XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome: RETRACTED

Thank you to Bruce Alberts for taking the initiative to do this*. I would also like to thank all of the hard working scientists, from all over the world, who did real research to help resolve this issue. It restores my faith in science. It really does.

[Shorter Bruce Alberts: FUS-RO-DAH!!!!]

[Bulk of the letter is up at Retraction Watch!]

Science is fully retracting the Report “Detection of an infectious retrovirus, XMRV, in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome” (1). Multiple laboratories, including those of the original authors (2), have failed to reliably detect xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) or other murine leukemia virus (MLV)-related viruses in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients. In addition, there is evidence of poor quality control in a number of specific experiments in the Report. Fig. 1, table S1, and fig. S2 have been retracted by the authors (3).

In response to concerns expressed about Fig. 2C [summarized in (4)], the authors acknowledged to Science that they omitted important information from the legend of this figure panel. Specifically, they failed to indicate that the CFS patient-derived peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) shown in Fig. 2C had been treated with azacytidine as well as phytohemagglutinin and interleukin-2. This was in contrast to the CFS samples shown in Figs. 2A and 2B, which had not been treated with azacytidine.

Given all of these issues, Science has lost confidence in the Report and the validity of its conclusions. We note that the majority of the authors have agreed in principle to retract the Report but they have been unable to agree on the wording of their statement. It is Science’s opinion that a retraction signed by all the authors is unlikely to be forthcoming. We are therefore editorially retracting the Report. We regret the time and resources that the scientific community has devoted to unsuccessful attempts to replicate these results.

[Another great Cohen article-- I am *incredibly* impressed with the statements Alberts has made on this. Again, thank you, sir.]

* Though it would have been pretty damn sweet to have a blog article linked to in an official retraction in Science, I will take a link via Cohens article ;)

Comments

  1. #1 OWE
    December 22, 2011

    In my opinion they should have been a bit more clearer about your contributions rather than just giving a link to one of their ScienceInsiders. But then again this is “Science”. Anyway, WELL DONE!

    (But I think we would fool ourselves if we thought this is now be the end of the saga)

    OWE

  2. #2 Jack
    December 22, 2011

    Does Lipkin pull his study?

    ‘Mikovits and Ruscetti are currently taking part in a multilab study coordinated by pathogen sleuth Ian Lipkin at Columbia University in New York City that will look for XMRV and related viruses in many more CFS patients than were analyzed in the Blood Working Group study. Mikovits says this $2.3 million study, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also factored in to the decision not to sign the full retraction. “We think it’s premature to do anything before it’s complete,” says Mikovits, who estimates they will have results within 2 months.

    Alberts strongly disagrees. “I think they should cancel that study,” says Alberts. “It’s over. They can’t do the assays, so what’s the point? Why should that give any different result than the blood group study? Maybe us retracting will help them scale back how much money they’ve spent on that. It seems like an incredible waste.” ‘

    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/12/in-a-rare-move-science-without-a.html

  3. #3 RRM
    December 22, 2011

    And I was wondering why the investigation took so long….I could have known it was Mikovits/Ruscetti all along….:-P

    Nice to see some recognition for ya, ERV.

  4. #4 OWE
    December 22, 2011

    Does anyone please tell Dr D.-J.? She may have to reset the timer on her blog!

    OWE

  5. #5 Poodle Stomper
    December 22, 2011

    In response to concerns expressed about Fig. 2C [summarized in (4)], the authors acknowledged to Science that they omitted important information from the legend of this figure panel. Specifically, they failed to indicate that the CFS patient-derived peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) shown in Fig. 2C had been treated with azacytidine as well as phytohemagglutinin and interleukin-2. This was in contrast to the CFS samples shown in Figs. 2A and 2B, which had not been treated with azacytidine.

    Oh hey, that’s what people here have been saying for a while. I wonder what Mikovits’ followers will say to justify this (of course it was probably omitted for the good of the patients, right?)

  6. #6 anonymouse
    December 22, 2011

    The followers of Saint Judy are very very upset. The conspiracy theories are flying. The sentiment is that Science is retracting the study prior to Christmas on purpose to ruin everybody’s Christmas and make them miserable.

