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Scientists claim the XMRV is nothing to worry about. Perhaps you agree. Now is the time to take a look at the evidence presented by these scientists who declare there is no relationship between XMRV and disease. You may want to reconsider.
If you're a casual consumer of health information you might be forgiven for having come to the conclusion that the findings by Dr. Judy Mikovits of a correlation between the XMRV retrovirus (xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and possibly autism, while intriguing, just didn't quite pan out. And maybe you thought that the book I wrote with Dr. Judy Mikovits, "PLAGUE – One Scientist's Intrepid Search for the Truth About Human Retroviruses, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), Autism, and Other Diseases" was just a last gasp attempt by a scientist intent on salvaging what remained of her reputation.
That is, after all, what so much of the media seems intent on pushing, pointing to Columbia University researcher Ian Lipkin's multi-center study of 2012 which was supposed to settle the question from this moment in time until the death of the Sun some five billion years from now. If there was any doubt that's was what you were supposed to believe, it should have been settled by the September 18, 2012 article in Nature which described Dr. Lipkin as "The Scientist Who Put the Nail in XMRV's Coffin."
And yet the Lipkin of 2013 didn't sound quite so certain. In a public conference call with the Centers for Disease Control on September 10, 2013, Dr. Lipkin reported on his findings with Dr. Jose Montoya of Stanford University regarding a well-defined cohort of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients. Lipkin reported,
"We found retroviruses in 85% of the sample pools. Again, it is very difficult to know whether or not this is clinically significant or not. And given the previous experience with retroviruses in chronic fatigue, I am going to be very clear in telling you, although I am reporting them in Professor Montoya's samples, neither he, nor we, have concluded that there is a relationship to disease."
When an attorney is wrapping up a case to a jury he'll often take what seems upon first glance to be an unusual approach. Instead of concentrating on the facts and evidence he has presented, he'll throw all that out. "Don't concern yourself with any of the evidence I've presented!" he'll tell the jury." Let's look at the evidence in the light most favorable to the other side. Even if I throw out all my evidence, the position of my opponents doesn't make any sense.
In this article I'm not going to discuss the evidence for XMRVs being associated with diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and autism. Instead, I'm going to talk about the evidence presented by those who claim XMRVs are nothing to worry about.
The first piece of evidence was an article published on March 27, 2013 in the journal Retrovirology by Vinay Pathak, and was entitled "Xenotropic MLV Envelope Proteins Induce Tumor Cells to Secrete Factors that Promote the Formation of Immature Blood Vessels." The article reviewed the history of XMRV-2 (now conveniently renamed B4Rv), the agreement that it had probably been created through lab experiments, and then said "the results suggest that xenograft approaches commonly used in the study of human cancer promotes the evolution of novel retroviruses with pathogenic properties." It was the increased incidence of rare cancers among chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients which first attracted Dr. Mikovits, a former Director of the Lab of Antiviral Drug Mechanisms at the National Cancer Institute to become interested in the disease.
The second piece of evidence is Ian Lipkin's declaration of September 10, 2013 that he found retroviruses in 85% of Dr. Montoya's well-defined chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) population. Since the majority of both the positive and negative XMRV studies found evidence of XMRVs in approximately 3-6% of the healthy population, we can agree this is a stark difference Dr. Lipkin is to be commended for sharing this 85% finding, but faulted for his lack of scientific courage and curiosity in determining its relevance.
The third piece of evidence was provided by Dr. John Coffin, working with Dr. Vinay Pathak in November of 2013. The article was entitled "Generation of Multiple Replication-Competent Retroviruses through Recombination between PreXMRV-1 and preXMRV2" and published in the Journal of Virology. They found: "the presence of reverse transcriptase activity at 10 days post-infection indicated the presence of RCRs [retroviruses that can replicate]." In other words, it only takes about ten days to bake up a nasty little retrovirus when you put the right ingredients together.
The fourth and final piece of evidence comes from an article published by the American Society for Micorbiology in February of 2014. The article was entitled "How Can Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-related Virus (XMRV) Contamination be Prevented? Susceptibility of XMRV to Alcohol-Based Disinfectants and its Environmental Stability." In closing the authors instructed lab workers on how to disinfect their work space for this retrovirus and stated, "Their applications will help to prevent unintended XMRV contamination and minimize the risk for laboratory workers to become infected with this biosafety level 2 organism." ( However, they conveniently fail to discuss how to protect worker from inhaling aerosolized XMRVs.)
Did you get all that?
Now you see, none of this information was from my point of view. I wasn't asking you to consider the statement from Dr. Mikovits that got me into this controversy: that if a retrovirus was involved in autism it could be stimulated by a vaccination since retroviruses commonly reside in the immune response cells. (Although you can find that information on the University of California at San Francisco, HIV-AIDS web-site.)
I wasn't asking you to consider the information we presented in our book that the medical personnel at Los Angeles County Hospital who suffered the first recorded outbreak of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) in 1934-1935 received an experimental polio vaccine that was passaged up to forty-five times through mouse tissue, a span of time which probably took longer than ten days. Or that this vaccine was given in concert with an immune serum preserved with thimerosal, a mercury derivative.
I wasn't asking you to consider the antibody response Dr. Mikovits found in patients (an event which can only take place in a living organism and not a test tube), the electron micrograph pictures she took of the retrovirus budding from a cell (evidence which nearly three decades earlier had been enough to convince the scientific community that Dr. Luc Montagnier had bagged the retrovirus involved in AIDS), or even the signature of abnormal chemokines and cytokines she found that that Dr. Lipkin is now eagerly reporting in another cohort of CFS patients, or why Lipkin is deliberately failing to ask if Dr Mikovits's signature presented first in the July 22, 2009 Invitation only meeting at NIH where she first reported the isolation of XMRV from CFS and cancer patients was present in that 85% of Montoya's chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients who tested positive for a retrovirus.
I don't want you to think about that at all.
Instead, I want you to review the information presented by the other scientists who are telling you that XMRV isn't anything to worry about.
I want you to consider Dr. Vinay Pathak's report that envelope proteins from the XMRV retrovirus stimulate the development of cancer and that Dr. Mikovits' initial interest in chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) stemmed from the elevated risk of cancer in the members of this population.
I want you to ponder Dr. Lipkin's finding that 85% of the chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients from Dr. Montoya of Stanford University tested positive for a retrovirus.
I want you to reflect on the research by Dr. Vinay Pathak and Dr. John Coffin showing that if you mix the right tissues together, you can create a replication-competent retrovirus in just ten days!
And finally, I want you to cogitate on the recommendation from the American Society for Microbiology that a scientist should clean his lab with alcohol-based disinfectants to avoid infection with XMRV, currently listed as a bio-safety level 2 organism.
Now that you understand the position of the other side, we hope you'll pick up our book to learn why XMRVs are something to worry about.