November 13, 2019

Studies Linking Mouse Retrovirus with Fibromyalgia Appear Flawed

Social Security disability lawyers representing fibromyalgia clients often seen similarities in their clients.  Most fibromyalgia clients are “Type A,” overachieving females between the ages of 30 and 60 who experience a gradual onset of fatigue, myofascial pain, mental confusion, digestive upset and balance issues characteristic of a FM/CFS diagnosis.

Many of these fibromyalgia patients go from doctor to doctor looking for a cure, but, of course, there not only is no cure, but there is no consensus in the medical community as to how to objectively test for this condition.

Medical researchers have been working on this problem and over the past few years there have been a number of studies published that purport to identify unambiguous markers that will enable practitioners to objectively diagnose FM/CFS.

One of the more intriguing medical studies in recent years involved the Whittermore-Peterson Institute and researcher Judy Mikovits.

The fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS – also sometimes referred to as “CFS/ME,” where “ME” stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis) community has been roiled by a controversy over the news, reported first in 2009, that a mouse retrovirus might be involved in CFS.  Now, the research group which first asserted the connection between xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and CFS is at the center of another controversy – this one of a decidedly non-medical nature.

The Whittemore Peterson Institute in Nevada was “ground zero” for the XMRV/CFS news, and the name most frequently associated with the potential link is Judy Mikovits, one of the Institute’s lead researchers. In late September 2011, the Institute fired Mikovits, and a little over a month later, the Institute made headlines again by filing suit against her.

The suit, filed in a Nevada state court, focuses mainly on notebooks and other documents the Institute claims Mikovits removed unlawfully following her termination. Mikovits, through her attorney, rebutted the charges and said she wasn’t even in the Institute’s facility on the grounds of the University of Nevada when she received notice of her termination, and never returned to the facility after that point. Thus, Mikovits’ attorney asserted, she could not be responsible for the allegedly missing notebooks and research materials.

The Institute also secured a restraining order against Mikovits barring her from destroying or altering any of the missing files.

However, the lawsuit was just the beginning of the controversy.  A few weeks later came word that Mikovits was taken into custody on a fugitive warrant related to the civil lawsuit.

Mikovits and the Institute first announced they had found evidence of XMRV in the blood of over 60% of a sample of CFS patients back in 2009.   Subsequent studies, however, failed to demonstrate anything resembling that strong of a correlation or link, and one study’s results caused its authors to posit XMRV could not be transmitted to humans at all.


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