  7. #7 Poodle Stomper
    December 22, 2011

    The sad thing is that I’m not sure if you’re serious or kidding…a lot of them really might think that!

  8. #8 anonymouse
    December 22, 2011

    @ Poodle Stomper — I am not kidding, they actually believe that.

  9. #9 t_p_hamilton
    December 22, 2011

    The mouse xmrv “science” made a list of top science scandals of 2011:

    http://the-scientist.com/2011/12/19/top-science-scandals-of-2011/

  10. #10 spence
    December 22, 2011

    Coverage from the BBC here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16306646

  11. #11 Alan Dove
    December 22, 2011

    Abbie, you can post the full text of the retraction anytime. Science sent it out “for immediate release” this morning, and Nature has had a complete copy of it linked from their blog posting on this since mid-morning. It’s most definitely public.

  12. #12 Poodle Stomper
    December 22, 2011

    @anonymouse,

    Well crap. It’s bad when people get so ridiculous that you can’t tell when they are being serious or parodied. Sigh.

  13. #13 Poodle Stomper
    December 22, 2011

    Also, the full retraction is up now and can be found here: http://timewellness.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/retraction-12-23-11.pdf

    Nothing really different from the bulk Abby put up top, though.

  14. #14 Prometheus
    December 22, 2011

    Win for science, win for Abbie.

    A remarkable track record to date. I look forward to future vindications, and an equally gruesome comeuppance for those who would answer cries of desperation with fabulism and expensive poisons.

  15. #15 Justicar
    December 22, 2011

    It’s just all part of the conspiracy against Mikovits, whose recombinaltion tiniker protocols, need I remind you, saved my life. Just like my twitter profile reads. =^_^=

    Grats by the way.

  16. #16 XMyRseV
    December 22, 2011

    As it’s Christmas, altogether for a sing-song to the tune of Oh Christmas tree:

    XMRV, XMRV
    At last Science is Retracting
    XMRV, XMRV
    No more NIH distracting
    With dodgy data, and made up figs
    Paranoia and anti-Coffin digs
    XMRV, XMRV
    At last Science is Retracting!

    My New Year wish is to hear no more from these malingering fuckers who have enough energy to spread poison on the mecfsforum and any other outlet that will allow them (see the Science story today) about hardworking scientists wasting millions on following up this bullshit.

    To everyone else, merry Christmas and hopefully a 2012 full of compelling and reproducible science that really casts a light on human disease.

  17. #17 levi
    December 22, 2011

    Probably some of the XMRV research costs were not entirely wasted. For example, it was apparently not clear that so many cell lines and biologicals have been contaminated with murine retroviruses for so long, including scientifically engineered microbes that escaped lab containment measures.

    As to cancelling the Lipkin study, I hope that does not happen. He has a cohort of 150 well-selected CFS patients, and the expertise and scientific resources to delve into a biological basis for ME/CFS. He is not limiting his search to XMRV, he plans to give the cohort the full “virus hunter” approach. His study is likely the last hope for any progress before ME/CFS research returns to being an unfunded scientific backwater and medical wastebasket diagnosis.

  18. #18 Perplexed
    December 22, 2011

    @Levi
    That’s one of the more optimistic views of things. I suppose finding contaminated prostate cancer cell lines is useful to people working on them, but that could have been achieved without the hysteria of the CFS connection.
    What upsets a lot of people though is the opportunity cost. The hours wasted by labs that could have been researching something worthwhile, not to mention the projects that were never funded. Projects with plausible hypotheses based on preliminary data acquired through years of painstaking research. Some of these must inevitably go unfunded (and people therefore unemployed/looking for an alternate career) in order to fund a project whose feasibility is entirely based on lies. Lipkin can only find the “biological basis for ME/CFS” if that basis is a single virus, and the only evidence for that was made up.
    I can see why CFS patients would be grateful for the attention garnered by XMRV, but I’m not sure it has helped given how things turned out. Of course this is primarily the fault of Mikovits and the WPI, but the response of fringe groups/individuals to the genuine science is going to make people think twice. Researchers interested in viruses have no shortage of deserving populations and interesting viruses. A new one would be nice, but I shan’t hold my breath.

