By Amy Dockser Marcus
Judy A. Mikovits, the embattled scientist who led the research team
that found a possible link between the retrovirus XMRV and patients
with chronic fatigue syndrome, has been terminated from her job as
director of research at the Whittemore Peterson Institute for
Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nev.
The controversial finding, published in a 2009 Science paper, excited
patients and researchers who have long been searching for a cause for
chronic fatigue syndrome, which has an array of debilitating symptoms
that include cognitive difficulties, severe pain, and overwhelming
fatigue. On Sept. 22, the authors of the paper, including Mikovits,
published a partial retraction of the findings in Science, after two
of the 13 study authors found contamination in blood samples from
A week later, Mikovits was fired, she told Health Blog.
In a letter from Whittemore Peterson President Annette Whittemore to
Mikovits, which was reviewed by Health Blog, Mikovits was terminated
after refusing Whittemore's direct request that cell lines be turned
over to another scientist at the institute who wanted to do research
In a letter of response, Mikovits said that the cells were for use in
a specific NIH-funded project and that it would be inappropriate to
use them for another purpose without her knowledge and consent.
Mikovits is a principal investigator on an ongoing NIH-funded study
that will test CFS patients and healthy controls for XMRV or related
viruses, and she said that she plans to take her grant with her to a
new institution where she wants to continue her work on CFS.
But like many things in the long-running XMRV saga, this may not be
simple. Institutions must agree to relinquish grants, and at this
writing, it was not clear that the Whittemore-Peterson institute is
willing to let the XMRV project go.