Ladies and gentlemen, a magic trick*.

I am going to take two pieces of data, from two independent experiments, establishing ‘proof’ of two different concepts, presented in to different formats and to different events…

… And turn them into the same figure.

*waits for the astonished mummers to simmer down*

In my left hand I hold ‘Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’, a Science paper from 2009.

Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

We can ignore parts of this paper– they have been retracted, as it seems some samples were contaminated in a rather curious (strategic?) manner. Which is fine, because what I want you, the audience, to focus on is Figure 2:

i-2b43758e27bf90730176b0c81aa5fb68-Science Figure 2.png

Specifically, Part C:

i-cb8eb8e265b6b88d61ef774a574e2e46-Science Figure 2, zoom.png

Lets zoom in on it, to get a nice, clear image. Actually, lets zoom in on the bottom part of that figure:

i-c5e626b967ed434d7c79d3980fe7156c-Science Figure 2, zoom 2.png

Its quite clear, there are 8 lanes.

1– Normal
2– Normal
3– 1235
4– Normal
5– Normal
6– 1236
7– Normal
8– SFFV-infected HCD-57

Here is the figure legend:

(C) Lysates of activated PBMCs from healthy donors (lanes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7) or from CFS patients (lanes 3 and 6) were analyzed by Western blots using rat mAb to SFFV Env (top panel) or goat antiserum to MLV p30 Gag (bottom panel). Lane 8, SFFV-infected HCD-57 cells. Molecular weight (MW) markers in kilodaltons are at left.

Not hard to interpret, right? Some cells from healthy donors do not express XMRV Gag protein, a couple CFS patients do express Gag protein, and a positive control does express Gag. It provides evidence to support the claim that CFS patients PBMC are infected with XMRV, and are capable of producing viral proteins.

Nothing out of the ordinary. *wink*

Now, in my right hand I hold Slide #13 from a presentation a Miz Judy Mikovits recently gave in Ottawa at the IACFS/ME 2011 conference, graciously provided to us by Miz Jamie Deckoff-Jones. A round of applause for Miz DJ, everyone!

*waits for the applause to die down*


Another fairly straight forward figure. Again, 8 lanes:

1– Normal
2– 2905 PBMC
3– 2905 PBMC + 5-AZA
4– Normal
5– 1674
6– 1674 + 5-AZA
7– Normal
8– SFFV-infected HCD-57

Again, PBMC from normal individuals do not express XMRV Gag proteins… but this time, though the CFS patients did not initially express viral Gag proteins, when treated with an epigenetic modifier, they could induce Gag expression. Fairly straightforward explanation for why some patients might *appear* to be negative, but with a bit of lab trickery (we do this stuff all the time in labs), we can make a hiding virus come out and play.

How nice for us all, right? *wink*

Lets zoom in a bit:

i-12e861b44c0be2b96d7ad55f5bc59a2d-IACFS13, zoom

And fiddle a bit with the brightness/contrast:

i-79b669f0e379e44949dd75183a5b9b20-IACFS13, zoom, edit 1

Science is all well and good– Two figures, one providing support of the claim that two patients, 1235 and 1236 are infected with XMRV, the other figure showing two patients, 2905 and 1674 might appear negative, but become positive after treatment with an epigenetic modifier. Neat, but so what?

Well, heres the *really* good part!

Now, watch carefully or you will miss the trick, ladies and gentlemen!


Thats some mighty fine purple.

But how about an alternative view!!! I think Ive made my point, I just like how the far-right blob looks like a rubber ducky:




Two bits of data describing and explaining to two entirely different things… and yet I can make the two images look identical!


Am I magic…?

…or is this a case of arrogant, bold-faced, lazy-ass scientific fraud perpetrated by an apparent pathological liar?

You be the judges, ladies and gentlemen.

I know what my opinions are, but I would very much like to hear your thoughts.

* Though much of this magic trick is my own creation, the original idea was not mine. That individual/Those individuals do not wish to step forward at this time (and rightly so), but should they ever want to take credit for this observation, I will *happily* give it to them. Its wonderful, something I myself missed.

But to all you frauds out there– remember this: Dont. Fuck. With. Scientists. Individually, scientists are smart folks. And even smart folks get screwed over now and then. But together, we are always smarter than you.



  1. #1 Spence
    September 30, 2011


    Shades of Hwang Woo-suk going on here with the copy ‘n’ paste trick.

  2. #2 Mike Kelly
    September 30, 2011

    Christ on a crutch!

  3. #3 mo
    September 30, 2011

    *Standing ovations to the trick*
    “You should present it in Vegas!”-screams

    You are awesome erv.

  4. #4 0verlord
    September 30, 2011

    Honestly the technical terms were throwing me for a loop and distracting me from the main point, so it took me awhile to “get it.” I don’t necessarily mean to say that they weren’t important, or that I’m not simply a poor reader in the mornings, but still.

    Show me an agenda and inner-circle labs producing “outstanding” results that no other lab can reproduce, and I’m already suspicious. As for this, I find it to be pretty damning. Watch out for flying subpoenas!

  5. #5 Mu
    September 30, 2011

    Of course they look identical, they measured the same “impurity” ;). Actually I have no idea how identical those traces could look if you would run the same assay twice.

  6. #6 RRM
    September 30, 2011

    Imagine what would happen if the mob would find an error like this in Paprotka et al. πŸ˜‰

    But now, I think this will be downplayed. Another mistake by the postdoc that forgot to switch needles or from that guy that lost some BWG samples.

    But how dare you question the integrity of these fine scientists (who question the integrity of researchers who don’t happen to agree with them all the time)!

  7. #7 Scented Nectar
    September 30, 2011

    I don’t understand the science, but I get the gist of it. Wow!!!! πŸ˜€

  8. #8 ERV
    September 30, 2011

    Mu– If you run the exact same gels (store bought) at the exact same time in the same unit, and did the transfer at the exact same time, it is totally possible to get very similar looking gels (dont count on it, though).

