XMRV Buzz: NIH/NCI Conclude XMRV Probably Contaminant/ NIH Studies Continue

June 26, 2011

Posted by Cort Johnson

The National Cancer Institute jumped in early on the XMRV discovery and has probably funded more research into the retrovirus than any other Institute but two weeks ago they were the first NIH Institute to definitively say that XMRV did not play a role in CFS or prostate cancer.
Now the NIH’s update of their website is concluding much the same thing – while leaving themselves some wiggle room. Their website now states that XMRV appears to be a contaminant and then, in a bit stronger language, “The body of evidence now indicates that XMRV does not play a role in ME/CFS.d”

What does this turnabout mean for the two NIH studies? Nothing; for one they’re careful to state that the evidence ‘now’ indicates XMRV does not play a role in ME/CFS – which means they have not closed the door yet and the two studies, both of which the WPI is involved in. The BWG study is due this Fall and Lipkin study at the end of this year.

The NCI and Their Video – Meanwhile the NCI has released a Bulletin that not only explains, in laymen’s terms, the XMRV story the way NCI researchers see it but even includes a 6 minute video.

They describe a series of sometimes remarkable findings. A key finding was the discovery that the genetic sequences of two viruses in mice fit together almost perfectly to form XMRV. This made it clear that XMRV did indeed come from mice…but which mice? Switch back now almost 20 years earlier as researchers culture a bit of prostate cancer tissue in mice cells to create the first prostate cancer cell line.

Last year a study showed that that same cell line was producing large amounts of XMRV and it was coming the mouse cells the prostate tissues had been cultured in.

Molecular Viral Archeology - A thorough study of mice strains cemented that finding when it found that XMRV could only have come from the strain of lab mice used in the prostate cancer cell culture.

That did not mean that XMRV could not have jumped from the lab into humans and caused CFS in people who became ill after 1996. The second part of the vise that has closed in on XMRV involves genetics. Thus far all the published sequences look almost exactly like the XMRV that came out of that lab – suggesting that they never entered the human body. The WPI has submitted sequences to GenBank that they say are variable enough to suggest otherwise but that assertion appears to have fallen on deaf ears. (The CAA reported that some experts stated the new sequences looked very much like the old sequences).

(There is a caveat…the CDC has found sequences in prostate cancer variable enough to suggest this virus has infected humans……but does this effect the CFS findings? Not until somebody can find those same sequences in CFS patients….and thus far nobody has found them or any evidence of XMRV in the 10 CFS studies or the almost 20 non-CFS (non prostate cancer studies) studies.

It’s certainly true that there has never been any direct evidence of contamination at the WPI….Dr. Jonathan Stoye noted that

“Admittedly, we have no direct evidence of a patient sample being contaminated,” but stated that “all of the indirect evidence leads one to believe that contamination is the most likely explanation” for reports of XMRV.

A Primitive Virus – Another leg of the NCI’s argument that XMRV has not infected people with ME/CFS is the fact that XMRV appears to be easily squashed by the immune system. Yes, if large amounts of XMRV are injected directly into the blood streams of primates, it can go on to infect many other tissues but the infection appears to be quickly squashed even in this instance. Some researchers find it hard to imagine how a virus that doesn’t or rarely replicates in human cells can do much damage. (The WPI has reported that XMRV does replicate in B-cells).

Having two large Institutions publicly cast doubt on XMRV was stunning but citing new positive study results and new evidence soon to be released Annette Whittemore looked quite confident on a recent Nevada Newsmakers program. She noted that the WPI was still collaborating with some NCI researchers who apparently are not in agreement with the NCI’s recent announcement. At some point hopefully this year all sides will agree on just what XMRV means for CFS and other disorders.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sasha June 27, 2011 at 2:28 am

Thanks for keeping us up to date with things, Cort. It’s a really complex picture with XMRV and whatever happens, we need more research.

At the moment, the WPI are winning their region in the Vivint daily online voting contest and will win $100,000 if that keeps up. But we need more voters! Please, everyone, it takes 10 seconds a day. Just get a Facebook account (takes minutes!) if you don’t have one and vote here for WPI: http://www.vivint.com/givesbackproject/charity/769

We want to make the WPI safe for the regional prize and give it a shot at the transregional prize of $250,000; we also want to build the total vote so that down the line people will also feel able to support Canada’s National ME/Fibromyalgia Action Network: http://www.vivint.com/givesbackproject/charity/855

Many of us came to Phoenix Rising looking for information about XMRV. There are routinely 700+ people online on this site looking at the information. Won’t each of you do this small thing to help yourselves? It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of free research money and we should be cleaning up!


Sasha June 27, 2011 at 5:16 am

By the way, I wonder if it would be possible to announce each new XMRV Buzz piece with a link on the forums?


Jane June 30, 2011 at 12:07 am

Some time ago, a rumour was started on the PR forum that Silverman thought XMRV might be contamination. That was wrong, but I am sure the misinformant knew that at the time. Another time, Singh’s study was predicted to be positive, and Singh was our great white hope. The recent Singh study was another stab in the back, more spin to keep us from taking anti-retrovirals and to quiet us down. Is this genuinely from Cheney, or is it more false hope to keep us quiet, more spin from the rumour machine to knock the stuffing out of us when and if things turn out differently?

You may say I’m a suspicious old sod, but maybe I’m just guarding my heart. I suggest we all do the same, there is a long history of misinformation in the quest for understanding Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Be cautious, people, and be sure to keep supporting the WPI.


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