Q&A: Why I delayed XMRV paper

After a weeks-long delay, a linkurl:paper;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/08/16/1006901107.abstract reporting a strong association between the retrovirus xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and chronic fatigue syndrome was published this week in the __Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences__ (PNAS). The study, carried out by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, found gene sequences pertaining to a closely relat

Cristina Luiggi
Aug 22, 2010
After a weeks-long delay, a linkurl:paper;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/08/16/1006901107.abstract reporting a strong association between the retrovirus xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and chronic fatigue syndrome was published this week in the __Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences__ (PNAS). The study, carried out by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, found gene sequences pertaining to a closely related class of viruses, known as murine leukemia virus (MLV)-related viruses, in 86.5 percent of patients diagnosed with the syndrome, in contrast to less than 10 percent of healthy people.
Randy Schekman, editor in chief of PNAS
The path to publication took a few unexpected turns. A few days after the paper had been accepted in late May, last author Harvey Alter contacted the staff at __PNAS__ asking to delay its publication after having found that a linkurl:paper;http://www.retrovirology.com/content/7/1/57/abstract/ reporting no such association between the syndrome and...
TS: Is there an established protocol that journals -- or at least __PNAS__ -- turn to in such situations?TS: So would this be a case where delaying, as opposed to releasing peer-reviewed data immediately, is the responsible thing to do?TS: How could the process have gone smoother?TS: Anything else you'd like to add?S.C. Lo, et al., "Detection of MLV-related virus gene sequences in blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy blood donors," PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1006901107, 2010.R. Schekman, "Patients, patience, and the publication process," PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012027107, 2010.W.M. Switzer, et al., "Absence of evidence of Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-related virus infection in persons with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and healthy controls in the United States," Retrovirology, doi:10.1186/1742-4690-7-57, 2010.



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