Virology: Fighting for a cause

  title={Virology: Fighting for a cause},
  author={Ewen Callaway},
When Judy Mikovits found links between chronic fatigue syndrome and a virus, the world took notice. Now, she's caught between the patients who believe her work and the researchers who don't. 
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Viral Infections
This immunological procedure was also used in 1975 by Yvonne Cossart to detect human parvovirus B19 in the serum of a blood donor in London (Cossart et al., 1975).
Phylogenetic Analysis of Murine Leukemia Virus Sequences from Longitudinally Sampled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients Suggests PCR Contamination Rather than Viral Evolution
Preliminary phylogenetic analyses strongly reject a model of within-patient evolution and demonstrate that the sequences from the first and second time points represent distinct endogenous murine retroviruses, suggesting contamination.
Testing Strategies for Detection of Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-Related Virus Infection
Mouse DNA contamination should be carefully checked when testing human specimens in order to avoid false-positive detection of XMRV or MLV-like sequences.
Unexpected findings and promoting monocausal claims, a cautionary tale.
  • S. Copeland
  • Psychology
    Journal of evaluation in clinical practice
  • 2017
The CFS case presents a cautionary tale, illustrating the risks involved in drawing a theoretical hypothesis from an unexpected observation, and the tendency in contemporary clinical research with CFS to promote new research directions on the basis of reductive causal models of that syndrome.
Embattled scientist in theft probe


Comment on “Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”
The cases with CFS and the control subjects in their study are poorly described and unlikely to be representative, and independent replication is a critical first step before accepting the validity of this finding.
A New Virus for Old Diseases?
The detection of xenotropic murine leukemia virus–related virus (XMRV) in about two-thirds of patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome is described, suggesting this virus has a causative role in this disease.
Failure to Detect the Novel Retrovirus XMRV in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Although it was reported that 68 of 101 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome in the US were infected with a novel gamma retrovirus, xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV), a virus previously linked to prostate cancer, no evidence that XMRV is associated with CFS in the UK is found.
Prevalence of xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome in the Netherlands: retrospective analysis of samples from an established cohort
This study failed to show the presence of XMRV in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome from a Dutch cohort, and cast doubt on the claim that X MRV is associated with Chronic fatigue syndrome in the majority of patients.
Absence of xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus in UK patients with chronic fatigue syndrome
It is believed that the detection of neutralising activity that did not inhibit VSV-G pseudotyped MLV in at least four human serum samples indicates that XMRV infection may occur in the general population, although with currently uncertain outcomes.
Identification of a Novel Gammaretrovirus in Prostate Tumors of Patients Homozygous for R462Q RNASEL Variant
Data provided for the first demonstration that xenotropic MuLV-related viruses can produce an authentic human infection, and strongly implicate RNase L activity in the prevention or clearance of infection in vivo, raise questions about the possible relationship between exogenous infection and cancer development in genetically susceptible individuals.
Detection of MLV-related virus gene sequences in blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy blood donors
The gag and env sequences from CFS patients were more closely related to those of polytropic mouse endogenous retroviruses than to those that of XMRVs and were even less closely related than those of ecotropic MLVs, which is a genetically diverse group of MLV-related viruses.
Absence of evidence of Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-related virus infection in persons with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and healthy controls in the United States
Blood specimens tested from persons with CFS and healthy controls and matched healthy controls found no evidence of infection with XMRV in the U.S. study population of CFS patients or healthy controls by using multiple molecular and serologic assays.
Contamination of human DNA samples with mouse DNA can lead to false detection of XMRV-like sequences
Since there is a high degree of similarity between XMRV and abundant endogenous MLV proviruses, it is important to distinguish contaminating mouse sequences from true infections, and it is vital that contamination by mouse DNA be monitored with adequately sensitive assays.
Mouse DNA contamination in human tissue tested for XMRV
These results show that contamination with mouse DNA is widespread and detectable by the highly sensitive IAP assay, but not always with less sensitive assays, such as murine mtDNA PCR.