Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bad Science from the Science editors

Mindy Kitei, CFS Central, Tuesday, May 31, 2011:

As a science reporter and blogger, what I find most perplexing about the Science editors asking Dr. Mikovits to withdraw her study is that the jury is clearly still out. While some laboratories haven’t found XMRV in CFS patients, others have. The ones that haven’t found XMRV failed to replicate the methods and patient cohort of the original Science study, making their findings questionable. The laboratories that have found the retrovirus include a study by National Institutes of Health Lasker Award winner Dr. Harvey Alter and the FDA’s Dr. Shyh-Ching Lo. Their study found variants of XMRV in 86 percent of patients and 7 percent of apparently healthy controls. All the controls were blood donors, signaling a contamination of the blood supply.

In addition, the original Science study was coauthored by the Cleveland Clinic and the National Cancer Institute, both of which also found the retrovirus in CFS patients. Moreover, other laboratories have found the retrovirus in CFS patients but have not yet published their findings. And, finally, respected laboratories have found the retrovirus in prostate cancer patients as well, making the contamination theory less than likely.

Given that others have replicated Mikovits’ findings, given the high stakes in a population that has no treatment after 30 years of government neglect, given that many CFS patients have died from the disease and many others experience a living death, I find it problematic that Science has asked Dr. Mikovits to withdraw the paper.

Some see this move as the first step to shutting down current NIH-sponsored XMRV CFS studies, as the government did 20 years ago, when the first evidence of a retrovirus in CFS patients surfaced at the Wistar Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. Back then, the Centers for Disease Control refused to replicate the methods of Wistar’s Dr. Elaine DeFreitas. When the CDC couldn’t replicate her findings, the research died. Twenty years later, it’s deja vu all over again.

Science seems to be hell bent on consensus, but as Harvard-educated physician and medical thriller writer Dr. Michael Crichton once pronounced: “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right....”

Whether Dr. Mikovits is right is anyone’s guess. But asking her to withdraw her paper before the truth is known is the antithesis of science.

Mindy Kitei
CFS Central

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