XMRF-CFS: full retraction on it's way

By Grant Jacobs 23/12/2011

Earlier in the year saw a partial retraction of a paper in Science, published in 2009, proposing the mouse virus XMRV as a possible cause of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome).

Today Science has announced this is moving towards a full retraction.

While a small number of advocates are likely to cling to the original claims, this full retraction–I hope–may let the larger CFS patient community have some sort of closure on this issue.

The retraction text appears to still being drafted – see my link to Retraction Watch, below. (Update To be clear: ’It is Science’s opinion that a retraction signed by all the authors is unlikely to be forthcoming. We are therefore editorially retracting the Report.’ – my apologies over this confusion.) In the interim, readers may find early coverage of this new at:

The UK Science Media Centre rapid reaction service offers this ‘expert reaction’ profile:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 22nd December 2011

Expert reaction to retraction by the journal Science of paper linking CFS with the XMRV virus*

Professor Simon Wessely, Head, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London said:

‘It comes as little surprise that this paper has been finally retracted. The results were simply too good to be true. CFS is a complex mulfactorial condition with fuzzy boundaries, and almost certainly does not represent any single entity any more that it is caused by any single agent. What is sad however is the degree of opprobrium hurled from some quarters at the scientists who correctly failed to replicate the original observation. This is not the kind of atmosphere that benefits science or patients.’

Dr Jonathan Stoye, Head of Division of Virology, National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) said:

‘This announcement of an editorial retraction is unfortunate but can come as no surprise. The writing has been on the wall for over a year, ever since the publication in Retrovirology of the group of papers suggesting that contamination could explain the original paper. With the publication of the Blood Working Group report in September, retraction was inevitable. It is important that a line be drawn under this experience and that the search for the real causative agent for this debilitating condition be resumed immediately.’

* The retraction will be published in the 23rd December issue of Science.

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