Manipulation alleged in paper linking virus, chronic fatigue syndrome



The journal that published a high-profile paper linking chronic fatigue syndrome to a retrovirus is now investigating allegations that a figure in that report was manipulated. The appearance in Science of the 2009 paper caused an immediate sensation among patients who have yearned for an explanation for their condition. Its authors said they had found evidence of a retrovirus called XMRV in the blood of people with chronic fatigue syndrome more frequently than in the blood of their healthy peers. The report included a figure purporting to depict lab test results from seven blood samples, including two from chronic fatigue syndrome patients whose blood appears to show evidence of XMRV and five from healthy people whose blood does not. But the leader of the team that authored the 2009 paper, researcher Judy Mikovits, apparently presented the same figure -- carrying different labels and supporting a different point -- in a talk given at a conference on Sept. 23 in Ottawa. A copy of her PowerPoint presentation circulating among an email group also reveals an apparent third version of the image, with a third set of labels, when formatting is turned off.
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