UNR chronic fatigue finding disputed

In October, there was a spate of publicity surrounding an announcement by scientists at Reno’s Whittemore Peterson Institute that they had discovered a link between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and a retrovirus, XMRV, related to a group of viruses found to infect mice. It generated enormous news coverage, both in Reno and around the world.

Less publicized, at least in Reno, has been a challenge to the Institute’s findings. In a scientific journal article, “Failure to Detect the Novel Retrovirus XMRV in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” eight researchers at London’s Imperial College reported that they had been unable to replicate the Reno work and that of 200 CFS patients tested, none had the XMRV retrovirus.

That triggered an exchange of charges and countercharges between the two groups, prompting the London Economist to observe, “As scientific punch-ups go, this is shaping up to be a good one, with blows (albeit polite ones) being thrown across the Atlantic. … Frustrating though this may be for sufferers from CFS, it is discussions like these, as one group of researchers tries to replicate the results of another, that lead to scientific progress. … It seems likely that the causes of CFS will continue to be a subject of controversy for a while yet.”