  19. #19 levi
    December 23, 2011

    Perplexed states:

    I can see why CFS patients would be grateful for the attention garnered by XMRV, but I’m not sure it has helped given how things turned out.

    I am not sure either. Since virtually no money was being spent on biomedical ME/CFS research before this XMRV fiasco, and now no money is likely to be spent in the future, the lack of interested or motivated scientific researchers you speak of is merely a secondary detriment.

    A number of scientific researchers seem to enter the field when their lives are touched by friends or family who become afflicted with the illness. That will not change.

    ME/CFS patients have always had bad PR as a general patient group, which is sort of ironic since as a group so many of them can’t do much to help themselves on more than a basic level. That leaves public perceptions focused on a very small minority of the most exasperating and colorful characters who do not make good ambassadors or spokespeople for the suffering legions.

    Having a scientist of Dr. Lipkin’s stature delving into the possibility of pathogens that might be responsible at least in part for ME/CFS is certainly a positive development. Even if a new virus is not discovered, there may be a common fabric for a more simple answer or microbial association revealed. For example, a mutant strain of EBV, or a specific combination of microbes could be signature for ME/CFS.

    But the greater possibility is that in the future, a new development coming from research into other tricky illnesses such as MS, ALS or Lupus might come up with a pathogen or other factor that can be cross-checked against Dr. Lipkin’s samples in the current study.

  20. #20 Kemanorel
    December 23, 2011

    And this is why science works. :-)

  21. #21 Jack
    December 23, 2011

    Levi,

    I think you will discover that Lipkin is facilitating two studies: one for XMRV referred to by Alberts above in which Mikovits and Ruscetti will take part; and one using NGS and, as you say, his full ‘virus hunter’ approach.

  22. #22 In Vitro Infidelium
    December 23, 2011

    #18 “What upsets a lot of people though is the opportunity cost.”

    Unfortunately the Science mag retraction doesn’t help address this, in fact to some extent it actually serves to obscure the problem with the meme “science is self correcting, this is all just business as usual”.

    Without questioning what went wrong (not least at Science mags peer review level) no one can be certain that there are not to be significant future (and even current), egregious levels of avoidable ‘opportunity costs’. The fundamental failure of the WPI process (and it is a charge that could made about the Lipkin work) was the complete absence of a ‘prior plausibility test’ – that is no one asked and answered the question: ‘why should a retrovirus be a single causative factor in a heterogenous condition currently described only by poorly defined symptomology ?’

    Had that key question been asked, by both the Lombardi et al authors, and by the the Science mag per reviewers, then the 70% XMRV positive results should have rung alarm bells rather than encouraging acceptence of the data.

    “Prior Plausibility” -http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/plausibility-in-science-based-medicine/ is a vital test in the cause of reducing ‘opportunity cost’ in medical research and the one long term benefit that could come out of the XMRV debacle would be if it were to applied far more widely at all stages of medical science.

  23. #23 Jack
    December 23, 2011

    ‘One of the authors who noted the problems with the work, Robert Silverman, said in a statement today that he was in favor of a full retraction at the time the contamination was discovered. He said he was “pleased” that Science has now retracted the paper.’

    http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2011/12/22/science-retracts-paper-on-xmrv-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-link/

    He still da man!

  24. #24 Jack
    December 23, 2011

    Answer to my question perhaps?

    ”Dr. Lipkin, who is also the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia, said he believed the retraction was premature.

    “In my view, the investigation should be allowed to proceed while we sort out what’s real and not real,” Dr. Lipkin said. Those with the illness, he added, are “a group of people who have had their hopes dashed more than once, and they deserve a full hearing of the data.” ‘

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/23/health/research/science-journal-retracts-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-paper.html?_r=1

  25. #25 starskeptic
    December 23, 2011

    …way to go, Abbie!..

  26. #26 mary (abbie's ilk)
    December 23, 2011

    Lipkin has to to take the PC road. His primary study is based upon this paper. Also, the fact that Judy is involved is great cuz she cannot dismiss the results…although she did with the BWG study. Also, he doesn’t have to use his private group to fund another contamination study. Is it a waste of funds? Maybe, but if it gets the militants to move on..perhaps worth it.

