I received the following e-mail a few weeks back from the National Institute of Health concerning my inquiry into XMRV (xenotropic murine leukemia virus related virus) infection and children with autism. Here is the reply:
Dear Mr. Heckenlively:
Thank you for writing to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concerning the presence of the XMRV retrovirus in children with autism. As the Acting Director, Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), I have been asked to respond on behalf of Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director.
NIH is dedicated to addressing the growing public health challenge that autism spectrum disorders (ASD) present. In FY 2010, NIH invested $160 million from its annual appropriation in research on autism and another $58 million in funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition, NIH issued several funding opportunity announcements to encourage research designed to elucidate the etiology, epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment, and optimal means of service delivery related to ASD.
As you may be aware, NIH intramural researchers are examining the XMRV retrovirus in samples from approximately 100 children in an autism subtyping study: Neuroimmunologic Investigations of Autism Spectrum Disorders. You can access further information on the study via the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools at http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm. Since final analyses of the study are not complete and have not been published, we do not yet have any results to provide. The researchers will share the results in the future after completion of the data analysis.
Thank you again for your interest in research on autism.
Marina Volkov, Ph.D. Acting Director NIMH Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
I responded on June 2, 2011, asking three questions, based on a series of e-mails provided to me by another autism parent who had made a similar inquiry.
1. What was the testing initially used by the NIH which showed a high rate of XMRV infection in children with autism?
2. What were the subsequent tests used by the CDC which did not show a high rate of XMRV infection in children with autism?
3. Is the NIH following the established protocols for blood storage, preparation of the sample, and tests utilized, as detailed by the initial study group of the Whittemore-Peterson Institute, the Cleveland Clinic, and the National Cancer Institute as detailed in their October 2009 article in the journal Science?
When I receive an answer to these questions I will share them with the readers of Age of Autism.
Kent Heckenlively is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism