From a basic, logical perspective, XMRV as the causative agent for any disease has been dead in my eyes, for quite some time. One would literally need to bend the rules of basic epidemiology, basic cancer biology, basic immunology, basic virology, time/space for ‘XMRV’ to be ‘real’.
But of course, in the real world, especially with virology, things dont always work logically.
So for me, XMRV was officially dead when logical, putative explanations for contamination were put forth last December. It went beyond “this doesnt pass the smell test”, to “this is an explanation for why you would get fishy results: its a fish”.
XMRVs corpse was buried when the identical virus/insertion site paper was published.
And this one Im going to talk about today cant be described as anything but pissing on XMRVs grave:
Long story short– They tested lots of CFS patients and lots of healthy controls for XMRV lots of different ways. They didnt find it. Thats not all that interesting anymore, because apparently no one can find except the Blessed Mikovits. Yes they used lots of detailed protocols, but again, everyone has. Im bored with smart people wasting their time on this crap. Im disgusted at the money being wasted on this crap in a funding crisis.
No, whats neat is they tested 14 of WPIs poster-child ‘positives’– people who had repeatedly tested positive in the WPIs labs for the past couple of years.
They were not XMRV positive with this labs *extraordinarily* paranoid protocols. For an example, there is no way I would do this:
We prevented this [contamination] by handling only one set of cultures in the biosafety cabinet at a time, and meticulously decontaminated the cabinet between cultures with 70% ethanol and UV irradiation. This made the viral replication assay very time-consuming and labor-intensive, and we could perform it only on a subset of our samples.
I regularly juggle 60 different viral cultures in one sitting. The hood is sterilized before and after all of them, not each of them– I physically wouldnt/couldnt do what they did and not lose my mind (they did ~70 cultures). But they took the risk of contamination so seriously they did it anyway.
What a lot of you probably dont know is that the last author on this paper, Ila Singh, has published before on XMRV. I covered her paper here on ERV, on XMRV and prostate cancer. She ‘wanted’ to find XMRV, but she (and her lab) took the risk of contamination so seriously they went to extreme measures to prevent it. Certainly if they still found XMRV in CFS vs healthy controls/negative controls, they could be more confident what they found was ‘real’… but if they didnt find anything, they would be effectively ending the saga of XMRV and CFS.
Ila Singh shot Old Yeller.
It had to be done, and she (and her lab) did it.
That is really the point I want to make in this post– Singh, Silverman, they have been taking the negative findings on XMRV in stride. If Ive said it once, Ive said it a million times on ERV: Scientists are wrong all the time. We design our experiments the best we can, we publish what we find. “YAY!” if it turns out we were on the right track. “CRAP!” if it turns out we were seeing an artifact, or we made a mistake, or we made the wrong conclusions from our data. Being ‘wrong’ in and of itself just isnt a big deal. I feel bad for Silverman, having ‘YOURE WRONG!’ pointed out by someone else. And though Singh has said things that have annoyed me in the past, I am genuinely proud of her for stepping up to the plate and shooting Old Yeller herself. Because scientists are wrong all the time, we have to be prepared to look at our own protocols and data critically, and we have to be prepared to kill an idea if it is a dead-end, no matter how much we love it. I dont know (care?) how the rest of the field views Silverman and Singhs ‘mistakes’– I respect their mature, scientifically appropriate response*.
Their responses couldnt be further from those of Judy Mikovits. She provided Singh with the ‘positive’ WPI patients, yet she is already (read: still) in ‘deny, deny, deny‘ mode:
The Whittemore Peterson Institute’s Judy Mikovits, who led the research team on the Science paper, tells the Health Blog she has not yet read the complete study. She says XMRV isn’t fully understood. And she also says that one of the statements in today’s paper is incorrect. She tells Health Blog that not all of the 14 people who previously tested positive for XMRV were part of the original Science paper; only two of them were.
Light says in response: “The 14 patients who previously tested positive were all selected by Judy.”
I have seen no evidence, anywhere, that Mikovits will *ever* back down from XMRV–>CFS/’Chronic Lyme Disease’/Autism/’Gulf War Syndrome’/anything and everything under the Sun. Her responses to every XMRV negative paper have been shocking, completely uncoupled from reality. She happily has jumped into bed with every idiot who has given her a wink, from the anti-vaxers to the snake-oil salesmen to the obviously-mentally-ill-to-even-the-most-casual-observer MD.
I am under *no* illusion that Mikovits will *ever* step up to the plate and say ‘My bad’. Would it be nice? Would it ultimately help CFS patients, what Mizz Mikovits professes to have on the top of her priority list? Of course. But I have seen no indication that she has the intellectual ability or emotional maturity to do this, and a contingent of the CFS population will not move on until she does.
- I used to think that Ila Singh was “on our side”. Now she’s involved in poor testing techniques that can’t even find XMRV in WPI’s patients’ +ve samples…
- This study used unvalidated methods and the results prove it could not detect the virus in two known positives…
- Every marker said not to be related to the cause of CFS, I have. Medical tests confirmed, including XMRV. Let us all remember that when Polio first struck, it was called “Infantile Disease” since the medical community thought those patients weren’t really sick…
- Dr Singh’s study shows that her new assays are unable to detect XMRV/HGRVs in known positives…
I was/am operating under the assumption that a new form of anti-science/medical-woo was born October 2009.
* I still have issues with Alter though. He could have helped avoid all of this if he had either a) submitted his paper to a non-PNAS journal or b) looked for integration sites like the external reviewer asked. He was part of the problem, when he could have been part of the solution. He needs to step up and acknowledge this mistake, as does PNAS.