    Bruce Alberts = GRINCH.. Do they really believe a man of his caliber is that petty?

    Congrats to all involve, the shoutout is great for ERV and the peeps that helped annonymously…. mary

  27. #27 Jack
    December 23, 2011

    Thanks Mary. I guess Lipkin is actually only stating his opinion. He seems to be implying it is not his decision (?).

    Presumably it will be the decision of the sponsors (NIH) at the end of the day. But if the results are imminent (Mikovits is quoted as saying March and others as ‘within two months’) then they may consider the money spent already.

  28. #28 In Vitro Infidelium
    December 23, 2011

    #25 “Is it a waste of funds? Maybe, but if it gets the militants to move on..perhaps worth it.”

    There’s little chance of the ‘militants’ moving on, they’re too invested in their beliefs. A further study might help disuade some of those who are impressed by the militants that the whole HGRV approach is bust, but the whole conspiracy theory, disease is a mystery, the Vatican has known the answer for years, Issac Newton had M.E etc, is way too attractive for some folks.

    There’s also the ‘treatment factor’ that HGRV offers – “I want that AZT, so I can have medication like everyone else who is sick”, which is an inevitable attitude in a society where demand led health delivery means treatment provision is the only form of illness legitimisation – “no treatment = no disease”.

  29. #29 got ilk?
    December 23, 2011

    Taking bets on how long it will be before angelic Annette, holding her hands just so with that innocent head tilt, will appear on the simpering Sam Shad’s daytime news show (sponsored by one of Harvey’s resorts) to proclaim that they have NEW answers and patients are up out of their wheelchairs thanks to a NEW cocktail and testing available ONLY at WPI. After all, she is quoted saying the retraction is just one chapter in the normal scientific process and it’s the beginning, not the end. I can hardly wait!

    Anyone wanna wager?

  30. #30 Lynn
    December 23, 2011

    I’m sure Abbie means to point this out again, she stated it in an earlier column, but the tip that the labeling was inconsistent came from one of her readers not Abbie herself. So as you say – kudos to that person.

    @perplexed – your comments exemplify many of the problems in this field.

    Many are quick to weigh in without full facts whether patient or troll.

    Abbie can explain this further if you do not understand, as she has read the literature extensively, but multiple pathogens have been implicated in subgroups with this disease – but not all subgroups.

    Why? Science is all about hypotheses so here’s a few scientists familiar with the field have put forth including Dr. Lipkin and Dr. Racaniello:

    1. Multiple pathogens can cause the same disease or diseases with similar core symptoms.

    2. This could be an uncommon reaction to common pathogens. Immune system abnormalities are well documented in such patients.

    3. Insufficient study power – 10-12 pathogens have been implicated over the years. Assuming all are likely candidates and you only do a study of 20 people then it is statistically unlikely that each one will be represented. Dr. Lipkin’s metagenomics study using next generation sequencing will have 200 carefully defined patients. Why?

    4. Dueling definitions – when you mix subgroups, or even more inappropriately, people without a disease in with patients with a disease the science doesn’t work. At the very least the results of one group cannot be extrapolated to another very different group.

    5. Waiting six months or much longer to look for a virus in the sera only? Really?

    As world renowned myalgic encephalomyelitis expert Dr. Nancy Klimas stated in the New York Times in 2009, “I hope you are not saying that C.F.S. patients are not as ill as H.I.V. patients. My H.I.V. patients for the most part are hale and hearty thanks to three decades of intense and excellent research and billions of dollars invested. Many of my C.F.S. patients, on the other hand, are terribly ill and unable to work or participate in the care of their families.

    I split my clinical time between the two illnesses, and I can tell you if I had to choose between the two illnesses (in 2009) I would rather have H.I.V. But C.F.S., which impacts a million people in the United States alone, has had a small fraction of the research dollars directed towards it.”

    I hope the trolls don’t mind, but I’m sure most scientists and patients are going to take the word of an expert with nearly 30 years experience over someone who has done no research and knows nothing about the literature en total or the patients.

