Just when you think XMRV–>anything could get none more dead, it manages to get deader.
When the possibility arose that there was a new pathogen circulating in humans, especially in the human blood supply, lots of labs from all over the world started looking for it.
Unfortunately, no one could find XMRV anywhere, except for very specific labs.
So the US government got the idea to:
1– Collect patient samples from the labs that say they can find XMRV. Known positives.
2– Collect negative samples from patients *everyone* in the study group, including the WPI, agree are negative. Known negatives.
3– Create ‘blanks’ artificially spiked with XMRV. Positive controls.
4– Code everything so no one knew what any sample was ‘supposed’ to be.
5– Send these samples out to labs. Who can find XMRV in the positive controls and CFS patients, when they dont know which samples are ‘supposed’ to be positive.
Here are the results of that study:
1– The labs that cant find XMRV in patient samples can find XMRV when it is there:
Of the nine labs that tested the samples, only one lab could not reliably detect XMRV in the positive controls (blank samples spiked with XMRV): The Whittemore Peterson Institute
2– Of the nine labs that tested the samples, only two found XMRV in any experimental samples (CFS and healthy controls):
WPI and NCI, the two groups that have published the ‘XMRV–>CFS’ Science paper.
Los group (‘MLVs–>CFS’ PNAS paper) called all experimental samples negative.
3– WPI and NCI ‘found’ XMRV at equivalent rates in the negative controls and the CFS patients:
WPI called 8/15 negative controls ‘positive’. They called 6/10 of their own ‘positives’ positives. They called 5/5 Lo et als positives positive.
NCI called 10/15 negative controls ‘positive’. They called 5/10 WPIs positives positive. They called 2/5 Lo et als positives positive.
A wink is the same as a blink to a blind man.
4– WPI and NCI ‘positive’ results did not correlate:
WPI called Negative Patient #10 positive. NCI called Patient 10 negative. NCI called Negative Patient #13 positive. WPI called Patient 13 negative. Over and over.
5– WPI and NCI contradicted their own results:
WPI Patient #2– WPI called this patient negative on 2/3 assays. Positive by one assay once, but not twice. NCI called Patient #2 negative on two assays.
WPI Patient #1– WPI called Patient #1 negative. NCI called them positive on one out of two assays. But the ‘positive’ result was only positive 1/2 times the procedure was replicated.
The only people who can ‘find’ XMRV, cant really find XMRV. One could not make the ‘positive’ results in this paper a bigger train-wreck if one actively tried. XMRV is not out there, and even the labs that ‘can find it’, cant really find it. For the *millionth* time: There is no reason to believe XMRV is a real pathogen.
The leader of the team that conducted the study, Judy Mikovits of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) in Reno, Nevada, resolutely maintained that her lab had no evidence of contamination and that it could repeatedly ﬁnd the virus with its techniques.
“The conclusion of the Blood Working Group was that we don’t have a reproducible assay to detect XMRVs in the blood–not that they weren’t in the patients at all,” Mikovits says.
Mikovits and Ruscetti, who have become increasingly isolated from the broader scientific community, now say their original paper erred by focusing on a single XMRV isolate that turned out to be a contaminant. They say that isolate is but one of many XMRVs, which belong to a still larger family of gammaretroviruses.
The new findings give her “great pause,” yet she suspects they’re but a speed bump. “I haven’t changed my thinking at all,” she says. And she worries that the Blood Working Group conclusions will confuse people with CFS, some of whom got wind of the results early in the blogosphere and contacted her in a panic. “I had 15 suicidal patients call me last week,” she says.
Mikovits to this day contends that the Lo-Alter paper confirms Lombardi et al. and insists that from the beginning, she viewed XMRV as one of many gammaretroviruses, which includes the MLVs, involved with CFS.
At a meeting on 14 December 2010, the working group discussed the results of the second stage of its study, which again did not support Mikovits’s findings. Her lab had found XMRV in a sample from a healthy person who all labs agreed beforehand was negative for the virus.
Mikovits had an explanation. The false positive was caused by a postdoc who mistakenly used the same needle twice to lyse cells and shear DNA, contaminating the sample. She dismisses the error as trivial, the result of working late at night on a weekend because of repeated power failures in a new building, coupled with intense pressure from the working group to get results quickly. “People make mistakes, and we reported it as a mistake,” she says.
The accidental-origin evidence hasn’t convinced Mikovits.
“It’s all contamination,” Coffin concluded, which outraged Mikovits. “How can John Coffin shut down research like that?” Mikovits shouted during one interview, her blue-gray eyes shooting fire. “He’s not God!” She speculates that perhaps the U.S. government, afraid of the huge consequences of a widespread XMRV outbreak, was trying to discredit her work. “We can’t afford another public health crisis,” she said.
With help from Peterson, UCSF virologist Jay Levy examined 43 patients who tested XMRV-positive at WPI. Peterson says he wanted to help his former colleagues at the institute. “I went to Jay Levy to prove them right,” he says. All samples tested negative. Again, Mikovits said the study was flawed.
“They didn’t do one thing we did,” Mikovits says.
Mikovits says it is irresponsible to dismiss the link between XMRVs and CFS at this point. “Anyone who says this is a lab contaminant has drawn the wrong conclusion and has done a disservice to the public,” she says. Okay, maybe not as many CFS patients have XMRVs as they initially reported, but she’s still convinced that a gammaretrovirus is in at least 20% or 30% of them. “I know of hundreds if not thousands of people with evidence of this infection, from what we’ve done over the last 3 years,” she says. “I don’t know what it means. And I’m gong to keep looking for in vivo reservoirs like the ones seen in the macaques, and I’m going to try to figure out mechanisms of pathogenesis, epigenetics, or other things. I’m not going to stop studying it.
To which I reply:
I also found this bit of the article interesting:
Intrigued by the RNase L link to XMRV, Mikovits and Lombardi–who by then had joined WPI as well–met Silverman in October 2007 at a prostate cancer conference in Lake Tahoe, where they discussed the possible role of XMRV in CFS. Silverman was happy to collaborate and sent WPI a clone of the virus, known as VP62.
I bet Silverman is, shall we say, ‘regretting’ giving Mikovits VP62. It appears the plasmid grew legs and ‘walked’ into the CFS samples, and only the CFS samples, that came out of the WPI… what a crazy random happenstance… But thats a different story for a different day…