Since Science magazine published the XMRV research
by the WPI, National Cancer Institute and the
Cleveland Clinic there have been several attempts to
cast doubt on the quality of that research.
a strange way to conduct science when the quality
of the research and the methods employed to perform
the XMRV research are seemingly portrayed as having been
carried out by a couple of amateur scientists and
published by a school magazine.
It needs to be re-stated that the original XMRV
research was carried out by organisations and
researchers that are
professional and expert in their processes,
procedures and knowledge. It also
needs to be re-stated that the work was a
culmination of years of work and underwent a rigorous six month peer review process by Science
magazine before it was published.
Compare this with the recent research
using different methodologies and patient cohorts
which have been carried out by Erlwein et al.,
Imperial College, published online in Plos One  and, more recently, by a
new study (published 15 February 2010)
online journal Retrovirology by Harriet C T Groom
et al. "Absence of xenotropic murine leukaemia
virus-related virus in UK patients with chronic
fatigue syndrome" Retrovirology 2010,
7:10doi:10.1186/1742-4690-7-10. Erlwein et al. found no XMRV by
nested PCR (0/186) in their samples and the
research by Groom et al. has not identified XMRV DNA
in any samples either by PCR (0/299).
These two studies were not
replication studies of the original one published in
Science magazine and are suspect.
The most recent attempt to cast doubt on the
XMRV research in relation to CFS has been made by a Dutch group.
Firstly it would be prudent to look at some of
the names in these recent UK and Dutch trials.
The Dutch study includes two names
- Gijs Bleijenberg (Clinical Psychologist and Head of the
Nijmegen Expert Centre for Chronic Fatigue, Netherlands ) and
Jos W.M. van der Meer.
Bleijenberg was invited to give the keynote speech at the
psychosocial conference organised by AfME and AYME
(Collaborative Conference on CFS/ME: October 2007 
- a conference which also included Trudie Chalder (Professor
Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, Department of Psychological
Medicine, King’s College London – and who works with Professor
Bleijenberg's speech was
entitled "Cognitive behavioural therapy for chronic fatigue
syndrome: the role of pain and the effects of guided
Bleijenberg and Jos W.M. van der Meer were also authors of
which states that -
"CFS is neither the result of an
organic disease or ongoing exertion nor alleviated by rest."
One can draw one's own
conclusions then of the quality, purpose and value of this
latest Dutch study.
The haste with which these recent XMRV studies
have been arranged and, more importantly, been published is
significant. Contrast them with the painstaking research performed by the
WPI, NCI and Cleveland clinic and the protracted and very
stringent validation of that research by Science magazine before
it was published.
It is interesting to note that the CMO's office,
in its reply to Invest in ME in January 2010 (click here) already quoted the Imperial
College McClure/Wessely study. The letter from the CMO was dated
5th January - one day before the Imperial College paper was officially
published! Even allowing for some pre-release of the IC paper this
still seems to indicate at least establishment collaboration in
the intent to give publicity to this early study.
Patients who have been denied proper attention
and funding of biomedical research into ME by the CDC and the UK Medical
Research Council are entitled to be extremely suspicious
of the latest UK and Dutch studies. Patients should also be
suspicious of the motives of others who
seem to be unduly quick to publicise these studies.
However, patients have already been warned to expect
negative results by Drs. Nancy Klimas and David Bell as the
first studies are being published.
These first studies have used different
methods when trying to validate their tests to detect
XMRV in blood samples from CFS patients. The
patient cohorts are also suspect.
We are reminded of Dr Chia's words
in his entry in Lost Voices (which was published
before the discovery of XMRV in CFS). Dr Chia wrote
that many of the assumptions that were
made about this illness during the past
two decades were erroneous. The
discrepant results from different
laboratories were probably due to
differences in the handling of blood
samples, and the sensitivity of the
tests used to document the presence of
virus in the tissue of ME/CFS patients"
and in relation to similar problems
of early HIV research -
problem was solved after this wise
researcher sent his workers to another
laboratory to learn how to do the test."
This is what needs to be done with the
XMRV research in order to stop wasting precious time
and money. Collaboration and cooperation are the
keys to resolving this.
As Dr. Chia implies we must learn from past mistakes.
This will be well
discussed at the Invest in ME International ME/CFS
conference in May.
of the XMRV is not questioned and there is a lot of
interest in studying this new retrovirus.
The quality of the WPI, NCI and Cleveland clinic
cannot be doubted.
Invest in ME does have doubts about research
being hastily completed by persons who are known to hold ME as a
Invest in ME warn patients against being
disheartened by those who
seem to wish to discredit the WPI/NCI/Cleveland research.
We have doubts about the way that these early
trials, clearly not replications, have been awarded publicity by
an establishment which has for a generation avoided treating ME
seriously as an organic illness.
Invest in ME welcome support from any
organisations who have funding for high-quality research
proposals to join us in financing more biomedical research, or
provide Invest in ME with that money so that we can direct this
to the appropriate research. If research funds are available
then let us use them!
in ME's opinion is that any
replication studies need to be using exactly the
same method as used by WPI, NCI and Cleveland
and in close collaboration with the original
researchers to benefit patients sooner rather
As a postscript to the above the Whittemore-Peterson Institute
have contacted Dr. McClure directly to offer samples for Dr
McClure to test and to explain that XMRV had been found in UK
and Netherlands and correcting discrepancies in remarks made in
the BMJ .
There will be more on XMRV research and other
exciting research at the Invest in ME International
ME/CFS conference in London on 24th May (click
The true replication studies are
yet to come. These are early days still.
Look to the end.
6] Whittemore-Peterson Institute
Statement to Dr. McClure on Plos One Study -
The WPI comments on the two
UK studies can be seen here
Expert opinion discussing this
latest study by a virology professor can be found