    Most people who do not believe in a disease that is well documented in the scientific literature are generally self-absorbed. “If I haven’t experienced something, it doesn’t exist and no fact will change my mind.” That sort of thing. It doesn’t make them right, just ignorant.

    And more and more virologists are coming on board. More than a few of the scientists who were unable to replicate Lombardi et al publicly stated that in their expert opinion there is an infectious element to this neurological disease and they plan to continue studying pathogens in this disease.

    People who don’t wish to do so are of course just as free to turn their attention elsewhere.

  31. #31 Lynn
    December 23, 2011

    The following conclusion is taken from retrovirologist Dr. Ila Singh’s 2011 study (Shin et al):

    “Given the lack of evidence for XMRV or XMRV-like viruses in our cohort of CFS patients, as well as the lack of these viruses in a set of patients that previously tested positive, we feel that that XMRV is not associated with CFS.

    We are forced to conclude that prescribing antiretroviral agents to CFS patients is insufficiently justified and potentially dangerous.

    It is also vital to state that there is still a wealth of earlier data (2, 10) to encourage further research into the involvement of other infectious agents in CFS, and these efforts must continue.”

  32. #32 In Vitro Infidelium
    December 23, 2011

    #29 Without Mikovits feeding Angelic Annette semi scientific justifications it’s difficult to know what direction the WPI will take. Perhaps Lombardi will influence things pragmatically, at least from a business perspective, and the WPI will take a much lower profile in the hope of retaining some level of credence with the federal grant makers. The WPI must also be having some uncomfortable interactions with its landlord at the University of Nevada which is unlikely to welcome further public attention to off the wall pseudo medicine claims by its tenant/partner/affiliate. With the former VIPdx laboratory operation apparently having been transferred to WPI ownership, it’s possible that there’s enough income from that operation to keep Lombardi and a few staff employed doing standard contract lab work., with Annette’s starring role gradually being downplayed.

  33. #33 Jack
    December 23, 2011

    Amen to that Lynn and I am sure that they will.

    This was all about the Lombardi paper and I think (again) that some folk (elsewhere) are choosing to forget that. If there is indeed something else other than what was reportedly found in Lombardi then they simply need to publish a paper about it.

    Anything else like HGRV’s is (at best) speculation. I mean for heaven’s sake HGRV’s could in theory be behind anything and everything – but they weren’t in the Lombardi paper.

    From the little that has been published about the Lipkin facilitated XMRV study – they will be doing exactly the same as they tried to do in the BWG and in Lombardi – but with fresh and unconnected blood samples.

    Unless Mikovits and Ruscetti have held back some method that was not revealed before, some assay that has never been used, then I can’t see this study making any difference what soever – especially perhaps as Mikovits is in a new lab ;)

    On the other hand Lipkin’s main study is intriguing and I look forward to hearing more about it in due course.

    Happy Christmas from a CFS/ME patient :)

  34. #34 charles s
    December 23, 2011

    Just saw the news, good for you, Abbie.

  35. #35 Tum
    December 23, 2011

    Were are the patients THAT GO ON AND ON AND ON LIKE A BROKEN RECORD? Posting THE SAME STUFF everywhere? And why have they STOPED TO MENTION VP62? Please, wake up, THIS IS A CONSPIRACY.

    F*ck, I as a patient hate this ignorant buggers.

  36. #36 Tum
    December 23, 2011

    And just for the record: I would like to distance myself from these conspiracy loons. (Which doesn’t change the fact that the amount of research done on ME/CFS is insufficent)

  37. #37 Tum
    December 23, 2011

    My New Year wish is to hear no more from these malingering fuckers who have enough energy to spread poison on the mecfsforum
    Posted by: XMyRseV | December 22, 2011 5:37 PM

    I would like to hear no more from these idiots too, but you do realize that patients with MS where once considered to be malingers and have been on this ground denied proper medical care? So calling people “malingers” when there is proven bodily disfunction (See Alan Lights excellent Gene-Expression studies or Anthony Komaroffs neurological studies) and implying they aren’t really sick and shouldn’t be treated by anybody else than shrinks is as close to a crime against humanity as is denying HIV. So f*ck you.

