The medical journal Science today retracted the controversial 2009 study it published that concluded the virus called XMRV might be the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome.
According to the original findings, the virus was found in the blood of 67 percent of people with symptoms of the mysterious illness called chronic fatigue syndrome, and in only 3.7 percent of people without the condition. In a retraction statement today (Dec. 22), Science said further testing by other researchers did not detect the virus in chronic fatigue syndrome patients.
"Multiple laboratories, including those of the original authors, have failed to reliably detect xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) or other murine leukemia virus (MLV)-related viruses in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients," Dr. Bruce Alberts, editor in chief of Science, wrote.
Researchers and patients had been encouraged by the original findings, which seemed to increase the chances for a treatment. The condition causes severe tiredness that is not relieved by sleeping; it most commonly affects women between the ages of 30 and 50, according to the National Institutes of Health.
On July 1, the journal issued an "expression of concern" about the original findings. Two studies at that time cast doubt on the link between the virus and CFS: One provided evidence that the original experiment may have been subject to laboratory contamination, and the other showed that no trace of the virus could be found in the blood of people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
The authors of the paper partially retracted it two months later, saying a re-examination of their blood samples showed some of them to be contaminated.
Alberts wrote today that the majority of the authors of the original report agreed in principle to retracting it, but were not in agreement about some of the details of a retraction.
"It is Science's opinion that a retraction signed by all the authors is unlikely to be forthcoming," Alberts wrote.
Pass it on: A 2009 study linking the virus XMRV to chronic fatigue syndrome has been retracted by its publisher, the journal Science.