    Identical gels? No.

    And its not just the bands that are identical– its the garbage.

    I didnt include this figure in the post, but I made it. I highlighted mistakes– a pipet tip through the well makes a nice vertical drag. Non-specific blobs lighting up. What a strange coincidence that the exact same random mistakes happened in the exact same locations the exact same way!

    As RRM stated, Im sure there is a TOTALLY REASONABLE explanation for this. Im SURE it wasnt intentional. But even if it were that damn post doc again– what does this say about QC at the WPI? What does this say about their standards? What does this say about how carefully and how critically Mikovits is looking at her own work?

    LOL. That damn post doc *shakes fist angrily*

  9. #9 John C. Welch
    September 30, 2011

    Attention angry nutters, you’re on in 5…4…

  10. #10 John C. Welch
    September 30, 2011

    Attention angry nutters, you’re on in 5…4…

  11. #11 Spence
    September 30, 2011

    Well, in the case of Hwang Woo-suk, the copy ‘n’ pasted cell photos turned out to be a typographical error – a genuine mistake – but it was still part of a body of evidence triggered an investigation which found a whole bunch of other problems.

    There is an old adage that when researching someone you suspect of lying or fraud, that a good indicator is to look at the small stuff first. Because (1) someone lying about the big stuff will typically lie about the small stuff too and (2) they will take less care in covering their tracks with the small stuff.

    It isn’t hard and fast proof, but should certainly raise eyebrows and requires deeper digging, preferably on a formal basis (as happened with HWS).

  12. #12 W. Kevin Vicklund
    September 30, 2011

    Yep, those artifacts are very damning, and were the first things I looked for. “Here’s a little blob in the upper left corner, is there one of the same size, shape, and location in the other graph? Yes. [repeat for all blobs] BUSTED!”

  13. #13 OWE
    September 30, 2011

    I think with this trick you finished a whole institute!

    (Standing ovations)


  14. #14 Belphegor
    September 30, 2011

    wow, that is one hell of a job. thanks for that. now i know that when iΒ΄ll finish my thesis, i certainly would not want you around πŸ™‚ again, thanks.

  15. #15 Erk
    September 30, 2011

    I think RRM has it right, this will end up being explained as an “Oh, that damn post doc sent me the wrong slide/there was a communication problem/labelled my file wrong” thing. Which can definitely happen, especially when the PI is flying all over giving talks and they probably have little contact with the people doing the actual experiments. But still, it looks REALLY bad.

  16. #16 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    Excellent work by the anonymous scientist. I give you extremely high praise. You have uncovered a fraud that has cost many millions in wasted research funds, would have wasted many more, and was harming patients both by diverting resources down a dead end and by inducing some to take antiretrovirals with serious adverse side effects.

    What is extremely unfortunate is the social culture in science that made the anonymous scientist fear disclosing this under his/her real name. Disclosing a fraud like this should win praise of the highest order. Science should be willing to publish an analysis like this that uncovers fraud perpetrated on them. It is absolutely the place where this should be published.

    The social culture where underlings fear retribution for uncovering fraud or even error is something that real scientists have to change. Unfortunately it won’t because what is β€œimportant” isn’t the science, it is the money and the power that sciencey things brings to the non-scientists who profit from sciencey things.

  17. #17 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    Just a note to the people at WPI who were in on this scam and are now reading this (Hi there!) and who will now want to scurry around and hide all the traces. Destroying evidence that might be important in a criminal investigation is obstruction of justice. It doesn’t matter what the outcome of the investigation it, simply impeding that investigation by destroying or hiding evidence is obstruction of justice.

    Misreporting of results obtained via federally funded research is fraud against the government. Destroying or hiding evidence that might be important in the investigation of that fraud is obstruction of justice.

    Oh, and organizations like WPI don’t have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, only individuals do.

    My suggestion is to lawyer-up; the shit has hit the fan. Then take a vacation and let the lawyers and investigators put all the pieces together. If you aren’t there, you can’t be accused of destroying evidence.

  18. #18 Jeff
    September 30, 2011


  19. #19 Paul Browne
    September 30, 2011


    As the above have said the truth is in the junk.

  20. #20 Poodle Stomper
    September 30, 2011

    ZOMG IT’s MAGIIIIIICCCCC! I want to go to HWPI (Hogwarts-WPI) for lessons from the great Judy Dumbledore!!!!!!! You could learn a lesson from her, too, ERV. With her techniques and science expertise, Judy can make even her background signals 100% reproducible!!!! ZOMG!

  21. #21 Justicar
    September 30, 2011

    You should have included the picture in comment 8. Turn it sideways and that was, I am sure, my expression. Your magic trick is tantalizing; your sleight of hand is superlative, your prolix prestidigitation, pwnage, your l33t legerdemain, loltastic, which is why I’m sure that when I scrolled my mouse to advance the page a little is when you swapped one picture for the other to fool me. I’m not like you scientists; you can’t fool me. I’m smrt, s-m-r-t, smrt.

    Scientists: the 4chan of figuring shit out: not any of them is as mean or smart as all of them put together.

  22. #22 deetee
    September 30, 2011

    I think all 3 lanes look like rubber ducks.


  23. #23 Mary
    September 30, 2011


    great piece….congrats to you and those who don’t want recognition!

  24. #24 Jack
    September 30, 2011

    Nice one ERV.

    Sorry I am late. Wanted to check if this had been noticed by the ‘I love Judy’ brigade, but they seem more concerned that Gerwyn has left due to a falling out over some test-kit or other…

    I wonder if Knicker-fits will be bamboozling them in Ireland with this part of her slide collection?

  25. #25 Justicar
    September 30, 2011

    Deetee: nice one, err, three.

    Mary, it’s more she waved her wand and said avada kedavora.