  38. #38 Tum
    December 23, 2011

    Since virtually no money was being spent on biomedical ME/CFS research before this XMRV fiasco, and now no money is likely to be spent in the future, the lack of interested or motivated scientific researchers you speak of is merely a secondary detriment.

    Well, “a lot” of biomedical research started this year – well, not a lot compared to other diseases, but compared to last year. And “the Norwegians” found something they interpret as autoimmune. Just one link I found quickly:
    http://www.research1st.com/2011/12/02/newsworthy-highlights/

    The XMRV paper was from a scientific stand-point bad, it lead to a lot money wasting with replication studies (gee, there are so many findings of bodily abnormalities, like low NK-cell cytotoxicity, in ME/CFS that need replication studies!), but from a political view-point it got some attention and some people started to treat the disease like a disease – and not like a joke (on the expense of the patients).

    I can only wait and look forward to next year. And post angry comments in blogs. After all, that’s what we malingers like to do! (Yeah, go to hell XMyRseV. Human compassion my arse too.)

  39. #39 Tum
    December 23, 2011

    ”Dr. Lipkin, who is also the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia, said he believed the retraction was premature.

    “In my view, the investigation should be allowed to proceed while we sort out what’s real and not real,” Dr. Lipkin said. Those with the illness, he added, are “a group of people who have had their hopes dashed more than once, and they deserve a full hearing of the data.” ‘

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/23/health/research/science-journal-retracts-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-paper.html?_r=1

    Posted by: Jack | December 23, 2011 5:39 AM

    Yeah, that is the reason why the Lipkin/Mikovits study must be done (even if it costs whopping unbelievable 2.3 MUSD): To show whether Mikovits can or can not replicate her own work, in a properly controlled study. So that patients don’t cry conspiracy and foul play from today until the end of the world – or until the real cause of their disease is found.

    Mind you, there are some who already now claim that there is something wrong with the study design and it is set up to fail. But I wonder: What do they know, that Mikovits doesn’t know? And why don’t they tell her?

    I have to wait. That’s all I can do. And write angry comments in the meantime. Hurray!

  40. #40 herr doktor bimler
    December 23, 2011

    you do realize that patients with MS where once considered to be malingers and have been on this ground denied proper medical care?

    When? By whom?
    I ask from a mixture of curiosity and skepticism, not out of hostility.

  41. #41 Lance
    December 23, 2011

    Well done Abbie!

  42. #42 Levi
    December 23, 2011

    herr doctor bimler @38:

    MS can be sneaky. Although Charcot identified MS in the 1800′s as a distinct neurological illness, patients have often been misdiagnosed as hysterical “functional” individuals with mental illness. even Charcot misdiagnosed some MS patients in that manner who later progressed to full-blown MS. There is a concise discussion about this here:

    In 1868, Jean-Martin Charcot identified multiple sclerosis (MS) as a distinct nosological entity. By 1870, American neurologists became aware of the “new” disease and began to diagnose cases in the United States. For the next 50 years, however, American physicians thought it was a rare condition. From 1920 to 1950, this perception changed dramatically; by 1950, neurologists considered it among the most common neurological diseases in America. The increasing prevalence of MS between 1920 and 1950 can largely be explained as an effect of an increase in the number of trained neurologists, urbanization, a changed ecology of disease, and altered concepts of gender and disease. Physicians recognized MS more frequently because over time there were more neurologists who had the skills necessary to make the difficult diagnosis, and because patients were more likely to be seen by a trained neurologist. Significant numbers of patients with MS had been misdiagnosed with other diseases such as hysteria and neurosyphilis; over time, they were increasingly diagnosed correctly.

    http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/perspectives_in_biology_and_medicine/v048/48.3talley.html

  43. #43 Andrew
    December 23, 2011

    IVI – Your argument about opportunity cost is disingenuous. If there is one thing that scientists need the freedom to do, that is the freedom to make risky hypotheses and make mistakes. Science won’t make significant progress unless scientists make leaps in their hypotheses.

