Nature News has an excellent piece reviewing the state of play after the first reports of the XMRV virus in people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have been put in doubt both by a string of failed replications and evidence of contamination in the original research samples.
Chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS is associated with diffuse body pain, persistent tiredness and loss of concentration and is controversial owing to the fact that some patient groups are determined to identify a ‘physical cause’ while many professionals understand and successfully treat it as having a significant ‘psychological’ component.
We covered the details of the intense debate last year, but the argument was heated further recently when first reports of a virus in some CFS patients have been shown to be extremely unlikely.
The hypothesis that the retrovirus has a role in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been dealt a serious blow by the publication of two damning papers in Science and an “expression of concern” from the journal’s editor over the original report that identified signs of XMRV infection in two-thirds of people with the condition but fewer than 4% of healthy people. The authors of that paper, led by Judy Mikovits at the Whittemore-Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nevada, declined a request from Science to retract it, calling it “premature” in a statement.
“It’s a bust,” says Jonathan Stoye, a retrovirologist at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, part of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC), who was one of the fiercest critics of the association between XMRV and CFS. “People who are interested in this condition will have to move on.”
Yet scientists are not yet sure what the fallout will be for the future of research into CFS, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)
The Nature News piece discusses where CFS research can go next now “XMRV’s 15 minutes of fame seem to be up” and whether this will reduce scientific interest in what is genuinely a debilitating condition.
Definitely worth a read.