  26. #26 DrDuke
    September 30, 2011

    Some people don’t recognize the huge difference between two things that are highly similar to each other (such as the VP62 clone of XMRV and other clones of XMRV) and IDENTITY. There are nearly an infinite number of ways for two things to be highly similar and yet different, but only ONE way for two things to be identical.

  27. #27 jeff
    September 30, 2011

    Have you reported this to the office of research integrity at the NIH?

  28. #28 ERV
    September 30, 2011

    Actually, jeff, I have no idea what to do :-/

  29. #29 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    Erv, you could write a letter to Science, telling them that you found this “mistake”, and that it is relevant to the 2009 paper and would be of interest to their readers. They could probably get it into the next publication cycle in a week. I wouldn’t use the F word (fraud) in the letter to Science, but everyone will know this can’t be anything else.

  30. #30 Lavendr
    September 30, 2011

    ERV – nicely presented (although I assume they’ll try to weasel out by blaming PowerPoint or Bill Gates etc.)

    You’ll be letting Science know though eh?

  31. #31 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    The more I think of it, the more a letter to Science is the appropriate thing to do. For all you know WPI could have two identical gels that when you put them up side-by-side look exactly identical down to the last smudge and speck for realz.

    All you have noticed is this remarkable and preternatural similarity between these two different gels.

    Investigating this to the level that is necessary is beyond your pay grade and would detract from the real science that you are trying to do.

    It could be peer reviewed in less than a day and then Science could ask various players for their responses.

  32. #32 jaranath
    September 30, 2011

    My guess is that the excuse will indeed be the “we just accidentally used the same image”. So my question is: What are the odds? Seriously, because I don’t know. For the excuse to be valid, the accidentally-replaced image in the more recent paper would also have to be eight lanes, with positives only in 3 and 6 with the positive control in 8. Otherwise the caption makes no sense. Is it common practice to put the control in 8 and the expected positives in 3 and 6? Is there any reason to expect WPI would do that?

    I know it’s relatively minor, but I think it’s worth noting that there might be an added layer of inherent implausibility to that defense.

  33. #33 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    Abbie, you really need to get this submitted to Science before the close of business today, so Science can get it peer reviewed and responded to over the weekend. You might send them an email directing them to your blog now, so they know it is coming and will check their email over the weekend.

    You would have to be the corresponding author because your collaborators need to stay anonymous.

    Make it clear that you are not doing this as representing your university and are not using any funding to do it, so the names of your collaborators can’t be gotten through a FOI.

    This is something that shows the power and benefits of blogging, and even anonymous blogging (which MSM and now even ScienceBlogs considers to be anathema). Your collaborators couldn’t have blown the whistle without retaliation, so they turned to you. Not because you are a super-duper scientist (which I think you are <3), not because ERV is the number 1 endogenous retrovirus blog in the Universe (which it is) but because you are a no-shit scientist and do not fear those with privilege.

    It is the fear of those with privilege that is making your collaborators stay anonymous.

  34. #34 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    HTML fail!!!!

    My last paragraph should have read

    This is something that shows the power and benefits of blogging, and even anonymous blogging (which MSM and now even ScienceBlogs considers to be anathema). Your collaborators couldn’t have blown the whistle without retaliation, so they turned to you. Not because you are a super-duper scientist (which I think you are [heart]), not because ERV is the number 1 endogenous retrovirus blog in the Universe (which it is) but because you are a no-shit scientist and do not fear those with privilege.

    It is the fear of those with privilege that is making your collaborators stay anonymous.

  35. #35 RRM
    September 30, 2011

    I think the most correct way to deal with this is to first contact Mikovits with a short, rational but kinda pressuring (“I intend to…”) mail. Although it will give her a possible “head start” to make up excuses/burn all the evidence, this blogpost is already “out there” and I think it is pretty likely she will take notice one of these days anyway.

    Anyway, if she gives some bullshit answer (Judy is known for sending back rather erratic mails now and then), you could even use this later – and somehow I think she is more likely to give you a quick, poorly thought out and damaging answer (of course, if applicable), than she would give to an “offical request” for some sort of explanation.

    And it would also be better for the lulz of course…

  36. #36 Jack
    September 30, 2011

    Errr… yeah…

    Or you could pop a nice post on Dr D-J’s blog and send something fuzzy to the WPI πŸ™‚

    Actually, I would plug for Prof Racaniello but then he’s probably got enough on his plate right now and yeah probably ‘fed-up’ with ‘XMRV/Whatever’ πŸ˜‰

  37. #37 Lavendr
    September 30, 2011

    Science should be informed though eh. It’s directly relevant to a paper they published (bet they’re loving that paper), and if I was the editor I would want a heads-up.

  38. #38 Jason
    September 30, 2011

    The office of research integrity isn’t going to field this (yet)…

    look, a figure in a powerpoint slide could have been chosen out of a bank of westerns on a hard drive accidentally. Or a case could be made for such. But a powerpoint slide and a publication do not carry the same weight, and as the science paper with this figure came out first, it’s going to be assumed the figure belongs to the that study (as it almost certainly does) first. So while this is the a HUGE RED FLAG to anyone working with her, it’s not even the first, one… I don’t see this particular problem, unethical though it may seem, will cause a lasting issue for JM/WPI…

  39. #39 Sigmund
    September 30, 2011

    Jaranath asked:
    “My guess is that the excuse will indeed be the “we just accidentally used the same image”. So my question is: What are the odds? Seriously, because I don’t know. ”
    Not meaning to rain on the parade but I think that is the most likely answer.
    If the group in question really intended to commit fraud then it would have been trivially easy to make a new western with positive signals in the appropriate lanes – rather than use a blot from a contentious Science paper. They do have a history of being sloppy so I think that will be the most likely answer.
    Good spot on the figure though, its clearly the same one.