    The XMRV virus is known to be able to infect human cells and other primates. The actual risk was completely unknown (We now know that fortunately no one is actually infected). But that doesn’t mean that lab workers aren’t potentially at risk…

    Therefore there was some plausibility and the opportunity cost which has so far (for example) has been less than 0.1% of the total economic burden of CFS in Europe and USA is basically insignificant.

    If you want to talk about plausibility and societal benefits, then we need to start talking about cutting down the HIV/AIDS research funding in the USA which is over-funded even when considering global and projected burden. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0016837

  44. #44 Andrew
    December 23, 2011

    By the way, we can’t stop here. We need to move to get the rest of the XMRV papers withdrawn, starting with Urisman et al. (2006)

    To do otherwise would be hypocritical.

  45. #45 Perplexed
    December 23, 2011

    @40
    I don’t think anyone would deny that scientists should have and largely do have the freedom to hypothesise wildly and test improbable ideas. But before large-scale studies are performed you generally need to show plausibility (i.e. preliminary data in most cases) to justify the time and expense. In this case, if you remove the fraudulent data the research was not at all convincing, would never have appeared in Science and no one would have had to spend the time and money debunking it.
    The opportunity cost refers in this case to those scientists who didn’t lie about their data, who therefore appeared less plausible than Mikovits and who were not funded. Their daring/novel/risky hypotheses have not been explored.
    Obviously mistakes and dead-ends are an inevitable part of research and so long as everyone is honest about their results you can argue that even the mistakes are worth something. Once people start lying though, all bets are off; you can’t believe anything they did so the time and money were wasted. That is annoying.

  46. #46 Perplexed
    December 23, 2011

    @41
    I agree, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the XMRV papers are dealt with. The difficulty will be those papers that can be confidently said to be wrong, but where the authors were genuinely mistaken rather than deceitful. Ideally the authors of those papers would take the initiative with corrections/retractions and you’re right, it would help a lot if Silverman took the lead with the Urisman paper.

  47. #47 Tum
    December 24, 2011

    you do realize that patients with MS where once considered to be malingers and have been on this ground denied proper medical care?

    When? By whom?
    I ask from a mixture of curiosity and skepticism, not out of hostility.

    When? Before there were tests, but you can find examples even today. While today there are some diagnostic tests for MS, the diagnosis depends on signs and symptoms and interpretation/opinion of the physician. If the tests are inconclusive (or not all test are done because they are expensive like MRI or demanding like CSF testing) and the signs and symptoms are not that clear, it comes down to how the physician views you. And they can come to the conclusion that you are faking it.

    By whom? Looking into it, I can’t find any historic proponents or if there ever was anything like a consensus. Probably there wasn’t. Documents from the beginning of the last century are a bit underrepresented in the knowledge space visible through the internet.

    Today, the not so clear cut MS cases are probably shoved into the “Conversion Disorders” category if they go to the wrong doctor – sounds much more scientific than “malingering”. And remember: never endorse their “false illness believes” by doing tests! Well, I’m bit biased and allergic against any of these “psychosomatic” believes, as they offer no explanation how it is even supposed to work (not to mention how it evolutionary arose). They may not be so present (or visible) in your country, but anything that isn’t clearly visible to an outside observer (or can be confirmed by tests) can and is still shoved into “its all in the brain” category. In ME/CFS, how many physicians know about the gene expression studies by Alan Light that show it isn’t “in the brain”? And how many get their information from the CDC? Just look what the CDC recommends under treatment (almost half are things like CBT, GET, counseling and anti-depressents) and tell me that some physicians don get the message that CFS is “all in the head” without needing to explicitly state it in a written form. So maybe I’m over sensitive and biased against any shoving off into psychiatric categories, I think it is a crime against humanity to even tolerate these practices and by now I find it doubtful that there are actually any kind of psychosomatic/hypochondriac/conversion/whatever disorders.

  48. #48 In Vitro Infidelium
    December 24, 2011

    @Andrew #40

    There’s a point at which cognitive deficit ceases to be an acceptable excuse and deliberate stupidity has to be inferred.

