Dutch Journalists have been all over the European XMRV Conferences. Now in a startling announcement two Dutch journalists from the Health Professionals Journal Ortho report that they were able to obtain a lecture from NIH official Dr. Harvey Alter at the Blood Transfusion workshop May 26/27th in Zagreb, stating that both the FDA and NIH had confirmed the WPI’s original findings.
Dr. Harvey Alter is the Clinical Studies Chief at the Infectious Diseases and Immunogenetics Section of the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda. The Dutch journalists report that Alter’s lecture stated “The data in the Lombardi, et al Science manuscript are extremely strong and likely true, despite the controversy”. The lecture also purportedly stated “the association with CFS is very strong, but causality not proved. XMRV and related MLVs are in the donor supply with an early prevalence estimate of 3%‐7%. We (FDA & NIH) have independently confirmed the Lombardi group findings.”
The Dutch report does not include rate of XMRV prevalence found in CFS but does report that the ‘association with CFS is ‘very strong’ which can only mean, if true, that it was found in a much higher percentage of CFS patients than healthy controls. Indeed the similarity between the FDA and NIH findings of XMRV in healthy controls and the WPI’s findings suggest that prevalence rates in CFS may be similar as well(67%).
Note that the report indicated that two institutions have independently confirmed the Science reports original findings – something that would presumably make their findings unassailable. Dr. Alter would not confirm or deny the report but did say a paper would be out soon.
Dr. Harvey Alter is a well known researcher (he has a bio in Wikipedia) whose work lead to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. The chief of the infectious disease section and the associate director for research of the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he received the distinguished Albert Lasker award in 2000. He has 300 citations to his name in PubMed.
It’s hard to imagine that such a report coming from such reputable scientists working in such important institutions, would not quickly legitimize the original Science findings. Researchers around the world (and governments and physicians and, of course, patients) have been waiting for a definitive word on XMRV. If this report is from the FDA and the NIH (somewhere in the NIH?) then this may be the report that everyone’s been waiting for. Because it’s harder to find XMRV than not find it, any report that shows how to actually find it has the potential of negating all the negative studies before it.
There’s been a uptick of positive reports over the last month. Several weeks ago Dr. Klimas reported a positive paper was on the way; a finding a Phoenix Rising Forum member reported was originally from Dr. Suzanne Vernon. Today, Hillary Johnson reported in a blog that two researchers have contacted her in the last few weeks stating that a major research paper confirming the Science paper will be published shortly and that it could push positivity rates in ME/CFS even higher.
It’s possible that the recent AABB announcement recommending that blood collection groups aggressively discourage blood donation by CFS patients, was prompted by these findings as well.
Some care should be noted. Until these findings are in printed in black in white in a medical journal they make little difference in the research world. If that occurs then an association with CFS will be established. Then will come the work of finding what, if any other diseases, the virus is associated with, and what role it plays in ME/CFS. It could be a passenger virus or it could a major factor in CFS (ie the Puppet Master).
In any case, the confirmation of the WPI’s original findings should, in itself, unleash a large amount of funding devoted to further understanding the connection between XMRV and ME/CFS. A big win indeed :).