  40. #40 Poodle Stomper
    September 30, 2011

    Given that the 2009 paper came out before this power point thing, I would guess that Science can’t do much about it. The most likely response will be that it was just an accidental use of the wrong slide. Unless you have a smoking gun showing otherwise, it would be hard to prove any malicious intent. I was reading a paper today in a journal that mislabeled a photo of a bladder as “intestine”. These things happen. I wouldn’t give Judy the benefit of the doubt, given her past behaviour but since you can’t really prove the intent…

  41. #41 mary
    September 30, 2011

    Well, if I am reading this right….this hocus pocus just recently occured at a conference….

    so, that would make the science pic the original one…and the hocus pocus err..magicked one presented at the conference…

    would it matter to the mag..if their pic is the non-magicked one?

    and then ignore this if I’ve got the sequence wrong…

  42. #42 jaranath
    September 30, 2011


    Thanks, but that’s kind of missing my actual question. What are the odds that the caption in the new paper would match the image from the old paper?

    If this was a genuine “oops” then it’d be more like Poodle Stomper’s example of a bladder labeled “intestine”. As it stands, the “oops” picture happens to agree just fine with the caption; you’d never know something was wrong if you didn’t recognize the picture from 2009. What I’m asking is, what are the odds that the agreement is coincidence? I hesitate to make any strong suggestion about it because for all I know there may be a good reason.

  43. #43 deetee
    September 30, 2011

    If we are made in God’s image, I am a graduate student studying the molecular and biochemical evolution of HIV within patients and within populations also studying epigenetic control of ERVs.

  44. #44 Alan Dove
    September 30, 2011

    I think it’s time to deal with this Nevada style: what’s the over/under on the WPI’s eventual class-action settlement. You know, the one with thousands of folks who took toxic antiretrovirals on the basis of the WPI’s XMRV “test”? And are we placing bets on the timing as well as the amount?

  45. #45 Poodle Stomper
    September 30, 2011

    Just to play devil’s advocate, I could offer up this scenario: Judy needs the image of the blot and asks whoever did it (or even a noob to the lab) to fetch it for her and email it to her. She labels the order of the samples the way she knows they are set up and inserts the photo, never bothering to double check. It could happen. It falls on me very often when my PI is putting together a paper/grant/presentation, to send her images of the results I’ve generated. If I make an error (and I’m anal enough that I generally avoid those) then the wrong image could end up in a slide. I’m not saying this is how it DID happen, I’m saying it’s what COULD happen. Some PI’s have enough confidence in their peons that for something like a Power Point presentation they don’t feel the need to double check everything. It could be that this is the case. It could also be the case that Judy simply recycled this slide to support her failed hypothesis. I can’t definitively say either way at this point (and honestly, I don’t think anyone here can). I’m all about showing her data to be the crap that it is but let’s not be so eager that we see malice where there may be none (or at least no evidence yet).

  46. #46 Sigmund
    September 30, 2011

    Jaranath, the picture is not too complicated so it may not be so unlikely that it matches the order in the Science paper. Its got a positive control on the right side and two test positives. They have probably got lots of experiment results that match that order. It is still at best an example of incompetence but a journal like Science will most likely take the word of the group if they say that the talk pic was a simple mistake.

  47. #47 FWD
    September 30, 2011

    I am sure someone under the FOIA will request the lab notes.

  48. #48 TCC
    September 30, 2011

    If and when Judy says that it was a mix up of the gels by the incredibly incompetent post-doc, she should be able to produce the “real” gel immediately. Additionally, can she name this phantom post-doc? Does WPI have an employee who is willing to take the fall for this?

  49. #49 Bill Door
    September 30, 2011

    I don’t get it. It would be so easy to just fake a gel, why bother reusing one? Just re-run the old samples on a new gel.

  50. #50 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    The way to deal with this is to send a letter and the analysis to Science and let peer review figure out if it should be published or revised or whatever. That is what peer review is for. Abbie can’t do the fraud investigation that is now warranted, that will take lawyers, guns and money. That is it will involve lawyers representing WPI, JM, the WPI donors, the WPI victims, the Feds, the FBI, forensic analysis of the lab records and somebody has to pay for all of that and it isn’t going to be Abbie on her grad student stipend. But with the number of hits her blog is going to get, maybe click revenue will cover it. πŸ˜‰

    The way JM has treated grad students at conferences in the past, Abbie owes JM no courtesy and is under no obligation to give JM a heads up. JM probably already knows about it, and is likely already purging files and trying to figure out who outed her to try and purge them.

    If this is fraud, it is millions of dollars and go to jail kind of fraud. Sometimes people who do things like fraud are willing to do other illegal things. JM gave researchers who didn’t replicate her results zero slack and zero benefit of the doubt.

  51. #51 CP
    September 30, 2011

    Abbie, difficult situation wrt to reporting. At the moment we have to assume the Science figure is the correct one and the conference slide the mistake. You could write to the editor of Science about it. If the conference publishes the presentations or proceedings, you could write to the organisers. Otherwise, you need to write to Judy Mikovits about the mistake.

    One possibility for all those speculating, is the slide at the conference is correctly labelled.

  52. #52 Jack
    September 30, 2011


    Probably the same person who sent those lovely messages to ERV a while back πŸ™‚

  53. #53 ERV
    September 30, 2011

    TCC– Indeed. I will *happily* post the Real image, should they be able to produce one.

    But they need to also understand that their own bizarre behavior and lack of scientific rigor throughout this fiasco (how many versions of the ‘methods’ in Lombardi et al are out there now? where did that VP62 come from in the CFS patient samples? why do the WPIs tests work when they know who is positive and who is negative, but they cant do better than chance in blinded studies? why do their positives turn up negative in others labs? where is their ‘Normal + 5-AZA’ control in that theoretical second gel?) created an environment where I, personally, will have *extreme* difficulty believing anything coming out of that lab until it is independently reproduced.

