating.”

    Yep, that was the point: they do it by stopping it from replicating. So what were they hoping to do to XMRV other than that?

    Suppose I told you that I’ve identified a new type of cancer. But ‘the cells of this cancer are not actively undergoing division’ in my patients. So the bad news is that chemotherapy is likely to be useless against this cancer. Oooh, scary – but wait, does this even make sense?

  46. #46 Dan
    February 6, 2010

    ERV- Not saying that you shouldn’t be commenting on other researchers’ professional conduct, but do you think you could make it more clear where you argue that their conduct is unprofessional (e.g. question 4) and where your argument is a pretty straightforward criticism of their research technique (e.g. question 1)?

    I understand that unprofessional conduct makes scientists more wary of other researcher’s work, but when I’m trying to understand the issues at play in the research, it becomes very difficult when the personal conduct of the researchers and the correctness of their theses become so highly conflated. I had to read your questions and answers several times before I could know whether questions like question 1 were there to challenge a research technique or just as another point in the overall argument that WPI is unprofessional.

  47. #47 John
    February 12, 2010

    ERV, can you BLAST this compared to the other XMRV’s?

    Raisch KP, Pizzato M, Sun HY, Takeuchi Y, Cashdollar LW, Grossberg SE. Molecular cloning, complete sequence, and biological characterization of a xenotropic murine leukemia virus constitutively released from the human B-lymphoblastoid cell line DG-75. Virology. 2003 Mar 30;308(1):83-91.

    Raisch KP, Kushnaryov VM, Grossberg SE, Cashdollar LW.
    Constitutive production of a murine retrovirus in the human B-lymphoblastoid cell line, DG-75. Virology. 1998 Oct 10;250(1):135-9.

  48. #48 ERV
    February 12, 2010

    Hi John!

    I BLASTed it (Accession #AF221065), and some of the top hits are XMRV sequences WPI uploaded.

    I dont think this is ‘new’, as Silverman mentions it in the initial XMRV prostate cancer paper:

    The genome is most similar to the genomes of exogenous MuLVs, DG-75 cloned from a human B-lymphoblastoid cell line, and MTCR…

    But I dunno what this means, sorry. Lemme ask around!

  49. #49 Trish
    February 14, 2010

    Hi all,

    Just a layperson here who has had CFS or whatever the hell it is for 25 years. I agree with you that XMRV is being overplayed by the WPI as the cause of CFS/ME. It could be yet another opportunistic infection in people with an illness that causes lowered immunity or it could be that the WPI’s research was simply badly done. Frankly, I really don’t care.

    I had an MRI done ages ago (a few years after I got sick) that showed lesions in my brain and small, puncture-like dots. Years later I was told by another doctor looking at my MRI that it looked identical to a person with AIDS dementia. But I don’t have dementia, just neurological problems. I started getting reddish purple lesions on my skin over the past year and went to a dermatologist/pathologist. He had blood drawn for an HIV test even though I was tested 3 years ago and found negative. (Haven’t had any activity or procedures that would lead to HIV infection in over 9 years.) The reason he wanted the HIV test is because my lesions look like Kapaosi’s Sarcoma but he’s never seen KS in anybody except people with AIDS. I’m awaiting the results of the skin biopsy.

    I only mention this because you guys are involved in virology. Viruses mutate, so is it possible that whatever damage has been done to my brain and body is a type of post-viral encephalitis? And if so, does it really matter what the virus was that caused it?

    For example, take the worldwide outbreak of Encephalitis Lethargica that occurred from 1915 to 1928. A significant number of people who contracted whatever virus it was that caused the worldwide epidemic and survived became ill with identical symptoms with varying degrees of severity. And since 1928, no outbreaks of Encephalitis Lethargica have ever been reported. It just disappeared.

    In the 1950s a British researcher and physician (can’t remember his name) was dealing with a group of patients who had brain damage (found post mortem), neurological problems and pain. He named the post-viral illness Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Again, it would seem that a certain group of people were infected with a virus and developed a post-infection illness that caused different symptoms than Encephalitis Lethargica.

    So is it possible that some old virus that mutated could have caused what is being called CFS and CFS is nothing more than a particular group of symptoms caused by brain damage? If viruses mutate all the time, are they capable of doing different types of damage to the human host depending on their mutation?

    I was just wondering if any of this made sense to any of you as scientists.

    Thanks, Trish

  50. #50 NP
    February 16, 2010

    Did you see the paper in Retrovirology. Another UK cohort has shown no sign of XMRV in any CFS patients. In fact, they found it in some of the controls. Tee hee.

  51. #51 Smurfette
    April 14, 2010

    I am late to this blog post… I am trying to understand question #1. Are you saying that the way the white blood cells were treated would likely reactivate endogenous retrovirus? Is this just for their “diagnostic test” or does this also apply to the Science paper?

    Is that suggesting that what they are finding could be ERV particles and not XMRV? If that is what they are finding, wouldn’t that be an interesting result too if 67% of patient samples showed this vs. 4% of controls?

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