Friday, June 10, 2011

XMRV, Contamination, and Loss of Prestige

To whom it may concern,

Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS) is categorised by the World Health
Organisation (WHO) in the 10th edition of the International
Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) as a physical/neurological illness
in section G93.3 (ICD-10-G93.3) where it is also listed as Benign
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or ME. The WHO acknowledge that the term
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is used as a 'colloquial reference' to
PVFS/ME[1]. There are many thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers
underpinning the biomedical nature of PVFS/ME(CFS). Unfortunately
however, there is a long, dirty and well-documented history of political
vested interests skewing the scientific process as far as PVFS/ME(CFS) is concerned
[2]. The experience of the ME community in this respect is
far from unique[3] but few other patient groups and associated
medical/research professionals have had to put up with quite the degree
of sustained adverse political lobbying and assault that afflicts the
field of PVFS/ME(CFS).

In May 2011, Editors of the prestigious journal 'Science' asked the
co-authors of the 2009 paper that linked Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to
infection with a gamma retrovirus, known as XMRV[4], to voluntarily
retract the paper[5] following other studies that have failed to detect
the retrovirus. Dr Judy Mikovits, one of the 'Science' XMRV paper's key
authors has robustly refused to retract: citing the fact that other
studies have indeed found evidence of human gamma retrovirus infection, that no study to date has replicated or disproved her original research, that other major scientific investigation into gamma retrovirus infection is ongoing and that the science on the matter is very far from
settled[6].
Following the extraordinary request of the 'Science' journal
editors, the scientific literature, established media and the internet
have, not surprisingly, been awash with heated and detailed comment,
claim and counter-claim. However, two key points that seem to be
understated or lost altogether in coverage by much of the established
media are:

1. If human gamma retrovirus infection was not really present in in subjects studied and findings were simply an erroneous laboratory contamination issue then how on earth have more than one group of
researchers found significantly more such alleged 'contamination' in patient subjects than control subjects? This simply defies logic.

2. Until the research techniques and patient selection criteria used in
the original Lombardi and Mikovits et al study have been properly and
independently replicated and shown to be both seriously flawed and
indicative of malpractice there should be absolutely no question of
their paper being withdrawn from the journal 'Science'. Premature and
unwarranted calls for such retraction defies professionalism.

In taking the precipitous and extraordinary action that they have
regarding said Lombardi and Mikovits study, the editors of 'Science'
have opened themselves up to the accusation that they are caught up in a
very different 'contamination' issue to the one they write about. Namely
the contamination of what should be independent scientific editorial
with undue political considerations.

The editors now stand accused of having caved-in to behind-the-scenes
pressure. Pressure that has absolutely nothing to do with genuine
science but everything to do with political lobbying by vested
interests. The 'Science' journal is often described as being one of the
most "prestigious" in its field. It is now viewed by many to have sunk
to the level of the gutter press. In my opinion it is the editors of
'Science' that need to retract, not Lombardi and Mikovits et al.

Anglia ME Action
June 2011
contact@angliameaction.org.uk

ENDNOTES:

[1] http://www.who.int/classifications/icd/en/
For accuracy, full reference needs to be made to the three-volume
published/book version of ICD 10 (especially the alphabetical
index/volume 3 as well as the tabular list/volume 1) and additional WHO
comment as comprehensive coverage of the ICD is not given on the WHO
website. The bibliographic details of all three ICD-10 volumes are:

- International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related
Health Problems - Tenth Revision -- Second Edition: Volume 1 -- Tabular
List -- ISBN: 92 4 154649 2.

- International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related
Health Problems - Tenth Revision -- Second Edition: Volume 2 --
Instruction Manual -- ISBN: 92 4 154653 0.

- International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related
Health Problems - Tenth Revision -- Second Edition: Volume 3 --
Alphabetical Index -- ISBN: 92 4 154654 9.

[2] See, for example, documents at the following URLs:
http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/Comments-on-PDW-letter-re-PACE.htm
http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/COMPLAINT-to-Lancet-re-PACE.htm
http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/magical-medicine.htm
http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/Corporate_Collusion_2.htm

[3] See for example: Professor Bruce Charlton -- Zombie Science -- a
sinister consequence of evaluating scientific theories purely on the
basis of enlightened self-interest, Medical Hypotheses (2008) 71
327-329, DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2008.05.018:
http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2008/07/zombie-science-dead-but-wont-lie-down.html

[4] Lombardi VC, Ruscetti FW, Das Gupta J, /et al./ (October 2009).
"Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients
with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". /Science/ *326* (5952): 585--9.
doi:10.1126/science.1179052. PMID
19815723<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19815723>.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5952/585

[5] Editorial Expression of Concern, Science Express, Published Online
31 May 2011. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1208542
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2011/05/31/science.1208542.abstract
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2011/05/31/science.1208542.abstract
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5952/585.full.pdf
Also see Wall Street Journal comment at:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303745304576355852212887170.html

[6] http://www.wpinstitute.org/news/docs/WPI_pressrel_053111.pdf
http://www.wpinstitute.org/news/docs/FinalreplytoScienceWPI.pdf

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