  54. #54 ERV
    September 30, 2011

    Sigmund– The second gel is non-standard. If I were performing that experiment, I would have:
    1– Normal A
    2– Normal A+ 5-AZA
    3– Patient A
    4– Patient A + 5-AZA
    5– Patient B
    6– Patient B + 5-AZA
    7– Patient C
    8– Patient C + 5-AZA
    9– HCD-57
    10- HCD-57 + SFFV

    What is the point of the three ‘Normals’ and treating none of them with 5-AZA? ‘Normal + 5-AZA’ is a basic control needed to make any conclusions from that slide. Three Normals and Normals + 5-AZA for three CFS patients, or two Normals and Normals + 5-AZA for two CFS patients.

    But theyve got three normals, no 5-AZA on any of em.

    My PI would say ‘Why did you run this gel?’ if I handed it to him.

    It is a stupid gel, even if it were real.

  55. #55 Ramon
    September 30, 2011

    Something really needs to be done about this. I hate to see good research dollars continually wasted on this.

    Please ERV do notify Science and submit a Freedom of Information Act(FOIA)request to not only the WPI but any University laboratory associated with that Science paper.

    Also, on a side note, this is not the first time I have seen that slide used by Mikovits. There have been a couple of other talks I have seen her present this slide. Regardless of where the data came from she is the PI and the buck stops with her. It makes me think maybe the assays run in her lab are not as closely monitored for contamination as she claims.

  56. #56 Lee
    September 30, 2011

    @53, ERV:
    “It is a stupid gel, even if it were real.”

    Yep. My first thought, when I read down to that second gel, was “Holy’Fuck!! That’s the same gel!” As a magic trick this wasn’t your best work, ERV. You kinda telegraphed the punch line.

    My second thought, when I got over the gel being the same and actually read to to see what they claimed, was “But… but… but… where are the induced normals?!” It’s hard to imagine a competent scientist designing the experiment on that gel – much less actually doing it and proudly showing it to anyone else.

    There isn’t enough here to definitely say ‘fraud.’ But, between this and the ‘positive only’ plasmid contamination of the PCR results, there sure is enough to be thinking it out loud.

    And I gotta say “It is a stupid [fraud], even if it were real.”

  57. #57 Jon H
    September 30, 2011

    Ok, Abby,

    Now we need a little video of you removing your Ray-Bans and making a pun, followed by Roger Daltrey screaming.

    (I’m really tired of this meme, but in this case it would be absolutely appropriate.)

  58. #58 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    I disagree with Ramon, I think that Abbie should submit this to Science and then not involve herself with it except to field questions from the media.

    If this is fraud, then it is a dead-end, zero scientific benefit wild-goose chase that provides zero-benefit to everyone involved in it.

    It has already wasted too much of Abbie’s time, and the time of every other scientist who has read these papers, thought about this data and spent time doing research. Any more time spent on it is time not spent on doing science, and it is doing science that advances the field.

    Let people who get paid to deal with fraud deal with this. Let the PIs who make the big bucks and who do the peer review deal with this. Abbie doesn’t get paid to deal with fraud, she has to deal with it as every scientist does, but she can’t make a career out of this or she loses the science career that she is making for herself. My $0.02

    This is a shit-hitting-fan event. The closer anyone gets to it, the more shit they are going to get hit with. Abbie doesn’t want to get hit with lawsuits and depositions and FOIs. She probably will anyway, but because she hasn’t done any XMRV research, has never been to WPI, has never been to any of these conferences, why is she being deposed and picked on and sued for internet stalking? Because she has a blog and uses lolspeak?

  59. #59 Ramon
    September 30, 2011

    I agree. There is a meeting Oct 3-5th, Frontiers in Retrovirology, where I believe Mikovits will be attending. Maybe she will have an explanation in her talk by then.

    And to ERV and those that pointed out the recycled data good work!

  60. #60 Kezza
    September 30, 2011

    Hello to all,

    Must say I don’t fully (or even nearly) understand the details – but certainly get what’s being alluded to here. Disclaimer: I am a CFS ( or other such acronyms) “patient”. When the science paper was written about in the press I thought it was great and implied progress in research. I felt a virus wouldn’t be at all surprising and ultimately anticipated reading about the response to the study and results of necessary replications.

    What I could not comprehend, as things developed, was this sort of blind militant insistence (on the part of other patients) that this suggested XMRV from one study was the be all and end all. Patients were reacting to scientific developments as though there was an international conspiracy against the WPI lady and us personally. And whoever mentioned taking bets on class action suits is spot on: more misplaced anger.

    Anyway I’d really like to ask something that seems obvious to you all but perplexing to me. If there happens to be fraud here or intentional “fabricated” results – what on earth would be the reason/gain in doing that? Why? Is it not routine in research (upon a new and HUGE discovery – the potential existence of another retro virus ) that scientist the world around replicate and confirm such a thing, study it further etc. etc. Wouldn’t they have fully expected this outcome? I don’t get it!

    Is it an issue of embarrassment regarding contamination and the potential intentional use of the wrong slide/results at some conference is coming from a place of refusal to admit such a colossal error? But then how or why would anyone insist in the face of such contradictory evidence?

    Guys, just assuming for now there is fraud/deceit – what and WHY is going on? Any reply would be so appreciate!


  61. #61 Poodle Stomper
    September 30, 2011

    “My PI would say ‘Why did you run this gel?’ if I handed it to him.

    It is a stupid gel, even if it were real.”

    My PI would beat me upside the head with the gel. She definitely should have 5 AZA-treated control cells in the gel otherwise the treated “infected” patients lanes are meaningless. I suppose that even if this were an honest mistake, it still reflects poorly on her that she wouldn’t have considered what controls she was omitting. Stupid gel indeed =P

  62. #62 Smurfette
    September 30, 2011

    OMG. Yet not surprising at all. Two XMRV dead as a doornail posts ago, I thought I was going to miss the coverage on this blog but it just gets better and better (or worse and worse?).

