Lab Contaminant Skewed Chronic Fatigue Results

Brian Vastag summed it up well in his excellent article in The Washington Post today: “Two years ago, a research team in Nevada linked an exotic mouse virus to chronic fatigue syndrome, sparking hopes among patients that a cause of the baffling condition had finally been found.

“But two other research teams reported Tuesday that the virus, called XMRV, is a laboratory contaminant incapable of infecting human blood.”

This comes after at least ten other studies have failed to find XMRV retrovirus in CFS patients. The journal Science has even issued a rare “statement of concern” about the 2009 study by the private Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, saying that the validity of the original study is now “seriously in question.”

Contamination of lab samples has been a threat to valid research for as long as labs have been around. Sloppy technique–or the mere insinuation–can torpedo a career. Yet according to another Science report, there is growing suspicion that XMRV, accidentally created in a laboratory working with human cancer cells in the mid-1990s, contaminates a wide range of solutions and other laboratory products used to test blood for viruses.


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