Few studies have proven to be more controversial than one done by a research team led by Judy Mikovits, which highlighted a potential link between XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome. And today that controversy will likely get a little hotter with the report from the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog that Mikovits has been fired from her post as director of research at the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease.
Whittemore Peterson President Annette Whittemore penned a letter to Mikovits saying that she was being terminated for refusing to turn over cell lines another scientist at the institute requested for separate testing. Mikovits maintained that it would be inappropriate to use the NIH-funded cell lines without her knowledge and consent.
Mikovits has been at the center of a storm of controversy over the XMRV study, which was partially retracted several weeks ago after members of the team found contamination in some of the samples used for testing. Chronic fatigue syndrome is considered something of a mystery malady, and patients were quick to seize on the XMRV link as a likely pathway that could lead to a cure. In the process, Mikovits became a celebrated figure in that group.
Since then, as the investigator Derek Lowe has reported on his blog, In The Pipeline, other scientists have tried to replicate the study but came up negative. "As far as I can see, the story is over," wrote Lowe recently, who was critical of fact that Mikovits has refused to budge from her original conclusions.
Today's news, though, would seem to indicate that the story has some life in it yet.