    That’s a clever way of overlaying the images to see if they are identical. How do you do that? If the images were cropped differently, or were they?

    And yes, if this was just a wrong image mistake, then she should be able to produce the correct image right away. Of course, I wouldn’t trust anything she produces. It would probably be dated post-September 30 or some other other image.

    I’m curious though, do you guys store the images apart from the labels? Seems that to prevent errors like this, the labels should be attached to the images.

    I don’t know if it would be a waste of resources but I really want to see them chased to the end, outsmarted, and go down so they can’t get away with it.

  63. #63 Ramon
    September 30, 2011

    I don’t think there is a good answer to your question. What I know is that in science if you fake a result and it is not of any importance or interesting then it will likely never be found out. However, if you fake a result or make a mistake (honest or deliberate) it will be ferreted out and come to light. So there is no reason to fake a result unless you feel it is of no interest to anyone of power or importance is watching.

  64. #64 Ramon
    September 30, 2011

    However, if you fake “AN INTERESTING or GROUNDBREAKING” result…

  65. #65 daedalus2u
    September 30, 2011

    What I would like to see is Annie Lennox doing a version of Missionary Man, modified to be pro-science, anti-quackery, pro-research as fund raising for real HIV and retrovirus research. Something to turn this drama into something productive, to recoup the resources wasted. She does have a strong interest in HIV prevention and treatment.

    …My PI told me good, my PI told me strong
    Be true to your data and you can’t be wrong…

    Kezza, for power and money and money and power. The adulation of sycophants can be a strong motivator too, for some people.

  66. #66 Smurfette
    September 30, 2011

    Amongst all the weird behaviors, what happened to the WPI Facebook page? I just went there to see what they might be saying about this but the page seems to be gone.

  67. #67 Poodle Stomper
    September 30, 2011

    Guys, just assuming for now there is fraud/deceit – what and WHY is going on? Any reply would be so appreciate!

    It’s anyone’s guess at the moment. Other than Judy, no one can say with certainty why she is doing this. Perhaps she is deluded enough to believe her own hype (denial is a strong phenomenon). Perhaps it’s for money or to save her career (which, given her recent behaviour isn’t easily salvagable at this point). Bottom line, though is that no one can really say for sure what’s going on in her head. Anyone that pretends to is simply fooling themselves.

  68. #68 TCC
    September 30, 2011

    @57 and Abbie,
    I agree…I think Abbie has done a great service here…what needs to happen now is for Judy/WPI TO RESPOND….why are they stalling here all day? Perhaps they are frantically trying to run a fake gel…which by the way would take some effort..more effort than just relabelling an old gel.
    ERV…I think we all know that Judy and WPI are a fraud…for me, the goal here should be to put them out of the business of exploiting patients by selling worthless expensive tests, and get them to stop treating patients with antivirals, which will not help and will cause harm.
    Thanks much ERV

  69. #69 Jay
    September 30, 2011

    At the very least, you have to bring this to the attention of the NIH.

    I’m going to the frontiers of retrovirology meeting and very much looking forward to the XMRV discussions there!

  70. #70 Dave Ricks
    September 30, 2011

    For another magic trick — Andrew Rose of Pristine Audio lets you see and hear the audacious Joyce Hatto classical piano recording hoax that went on for years — over 100 CDs!

  71. #71 MaryMS
    October 1, 2011

    In the early morning hours of July 4, 2005, 23-year-old Casey slipped away forever. He was 23 years old. The only diagnosis he had – and had for years- was “CFS.” his parents lived outside Madison, Wisconsin, and they had access to the best medical care. The autopsy showed he died of a heart attack, due to myocarditis – an infection of the heart muscle. The extent of old and new scarring showed he had a viral infection of the heart for years.

    I know young people who became ill (during cluster outbreaks) when teenagers, who are now in their 40s. No college, no love affair or marriage,no children, no careers. Many are housebound; many of those are completely bedridden.

    It is the young people I worry about the most. If you are interested ( going beyond parlor tricks), look at the new international definition for ME, in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of internal Medicine.

    I suffered a blackout in my office on October 24, 1994. After that I would never be normal again. You could say I earned my living reading, and I could not read – it might have been in Cyrillic alphabet for all I understood. I went rapidly downhill. My Mai symptoms included significant CNS dysfunction (including NKH); ataxia, difficulty forming memories and the lossnofnshort-term memory, disorientation, tinnitus, sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights. I had terrible pain behind my eyes and in the back of my neck, and migraine-level headaches. My left leg is partially paralyzed, and it is difficult for me to walk. I cannot drive because I get too confused.

    I could not pass a simple Romberg test. I had abnormal SPECT scans and VO2 MAX atress tests. I had the 37kDa Rnase-l defect and my natural killer cell function is 2%. and there are ther immuneroblems 5)-5 are harder to remember.

    I have recurring Epsrein-Barr, then chronically activated HHV-6, Variant A;

  72. #72 mary
    October 1, 2011

    Oh erv, the militants are dismissing this already…wanna know why??

    wait for it…..

    cuz you have a potty mouth!

    once again, they can’t attack the science so…attack the scientist!

    @59 – I think this continues cuz Judy came out screaming that she had disovered the new’s killing’s in the blood supply…dismissing many reputable scientists and reports..everyone involved initally has come out to say…”whoops, my bad” (which is the sign of a good scientist)..for some reason, Judy can’t..

    Hope the research continues for your illness..hope your health will return..

  73. #73 mary
    October 1, 2011

    @MaryMS…well, of course Casey had an infection… Most people who have myocarditis has an infectious agent…not cfs..

    I’ve scene many pt’s with myocarditis…can’t say any of them had CFS/ME..if as you say..casey’s only diagnosis was CFS..then his family should be recieving mookoo bucks in a settlement from their doctors cuz of a blown diagnosis..

    I don’t mean to be cruel or unsympathetic..but unless people start taking a serious look at what is coming out of WPI, you are all screwed (jmho)..

