Study Linking Virus and Chronic Fatigue Retracted

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

NEW YORK (AP) - A prestigious scientific journal is retracting a
controversial 2009 report that linked chronic fatigue syndrome to a
virus.

In an unusual move, the journal Science is taking that step on
its own. Normally, authors retract their own research papers when
serious problems arise after publication.

But Science has lost confidence in the report and the validity
of its conclusions, editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts writes in
Friday's issue. He said most of the authors have agreed in
principle to retract the paper "but they have been unable to agree
on the wording of their statement." A retraction signed by all the
authors "is unlikely to be forthcoming," Alberts wrote.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by severe fatigue for
at least six months, impaired memory and other symptoms.

The 2009 paper, from scientists at the Whittemore Peterson
Institute in Reno, Nev., the Cleveland Clinic and the National
Cancer Institute, reported finding a virus called XMRV in blood
cells of some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. That raised
hope that a cause of the mysterious illness had been found,
although other viral suspects over the years had proven to be false
leads.

But follow-up studies found no evidence of such a link. Last
May, Science published two reports suggesting the original finding
was due to lab contamination.

At the time, Alberts published a statement declaring that the
validity of the study was "now seriously in question."

Then in September, the authors retracted some of the data,
citing contamination.

In his statement on the full retraction, Alberts said the
authors had also acknowledged omitting important information about
the study's procedures in an illustration of some lab results.

Robert Silverman of the Cleveland Clinic, one of the paper's 13
authors, said in a statement Thursday that he was pleased by the
full retraction. He said he had sought one this summer after
finding that blood samples were contaminated.

Through a spokeswoman, another study author, Francis Ruscetti of
the cancer institute, declined to comment.

Annette Whittemore, president of the Whittemore institute, said
in a statement that her organization remains committed to
discovering the roots of the disorder. "It is not the end of the
story, rather it is the beginning of our renewed efforts," she
said. "We ... look forward to the rigorous review of our
scientific research."

A key figure in the research, Judy Mikovits, is no longer with
the Whittemore institute.


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