Science News Update

Jerome Horwitz, the man who invented AZT, died-- Being in the basic virology realm of HIV Research World, I dont always pay as much attention to the clinical side of things as I should.  Thus I didnt know about the really interesting history of Jerome Horowitz and AZT.  Apparently he invented it as an anti-cancer agent, it didnt work, and they forgot about it... until someone tested it as a therapeutic agent for HIV, a moment that changed the course of the HIV epidemic.  Sure it wasnt a perfect drug (drug resistance when used alone, terrible side-effect profile), but it gave everyone hope that this HIV puzzle could be solved.  Here is whats tragic-- Horowitz never made a penny off of AZT.  He and his institution never patented it because it failed for their purposes, cancer.

Researcher Jerome P. Horwitz, 93, created AZT, the first approved treatment for HIV/AIDS

Jerome Horwitz, AZT Creator, Dies at 93

Dr. Jerome Horwitz, Developer Of HIV Drug AZT, Passes Away At 93


I dont know if you all remember this-- In 2010 a woman named Amy Bishop was distraught about not getting tenure.  Instead of just getting a job somewhere else, like so many scientists and professors who dont get tenure (I know numerous investigators that have gone on to successful careers outside of academia in industry/government/etc after not getting tenure), she killed herself.  Oh wait, thats not right-- she opened fire during a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama, killing Gopi K. Podila, Maria Ragland Davis, Adriel D. Johnson Sr., and wounded three other people, including a secretary.

At first she tried to get out of the fact she murdered three people in cold blood (and tried to kill three others) by pleading 'insanity'.  She was 'insane' enough to go to a premier university for undergrad, get her PhD from Harvard, teach numerous classes, get married, have children... Weird how Bishops 'insanity' is the dream life of lots of other people, huh?  Apparently she was also 'insane' enough to file gender discrimination claims against a professor who called her 'crazy'.

Well she and her lawyers finally figured out that NO ONE would or could buy their 'insanity' defense, and so, fittingly on September 11th, she plead guilty to capital murder.  Part of the plea?  To avoid the death penalty.

Murderers-- Care so little for others lives.  Care so much about their own.


And, though XMRV is the zombie that just wont die, even after youve shot it, cut off its head, and set it on fire, it might be for realsies dead at this point.

A Multicenter Blinded Analysis Indicates No Association between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and either Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-Related Virus or Polytropic Murine Leukemia Virus

Numerous people have emailed/commented/messaged me this story, wanting me to do a post on it. Heres the deal-- In my opinion, while THIS is science, this paper is not.  I mean, its like if James Randi published a paper every time a woo-healer or psychic failed his Million Dollar Challenge.  Thats what this paper is.  Debunking a parlor trick.

When someone else collects the samples (so XMRV plasmid and mouse DNA cant find their way into patient samples) and someone else blinds them (so 'patient' samples can be treated with 5-AZA while 'control' samples are not), Mikovits and Ruscetti, using their special super secret super magic protocols, cant find XMRV anywhere.  Or when they did find it, it was 50/50 in CFS/controls, aka 'chance'.

This isnt a 'remarkable' paper or contributing in any meaningful way to Science.  Its embarrassing this had to be done at all.  Its embarrassing supposed trained professionals, who had all the time in the world to use PR to defend the XMRV=CFS connection, couldnt do this basic science to defend their work without being prompted to by the government.  Its embarrassing that some of the top names in retrovirology  had to waste their time on this stupidity.  Like Stephen Hawking spending time and effort to debunk Sylvia Browne.


More like this

ERV said: "In my opinion, while THIS is science, this paper is not. I mean, its like if James Randi published a paper every time a woo-healer or psychic failed his Million Dollar Challenge. Thats what this paper is. Debunking a parlor trick."
Absolutely bang on the only really salient point of the whole absurdity. An additional $3 million spent on unnecessary research so Mikovits and Ruscetti can climb down without losing face - and the patients who've been suckered by Mikovits' researcher de grande manqué act can be finally convinced that XMRV was an empty sack. Not a total loss though - some of the prep work will provide a sample data base for future (not XMRV) M.E/CFS research.


By In Vitro Infidelium (not verified) on 21 Sep 2012 #permalink

While I agree that the Lipkin study was basically a non-event, the thing about how much it cost needs to be settled. I've seen $1 million from most official/government-type sources, $2 million from newspaper articles and now it's all the way up to $3 million? Anyways I think it was worth it because now instead of a cadre of fanatics harassing who knows how many reporters/journos, researchers, administrators, govt. officials, random laypeople, etc. for the next decade or so it's now down to the hopefully much more manageable skeleton crew of wackos like V99, Gerwyn, etc. Poor V99, I think it's going to be a long walk through the desert for her.

