Chronic fatigue syndrome researcher arrested
By Steven Salzberg on 11/21/2011 05:03:00 AM
A brief update today: I've written twice before about the mistaken hypothesis that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is caused by a virus known as XMRV. After many followup studies failed to replicate the original findings, other scientists finally determined conclusively that XMRV was a contaminant in the original cells used in the experiments. Lead researcher Judy Mikovits continued to claim she was right and that everyone else was wrong, despite the evidence, but in a surprising move less than two months ago, all the authors (including Mikovits) retracted the paper. (Actually it was a "partial retraction", but they did admit that XMRV was a contaminant which pretty much blows up the whole claim.) Science is now investigating whether some of the data in the paper was falsified, as Trine Tsouderos reported in the Chicago Tribune last month.
In a bizarre twist in this saga, Mikovitz was arrested and thrown in jail on Friday in California. Science magazine's Jon Cohen reported that her former employers, the Whittemore-Peterson Institute, which fired Mikovitz on September 29, filed felony charges against her in Nevada for stealing their laboratory data. It appears that WPI claims Mikovitz kept data about her experiments on her personal computer and has refused to give it back to WPI. Mikovitz' lawyer denied the charges.
I suspect this isn't the last we'll hear of this story. But the science is done: XMRV isn't the cause of CFS, and the search for a cause continues.