An ongoing dialogue on HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases,
February 7th, 2012
Chronic Fatigue: Is There Hope After XMRV?
I’ve been following the chronic fatigue/XMRV story from the start, which was compelling for several reasons, including:
- A potential cause was identified of a very debilitating, mysterious illness.
- Lots of very smart ID people (including some of my colleagues) studied it.
- Media coverage, notably from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, was particularly skillful.
In that last vein, the Times today has a fascinating summary of the current situation for this once promising link.
In a word, the link is kaput.
After numerous investigators were unable to duplicate the original results, Science issued an “Expression of Concern” about the paper they had published in 2009. Then in late December, that paper was fully retracted by the Editor of the journal, as was a key supporting paper — really the only supporting paper — that had been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Could things get any worse? Of course. Here’s what’s come of the lead investigator in the original Science paper:
Dr. Mikovits left her position as research director at the [Whittemore Peterson Institute] in a dispute over management practices and control over research materials. The institute sued her, accusing her of stealing notebooks and other proprietary items. Dr. Mikovits was arrested in Southern California, where she lives, and jailed for several days, charged with being a fugitive from justice.
But even with all these clouds, there’s an important silver lining to all this news nicely articulated by a noted virologist:
“The disease had languished in the background at N.I.H. and C.D.C., and other scientists had not been paying much attention to it,” said John Coffin, a professor of molecular biology at Tufts University. “This has brought it back into attention.”
I couldn’t agree more. And with that greater attention, perhaps we’ll see some discoveries that really help people.