So, a while back, there was HUUUUUGE DRAMA. BIG HUBUB. Because a study that CONFIRMED the initial findings regarding XMRV and CFS was being HELD UP by TEH GOVERNMENT! Conspiracy, conspiracy, yada yada yada.
Apparently, this was that paper:
Detection of MLV-related virus gene sequences in blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy blood donors
I can honestly say I was really excited for this paper to come out. I wanted to see 1) what this group did to replicate those findings that no other lab could do, and 2) see the same results come from samples that had never seen Judy Mikovits laboratory.
In the original paper, they found XMRV proviruses in the PBMC of 68 of 101 from patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 8 of 218 healthy controls.
In this paper, they found sequences in 32 of 37 (!!!) Chronic Fatigue patients, and 3 of 44 healthy controls.
From endogenous mouse retroviruses.
Im granting them, that conclusion, which I honestly dont necessarily believe. PNAS paper, using standard PCR to ID ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’, with insane numbers of bands as a result of non-specific primer binding. Insane numbers. As if this is 1990 and we dont know what ‘Real Time PCR’ and ‘Taqman Probes’ are. Im going to ignore that and grant the premise they really have IDed viral sequences.
And they arent XMRV. They dont cluster anywhere near XMRV on a phylogenetic tree.
Theyre something else entirely.
Okay, well, logically it could be contamination from mouse DNA. So they checked for that… by looking for mouse mitochondrial DNA.
I understand why they did it– mitochondrial DNA is easier to find than genomic DNA, because there are more mitochondria in a cell than genome. But you kinda need to look for mouse genomic DNA contamination when one of your phyologenetic trees has your ‘viral sequences’ so closely related to mouse ERVs on four different chromosomes that it doesnt even form a proper branch. Cause ERVs are in genomes. Not mitochondrial DNA.
But wait, it gets better.
32/37 (86.5%) of the CFS patients were ‘something weird’ positive when they looked at PBMC. This group actually looked for ‘something weird’ as viral RNA. Cell-free virus in patient plasma. 42% were positive. Now, Im not bitching about the differences in percentage– when you freeze virus, even high-titer HIV-1, you lose some of it. What Im amazed by, is this is the first time anyone has isolated cell-free virus in the bloodstream of CFS patients… and this finding is just talked over in one awkwardly worded paragraph.
In 42% of samples, we also detected and sequence-confirmed the presence of MLV-related viral RNA in the frozen plasma samples of these CFS patients, using an RT-PCR assay (Fig. 1C). With one exception, all of the patients who tested positive for viral RNA gag gene sequences in the plasma samples also tested positive in the DNA prepared from PBMCs and/or whole blood. On the other hand, only about half of the patients with MLV-related virus gag gene sequences detected in PBMC DNA also had viral gag RNA sequences detected in the plasma.
1C is the only figure that doesnt look like shit. Its the first time anyone has identified cell-free virus in CFS patients. And thats what it gets.
Im ignoring the fact that in figure 1C, all the CFS patients are lined up in a row, and the word ‘blinded’ is never used in this paper or the supplemental. That figure still looks nice.
And thats it.
Thats the whole paper.
“‘I think it settles the issue of whether the initial report was real or not,’ said K. Kimberly McCleary, president of the CFIDS Association of America, the leading organization for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.”
Nooooo… not exactly. Not at all, actually. This paper very superficially ‘supports’ the WPI, in that they found something weird in CFS patients blood (and didnt investigate it beyond standard PCR). But they didnt find XMRV. They found mouse ERVs. Which makes almost as much sense as Darth Vader using a Brita water filter to fill a plastic jug with ocean water.