Plus as IVI says, a lot of extra samples were taken for other groups to use, a network of experienced ME/CFS clinicans was established to get more samples when needed, etc. Lots of parallel add-ons that actually make the Lipkin study a good value for the money, IMO. It was def worth it for me as before when I would read various XMRV diatribes I would basically have a conniption from the amount of misinformation but now upon reading them it's nothing but easy breezy beautiful. Ahh, sweet relief.

Here's an interview with Dr. Lipkin and Vincent Racaniello on the subject on TWiV, it's pretty interesting-
TWiV Special: A paradigm for pathogen de-discovery
September 18, 2012
Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and W. Ian Lipkin…

Also posters of the mecfsforums have made a transcript-
Dr. Ian Lipkin, 9/18/2012, TWiV,_9/18/2012,_TWiV

Absolutely agree. the Lipkin paper leaves a bad taste because Mikovits and Ruscetti are allowed to get off free....they should be completely discredited for all the fraud they perpetrated on the scientists and patients.

I think the way Lipkin bends backwards for Mikovits (and even Wakefield in an interview) is awful from a scientific perspective. You just need to look at the work of Mikrofraud (or Wakefraud for that matter) to you see what it is – unscientific scaremongering. Therefore any "replication" is an waste of money, from an scientific perspective.

The only plus seems to be that Mikovits did the "honest" thing and said "There never was XMRV in patients". (She didn't do the honest thing: explain her work). I guess it is good to draw over the moderates – the nutters on the other hand are in full nutter mode and spinning their conspiracy theories.

You know my opinion: This has happened before, and if it isn't properly investigated, and if the proper consequences are not drawn (as was neglected to do before), then this will happen again.

Oh well.

Other than that, in case nobody has sent you already this (and to bring the discussion to scientific matters), here is an interesting 60 minutes video:
Working to end the HIV pandemic: Glimmers of Hope
The Annual Rolla E. Dyer Lecture

The efficiency of transmission of HIV-1 depends on the infectiousness of the index case and the susceptibility of those exposed. Infectiousness is dictated by the concentration of HIV-1 and the viral genotype and phenotype. People newly infected with HIV-1 (i.e. acute infection) and those with STD co-infections excrete such a large concentration of virus as to be “hyperinfectious”. The probability of HIV-1 transmission may be as low as 1/10,000 episodes of intercourse or 1/10 sexual exposures when anal intercourse is practiced. The transmission of HIV is generally limited a small number of founder variants which themselves may be “hyperinfectious”. Synergistic behavioral and biologic HIV prevention strategies have been developed and implemented. Safer sex includes limiting the number of sexual partners and use of male latex condoms, and these strategies appear to have contributed to reduced HIV-1 incidence in many countries. Biological interventions have proven catalytic: These include voluntary male circumcision and use of antiviral agents either for infected people (who can be rendered less contagious) or as pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP). Ecologic evidence suggests that broader, earlier antiviral treatment of HIV may be reducing incidence in some (but not all) populations. However, maximal benefit of HIV “treatment for prevention” and application of PrEP will likely require a program of universal “test and treat”, where many more infected patients are identified, linked to care, and treated very early in disease and for life. Community randomized trials designed to support this approach are underway in Africa. The “test and treat” prevention strategy is resource intensive and serves to emphasize the urgent need for even more research devoted to HIV-1 vaccine development, or cure of the infection.

Don't know if they overstate their results, but it seems at least an promising step they have taken.

By Tony Mach (not verified) on 24 Sep 2012 #permalink

And one more thing regarding Lipkin:
Am I correct to read between the lines that Lipkin suggest that is OK to distort science in order to "make noise"?
He made other remarks in that press-conference that we have to thank Mikovits for the publicity she brought to ME/CFS.

(And boy what a peanut gallery he has gathered there. Ruscetti is really good in the "muddy the waters" domain: "Were the initial findings were in error is difficult if not impossible to tell at the moment because the is a historic fact". What a well played plead to incompetence. Chapeau, Ruscetti, chapeau.)

By Tony Mach (not verified) on 28 Sep 2012 #permalink

Your comment about murderers is an interesting little quip, but the example of Amy Bishop suggests more to me that people should know who they are working with a lot better. It seems there may have been clues in her background that might have been a warning to her colleagues and that they might at least have put in a metal detector, if they had know her personal history.