  74. #74 FWD
    October 1, 2011

    @Kezza Perhaps if there is no virus, you have a $70+ million white elephant lab just sitting there. Word has it that Mikovits is going to release full sequences of new viruses to GenBank shortly.

  75. #75 In Vitro Infidelium
    October 1, 2011

    @ Alan Dove and TCC

    WPI has only very recently opened a clinic to offer treatments to patients, ARVs are not included, and what is on offer is a pretty standard mishmash of semi justifiable (some might even say quackery) antibiotics and supplements. The role of the WPI in ‘promoting’ ARVs has been more subtle and larglely deniable. Mikovits and Annette Whittemore have attended a number of ‘patient conferences’ where there’s been sciency presentations but also a lot of what could be termed ‘come ons’ to the audiences. In a purely scientific context it might be said this was just a bit of enthusiastic hyping – but to audiences who have a collective desperation, not even for a cure but even just something which legitimises their illness, to move away from anything but the basic science, was gross irresponsibility. ARVs for M.E/CFS is a largely self prescribing activity supported by forum postings where the dangers of ARV treatment are outright denied and self treatment is supported as a personal freedom. The WPI has done nothing to alert people to the dangers that long term ARV treatment can pose, and one could conclude that the failing of the WPI is one of negligence rather one of intent. As a recipient of NIH funds (80% of WPI’s money seems to have come from the US Government) perhaps it is to the NIH that concerns about the WPI should be addressed, alough as a tenant of the University of Nevada, the operation of WPI might be of interest to UoN managers.

    My own take is that the the Whittemores are well meaning but way in over their heads when it comes to dealing with a scientific institution. They chose Mikovits as a lead because she made all the right noises and had a good admin record, but there’s been a complete absence of independent scientific oversight. The advisory board is made up of media medics and organisational cheerleaders – the Science paper got them all hot and bothered and very pleased with themselves, without anyone asking (or even able to ask) the hard questions. It was bound to end in tears. Science as a process needs to get to grips with the XMRV fiasco but M.E/CFS patients are still sick and some acknowledgement of the patients would be good within any corrective process that now follows.

  76. #76 Jack
    October 1, 2011

    Now ‘HGRVs’ come in aerosol form! It get’s better and better don’t it?

    What are the odds that these latest relevations never make it out of Judy’s bulging drawers? πŸ˜‰

  77. #77 ERV
    October 1, 2011

    ROFL!!!! Which one of you is this Poe?

    I call Poe, because no one is that stupid. You would have to be hooked up to machines to be kept alive if your brain was operating at a level required to be dumb enough to write:

    (C) Lysates of activated PBMCs from healthy donors (lanes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7) or from CFS patients (lanes 3 and 6) were analyzed by Western blots using rat mAb to SFFV Env (top panel) or goat antiserum to MLV p30 Gag (bottom panel). Lane 8, SFFV-infected HCD-57 cells. Molecular weight (MW) markers in kilodaltons are at left.

    As you can see the top one that ERV uses the labels from is western blots using rat mAb to SFFV Env (top panel)

    As you can see the bottom one that ERV then takes the gel from is the western blot using goat antiserum to MLV p30 Gag (bottom panel).

    As you can see, the bottom panel has NOTHING TO DO with the top panel! It could TOTALLY be what Judy says it is NOW, she just ‘forgot to label it’ and ‘forgot to talk about 5-AZA’ in the Science paper!

    That is an excuse I had not expected. Judy should keep it in the bag for the next time one of these ‘accidents’ pops up. LOL!!

    Also– According to the Science papers SOM, they exposed their westerns to film. We expose ours digitally, so I was like ‘Okay, maybe they got images mixed up. We all have over 9000 digital images.’, but you write on film. You write on it, put it in a lab book/book just for films, and walk to a scanner and scan it when you generate a publication or presentation.

    But Im sure Judy (or that damn post doc) just accidentally scanned the wrong image that just happened to have the pattern they ‘saw’ with their epigenetics assays.

  78. #78 Mary
    October 1, 2011

    People truly cannot believe what that poe has posted…

    really..really…no one there asks for evidence from the OP…after all the work put into this post..all they can come up with is that: ERV has meanly and vindictivly switched the labels for this blog to discredit Judy?

    with advocates like him/her…no wonder the disease is so misunderstood… blind leading the blind…

  79. #79 RRM
    October 1, 2011

    That is incredibly stupid.

    Because Judy was imcompetent enough to label one of two idential pictures as representing a gag and the other of two identical pictures as representing an env test, ERV doesn’t know gag from env? Huh?

    Great to see this idiot now backtracking and changing her argument to “these pictures are clearly different”. Well, why did’t you make that your whole argument in the beginning then?

  80. #80 Poodle Stomper
    October 1, 2011

    Yep, the blindingly obvious identical-ness of the two blots is all in your head ERV! Geez! Didn’t you know that? I mean, I’ve done a ton of blots before and mine all turn out identical…every time! It’s to the point that I just don’t run new ones. I reuse old ones and save us grant money!

  81. #81 Sigmund
    October 1, 2011

    That post by v99 was hilarious- at least it is to those of us who are molecular biologists.
    I suspect that v99 isn’t.
    A paper in ‘Science’ isn’t the sort of place to include an entire experiment without mentioning it!
    Especially one that provides evidence in support of your disputed claim!

  82. #82 Poodle Stomper
    October 1, 2011

    Yeah, v99 clearly has no science background and no clue what he/she is talking about. Sadly, one of the things the internet does is make some people think they’re an expert on everything =P

  83. #83 sasqwatch
    October 1, 2011

    It could just be a coincidence.

    I mean, this is a HUGE universe. Existing in mind-blowingly staggering deep time. Billions and billions of years for something like this to happen in an unimaginably huge volume. It’s inevitable that SOMEwhere, SOMEwhen, something at least as improbable as this would happen. Why not here, now?

