Caister Academic Press

XMRV: A Cautionary Tale

Jeremy Garson
from: Molecular Diagnostics: Current Research and Applications (Edited by: Jim Huggett and Justin O'Grady). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2014)


Xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV) was discovered in 2006 in tumour tissues from patients with a familial form of prostate cancer. The discovery was made using a powerful molecular detection technique involving random PCR amplification and a high density microarray composed of oligonucleotides from the most conserved sequences of all known viral families. XMRV was claimed to be the first example of a gammaretrovirus to infect humans and its discovery was followed by several studies that confirmed its presence in prostate cancer patients. The publication in 2009 of a highly controversial paper in Science associating the virus with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) brought XMRV to the attention of the worldwide public. Its detection in 3.7% of healthy controls sparked fears that millions might be infected with a novel retrovirus of unknown pathogenic potential. However, almost all recent efforts to confirm the association between XMRV, CFS and prostate cancer have failed and XMRV is now thought much more likely to represent a contamination related laboratory artefact rather than a genuine human infection. This chapter reviews the spectacular rise and fall of XMRV and attempts to draw useful lessons from this painful episode in the history of molecular diagnostics read more ...
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