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Oct 16, 2011           

me+ME: More on the demise of XMRV

At long last I did get some decent amount of sleep, which does help some. And here is some more on the demise of XMRV, mostly in the form of links and for documentary purposes. Note this is a small Nederlog but the links are rather a lot of data.

I only provide the links with some comments:

- ERV blog: 22 september
- ERV blog: 29 september
- Racaniello Virology Blog: 27 september

The first two are to Abbie Smith's blog: 22 september links to a Science Live Chat with doctors Busch and Levy, the first of the SRWG research reported below, the second an associate of dr. Peterson; 29 september links to Abbie's magic trick with the slides from the 2009 Science paper and the Ottawa talk by dr. Mikovits, which currently has 1087 comments; and the third is professor Racaniello's virology blog entitled "Trust science not scientists", with the following first two paragraphs

Whether or not the retrovirus XMRV is a human pathogen has been debated since the virus was first described in 2006. The answer is now clear: the results of Blood XMRV Scientific Research Group, along with a partial retraction of the 2009 Science paper describing identification of the retrovirus in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) show that detection of XMRV in patient samples is a result of contamination.

The Blood XMRV group obtained new blood samples from 15 individuals previously shown to be positive for XMRV (Lombardi et al., 2009) or MLV (Lo et al., 2010) ; 14 of these were from CFS patients. Fifteen blood samples were also obtained from healthy donors. The samples were coded and sent to 9 laboratories for analysis. These laboratories (Abbott Molecular, Abbott Diagnostics, CDC, FDA/Lo, FDA/Hewlett, Gen-Probe, NCI/DRP, and WPI) conducted validated assays for viral nucleic acid, viral replication, or viral antibodies. Positive control samples were also included that were ‘spiked’ with XMRV, in the form of cell culture fluids from the cell line 22Rv1. Each laboratory was at liberty to choose which assays to carry out.

 This then is brought out, supported and clarified by the following:

- PR-F: XMRV Webinair - Results of BWG
         - Q&A Video and Slides
- Research1st: XMRV Webinar Links & Other XMRV Updates
- CFIDS.org: SRWG slides pdf (7.3 MB)
- Youtube: Webinar recording - slides + audio

The first is on Phoenix Rising and also contains the links to the other three: The Research1st is html by Kim McCleary of the CAA and is a brief summary including a 10 point answer to various criticisms that have been made; the CFIDS.org gives the slides for the SRWG-results; and the Youtube link takes one through the slides with audio comments by Kim McCleary of the CAA and doctors Kleinman, Busch, and Simmons of the SRWG.

Unless one is "A True Believer In ME=XMRV" all of this is both quite convincing and conclusive, at least in a pragmatic and common sensical fashion, since it also remains true that one can escape all criticism and uphold any thesis if one is blind, ignorant or prejudiced enough - see the Quine-Ullian thesis, for which see

- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Evidence

I quote from this, for your edification - and as it happens I owe and have read all sources given, and give a link to Hume + my extensive comments:

A rational man is one who makes a proper use of reason: and this implies, among other things, that he correctly estimates the strength of evidence.
   —Ayer, Probability and Evidence

Insofar as we are rational in our beliefs, the intensity of belief will tend to correspond to the firmness of the available evidence. Insofar as we are rational, we will drop a belief when we have tried in vain to find evidence for it.
   —Quine and Ullian, The Web of Belief

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
   —David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Three final remarks:

One. The slides are technical and a fairly large - 7.3 MB - download, and the Youtube audio takes nearly an hour, of which I could only hear the first 30 minutes on my computer, after which it stuck, but if one has spend rather a lot of time on XMRV over the past two years, one should - I think - take the trouble of trying to digest them. As I said, I consider the material practically conclusive: only fanatics or True Believers will object (and imply or at least suggest that lots of retrovirologists are stupid, ignorant or dishonest).

Two. Actually, the slides and the webinar are fine and quite impressive evidence of real science and real scientists at work, and in those respects quite impressive, as I said: The BWRG and SWRG groups have done a lot real scientific biomedical work over the past two years to unriddle the XMRV-riddle, and ought to be thanked for doing so, for this is how real science ought to work in the interest of public health.

Three. As far as XMRV-and-ME/CFS is concerned, here is Lee on PR-F, who is there valiantly trying to enlighten patients and who does so rationally and reasonably:

What we have now is equivalent to someone going into the darkroom and saying, there's an enlarger in here, I saw it before, let me show you. Then turning on the lights and there's no enlarger to be seen. Your argument is that if you turn the lights back off, it's legitimate to say 'there *could* be an enlarger in here, its just that no one can see it.'

JM could not detect her virus, when samples were blind. She can make all the excuses she wants, the simple fact is they gave her blind samples, and she could not reproduce what she published.

Alter and Lo, in the BWG, used the same nested-PCR they had published, and could not reproduce their results.

No one else has detected virus at all, much less virus associated with ME/CFS.

And the XMLV association with prostate cancer turns out to be contamination as well.

At this point, there simply is no evidence (other then JM et al's proclamations, unsupported by data - thus, not evidence) no evidence that there is a gammaretrovirus infecting humans at all, much less one associated with disease.

Quite so. And as I have remarked before, several times: While I never got the evidence to make me believe that XMRV is a cause or part of the cause of ME/CFS, I am relieved it is not, because I have never liked the idea of harbouring a retrovirus.

Added later in the day: I have insisted from the first - October 2009 - that I do not have the qualifications in virology and biochemistry to judge the XMRV-findings rationally, and also have said from the beginning that I lacked the health and the desire to read up on it.

There now is talk of retracting papers - e.g. the one in Science in 2009, and possibly others that found XMRV - so I read through today the one critical argument I wrote in March 2010:

    -  ME: On the postmodern falsifications in Wessely & McClures

Well... not being a particularly humble man myself I still believe my arguments are excellent and stand up very well without my having to retract one jot. And indeed, as I wrote then and there

I have never had anything but an open mind about XMRV and its relation to ME, if any: I do not know what is the cause of ME nor whether XMRV is a plausible candidate as its cause; but I do know that the sort of writings I have read of professor Wessely about ME are not rational science

And while it may now be granted, with some relief on my part, that there is no evidence that XMRV is related to ME/CFS, I still hold I am quite right about professor Wessely, about whom I wrote in that same month of March 2010:

Also still very well worth reading in the context of "Yes, there are mad or evil shrinks!"

          - ME: Back to the Middle Ages with professor Simon Wessely

Have fun!


P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.  Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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