    (covers head, runs, dodges rotten things, fakes left, then right, dives, gets up, runs some more)

  84. #84 Richard Jefferys
    October 1, 2011


    It’s actually worse than you think, what the poster v99 is claiming–and to be honest it’s so weird that it took me a while to get it-is just totally false. They write (referring to the Science paper figure 2 panel c):

    “The labels on the top one don’t apply to the bottom one.”

    Yes, they do. Says so clearly in the figure label. Gag is the bottom panel, and ERV is comparing that to the Gag panel in the presentation slide.

  85. #85 RRM
    October 1, 2011

    Another thing that’s IMO pretty stupid about this presentation, is that Mikovits still used one of the retracted slides from Silverman’s lab:

    Yeah, it was then only retracted one day, but Mikovits (co-)submitted the retraction herself as early as 8/3/2011.

    Furthermore, the slide not really shows true “PCR negatives” in that figure, as this figure only reflects the single round PCR experiment by Silverman and not the nested PCR performed by WPI (with the 68/101 result). Finally, one “PCR negative” does seem actually positive (WPI-1178) on that slide, at least to my admittedly not very reliable understanding…

  86. #86 RRM
    October 1, 2011

    @Richard Jefferys,

    Yes, I “understand” it now too. Can’t say I am impressed with you understanding her better than me though, but still thank you anyway… πŸ˜‰

  87. #87 mary
    October 1, 2011

    what a crappy attempt… and the illegal, criminal, fraud and lets contact her university has started…

    hope the link works

  88. #88 ERV
    October 1, 2011

    Dear god thats creepy! LOL!!

    Anyone can access the original images in the Science paper and from Slide13 on Dr. DJs website.

    I even used PowerPoint to make my pics, not even fancy editing software.

    Literally anyone can replicate what I did, on their own, at home, if they do not believe me.

    My observations are reproducible.

    Unlike Judys.



  89. #89 ERV
    October 1, 2011

    Dammit– Im doing it again. Im focusing on the crazies and the assholes instead of the people who are actually sick. There are normal CFS folks speaking up about this.

    Im probably the most guilty of this out of anyone– Lets not forget to give them kudos in favor of laughing at twats.

  90. #90 anonymouse
    October 1, 2011

    Could somebody please post a link to the original images in the Science paper that can be accessed for free. I am really getting angry at V99 who has started a cascade of bullshit by making something up and people are reposting the bullshit everywhere with no proof. I would like to answer him directly but need to be able to look at the original copies. What a bunch of lunatics. And just where the hell is Mikovits, she should respond to this somewhere on the internet.

  91. #91 mary
    October 1, 2011


    there is a link posted in the body of the text….but just in case:

  92. #92 ERV
    October 1, 2011

    Anon– Follow the link mary posted, and if you register, I *think* that paper is free (they just want you to register. I dunno wtf…)

    If that wont work (Im always signed in, so I dunno what people can/cant see) send me an email and I can get you the paper (though Im sure V99 will say I tainted it. heh. taint.)

  93. #93 mary
    October 1, 2011

    missed a space so link failure… I have been following the PR website on this…IT IS nice to see some open minds, independent thinking, and attemps at understanding the science….BRAVO ..kinda refreshing..

  94. #94 David
    October 1, 2011

    I think for a lot of people its like being told how those David Copperfield tricks work.
    They have just sat through half an hours distraction and razamatazz, then have been told his assistant has an identical twin.

    How can someone be trapped in one place, then appear at another instantaneoulsy?

    – because the other was just an exact copy!

    Its deflating. Up to that point you were amazed, then you feel cheated – and dissonance kicks in – “no – but – but I saw….”

  95. #95 David
    October 1, 2011

    Oh, and B.T.W, thanks for your comments @88. It is beyond infuriating how some of these people behave, For me its just an endless facepalm, and a stomach churned hope that people who know what they are talking about are not reading this crap. Turns out they are of course – so any indication that people can see beyond these idiots is welcome.

  96. #96 Jack
    October 1, 2011

    Definitely the same.

    I went back to the originals too. It don’t take a scientist to see that what has been said at the beginning of this thread (and now elsewhere on the sensible forums and facebook pages) is true.

    I would be interested to hear the talk that accompanied the slide – just to hear how it was presented at the conference as ‘evidence’ of something completely different.

    Not that I expect one (I mean why change the habit of a lifetime) but it would be interesting to hear an explanation from Knicker-fits.

    V99 and her XMRV Global Advocacy not to mention MECFS Forums are a disgrace. She is doing absolutely nothing to help people with my condition and neither is she helping her beloved WPI for that matter either.

    Of course you won’t get her admitting she was wrong either – nor Gerwyn for that matter. Straight out of the Knicker-fits mould.

  97. #97 Nick
    October 1, 2011

    Originals Science here
    Conference slide here


    I’m also a patient. There are a handful of lunatics running this particular wing of the asylum. We are like any other large community of people. The squeaky wingnuts get the attention. Most of us are normal.

  98. #98 Judson
    October 1, 2011

    LOL. I hope mikovitz has a Patronus Charm….

  99. #99 Lavendr
    October 1, 2011

    I’ve read quite a few of V99’s posts in the past. He/She seem to operate (and it’s hard for those of us who like accuracy and evidence to even consider) by telling blatant untruths in an authorative manner. Because a lot of it is done in pseudo-sciencey jargon, and often poorly written, it’s hard to sort through it. But this, BUT THIS, is such a blindingly clear example of the modus operandi (and his/her level of smarts). IMO he/she is not (necessarily) being deceptive on purpose, they are just way out of their depth, don’t understand the science very much all, and have a very flawed perception of their abilities. Plus they’re blinded by faith.

  100. #100 daedalus2u
    October 1, 2011

    Judson #97, It it my understanding that those who practice the Dark Arts are incapable of effectively using the Patronus Charm. πŸ˜‰

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