    Prior plausibility is precisely the basis of argument used on every M.E/CFS forum to challenge the use of the bio-socio-psychological model of M.E/CFS – yet because you’ve got a pet area of research you want exempted from reasoned judgement you now want a judgement of prior plausibility to be deemed an unacceptable limitation on medical research. If you want your arguments taken seriously, go away and learn some basic logic, and appraise yourself of how science works and how research is funded.

  49. #49 Smurfette
    December 24, 2011

    @29 got ilk? -

    How long until? Negative four months. Wheelchair @4:29 and @6:06

    http://www.nevadanewsmakers.com/video/default.asp?showID=1341

    Secret pill @4:10 and more wheelchair @5:07

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9Y-MhBa6Qg

  50. #50 RRM
    December 24, 2011

    I also like Mikovits saying that the Lipkin study will take three years (now she’s saying it will take just two months):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWN3rkbXCm4&t=12m30s

    Be sure to also listen to the part after 13:20 (when we’ve apparently traveled a year in time).

    Perhaps someone told her you can perform these tests simultaneously.

  51. #51 RRM
    December 24, 2011

    BTW, what’s this with American court verdicts? Surely the final WPI vs Mikovits verdict is publically available somewhere (or will be)? I’d like to read it…

  52. #52 ischemgeek
    December 24, 2011

    Darn! Why couldn’t this have happened a month ago so I could show it to the first-years I TA as an example of science in action? By the time next semester starts up and I get my hands on them again (third week of January), it won’t be as topical. Damn it all.

    Erm, is it weird that I see stories like this and my first thought is always, “Ooo, cool! How can I work this into the lab for the first-years?”

  53. #53 Andrew
    December 24, 2011

    In Vitro Infidelium – The unpopularity of the ‘biopsychosocial’ model is due to the fact that the psychological approaches have never demonstrated objective improvements in disability, for example improvements (from below normal) on neuropsychiacric tests or actigraph measurements. None of these results have shown improvements whenever they have been tested.

    If you get improvements on self report questionnaires, but no objective improvements of disability, it is a non sequitur to assume the psychological treatment approach actually works.
    Patients don’t care about the philosophy or logic behind it, they care whether it actually works for them. This is why CFS patients who have comorbid depression have no problem with CBT as long as it is targeted towards their depression and not assumed to cure CFS. It is that simple.

    As far as funding goes, my family has scientists in multiple fields both government and academic research so I do have a practical perspective of how science is funded.

    We both agree that the funding of medical research grant proposals is not exactly a rational process:
    http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d4797.full

    The above might also partly explain why so little research has been done on CFS in the last 20 years.

    To everyone else, if you really want to help, maybe you should consider actually doing research to help CFS patients, rather than merely being sceptical? In terms of research funding, CFS is neglected by a magnitude of order compared to almost all other diseases (in most western countries). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18397528

    If you want to push out the bad science, you must replace it with the good!

  54. #55 Jack
    December 26, 2011

    ‘… it is our current view that the association of murine gamma retroviruses with CFS has not withstood the test of time or of independent verification and that this association is now tenuous. Therefore, we retract the conclusions in our article.”’

    A noteworthy decision. Lo and Silverman both keep their integrity. Brava!

  55. #56 levi
    December 26, 2011

    Andrew @53 states:

    If you want to push out the bad science, you must replace it with the good!

    Andrew, there is no requirement for replacing bad science with good. It has been well demonstrated that it is entirely possible for the governments, scientific community and medical orthodoxy to dismiss and completely abandon a significant population of direly ill people with a number of medically unexplained illnesses. Its not just ME/CFS, it happens regularly with a number of medically unexplained illnesses, such as Gulf War Syndrome victims or farm workers who are suffering from low grade pesticide/soil fumigation poisoning.

    In addition, it is possible to leave these patients socially and economically stranded and targeted by woo peddlers and a psych lobby that offer financially draining, dangerous and ineffective treatments. For decades. To add insult to injury, bad science is used to sell these bogus ineffective treatments while the scientific community usually turns a blind eye. The sooner ME/CFS patients wake up and realize that they are completely on their own to deal with their illness, the better off they will be.

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