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Charges against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome researcher dropped
Saturday 16 June 2012
Charges Against Chronic Fatigue Researcher Dropped
Criminal charges filed against the lead researcher of now-retracted studies linking a mouse virus to chronic fatigue syndrome have been dropped.
The charges against Judy Mikovits, PhD, involved lab notebooks and a computer she is alleged to have taken from her former employer, Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nev. The institute and director Annette Whittemore also filed a civil suit against Mikovits.
An assistant district attorney for Washoe County, Nev., told Science magazine that the charges were dropped on Monday because of "witness issues" with the case and complications surrounding institute co-founder Harvey Whittemore's alleged illegal campaign donations.
The charges were dropped "without prejudice" – meaning the charges can be revisited at a later date – and the civil case against Mikovits remains.
Mikovits was jailed briefly after turning herself in last year but was freed on her own recognizance.
Troubles related to Mikovits' research began in 2009, when her team published a study in the journal Science that claimed a mouse virus known as XMRV was a cause of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Most researchers were unable to replicate her results, which caused many to believe the findings were due to laboratory contamination, including one study that suggested the virus was not seen in the wild but carried on in lab results through genetic recombination in cell lines.
Mikovits was fired from the institute in late September 2011 after a paper she co-authored cast further doubt on the XMRV-chronic fatigue syndrome link.
Director Whittemore alleged Mikovits' termination was due to insubordination, and the allegation was corroborated in letters exchanged between the two over Mikovits' refusal to share a cell line with Vincent Lombardi, PhD, a former collaborator on the original 2009 research.
The original study as well as a second one – the only other study to corroborate Mikovits' findings – were both retracted due to a lack of confidence in the studies' validity, according to statements in Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published in December 2011.
The above originally appeared here.
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