The crew at the Phoenix Rising Forums has been busy. Rrrr – went so far as to snag Dr. Coffin, one at the top retrovirologists in the country, and ask him some questions about XMRV.
Tracking XMRV Down – What is he and Tufts University doing on XRMV? – Dr. Coffin is looking far, and has not yet found, the exact mouse virus that gave birth to XMRV. He’s working with Dr. Huber – who’s also studying endogenous retroviruses in CFS. Dr. Coffin seems to be be doing a bit of backchecking on XMRV. We knew that it was REALLY close to a mouse virus and he said he was checking to be sure the XMRV really is in the human DNA and is not from mouse droppings (ie is a contaminant). He seems to be referring his own lab (?) with regard to this since this doesn’t appear to be an issue in the Science paper. He did note that the NCI is developing extremely sensitive assays for XMRV in the white blood cells.
When asked if his thoughts about the Science paper had changed since the negative studies came out he simply replied “He’d feel a lot better if other studies had confirmed it” (To that I say “so say we all” :)).
Put That Bug on Trial – Now! –
He also, surprisingly, felt that it was time for a clinical trial of antiretrovirals. (He’s far ahead of the curve here). A successful clinical trial is kind of the ultimate test of XMRV’s role in CFS; if it works then XMRV (or another retrovirus) is definitely present in CFS. You can throw away all the negative PCR tests if that happens. Of course it’s hard to get a clinical trial going before an Association between XMRV and CFS is proved but he’s all for it.
Comparing the early days of HIV and CFS (only 7.5 months now) Rrr reported he said ” The science community is very mobilized since the Science paper” but that things could have been moving much faster if the early studies confirmed XMRV’s presence. (Dr. Mikovits too noted that projects that the WPI thought were ready to go were put off after the negative studies appeared.)
Blood Test Ready….NOW -Rrr asked about a definitive blood test and had the impression from Dr. Coffin that one had just come in and that Abbot labs – the main labs behind the HIV blood test – provided it. If that’s true that’s a huge step forward and means testing should proceed much more quickly. Interestingly Rrr reported that Dr. Coffin said the test is going to be part of the screening process for the nations blood supply (which does kind of suggest that they’re finding XMRV? Why screen for something that’s not there?…but I may be going too far in my interpretation). Anyway we’re going to know sooner rather than later about the association between CFS and XMRV – Dr. Coffin said it’s a matter of months now.
Evasive Little Bugger – Since the negative results came out we’ve wondered if there could be a different strain in Europe that’s evading researchers attempts to find it. To that issue Dr. Coffin said that ‘a lot’ of people are trying to figure out if XMRV is more diverse than it first looked. (Remember all PCR does is look for pieces of genetic code – not the whole virus…if those pieces happen to be slightly different….) Check out more of the interview and a discussion here. Thanks Rrr!