The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Created a Man-made Epidemic -- Part 4, Post-War Epidemics and the Triumph of Vaccination
The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic -- Part 5, Before

Let's Really Talk about XMRV and Autism

XMRV By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

Mikovits has her own theory about when Coffin changed his mind.  She and Lombardi had found evidence, not included in the Science paper, that XMRV was linked to autism.  On 11 November 2009, Lombardi presented those data at a meeting at the Cleveland Clinic.  "You don't talk about autism in the U.S.-it's too politically charged," Mikovits claims Coffin told him.  She believes Coffin turned against her that very day.  Coffin confirms he was upset that Lombardi presented such preliminary data on such a fraught topic but says, "I did not 'turn against' Judy at that or any other point." (Author's note - Dr. John Coffin is an influential member of the National Academy of Sciences.  He originally wrote an article in support of the October 2009 Science article by Dr. Judy Mikovits and others, showing an association between the XMRV retrovirus and chronic fatigue syndrome/ME, but has since turned against the theory.  The reasons for this change of heart remain in dispute.)

            Science, September 23, 2011, False Positive by Jon Cohen and Martin Enserlik

I'm glad this is out in the open.  I've heard this privately for more than a year and now nobody can accuse me of making things up.  It's in the public record.  I know I wasn't at the meeting so I can't comment as to the accuracy of the claim, but the lawyer in me can't help making a couple of observations.

Both Dr. Mikovits and Dr. Coffin admit there was a meeting at the Cleveland Clinic on November 11, 2009 in which Dr. Vince Lombardi discussed information they had linking autism to infection by the XMRV retrovirus.  For background on the XMRV/autism connection you can read my article HERE.

Coffin admits that "he was upset that Lombardi presented such preliminary data on such a fraught topic."

Which leads me to the inevitable question, why?

No members of the press were present.  Nobody put out a press release.  It was simply a private conversation between medical collaborators of the possibility that autism, the number one developmental disability among children, that disease which is twenty times more prevalent than polio ever was, could possibly be linked to a retrovirus, just as AIDS is linked to HIV.  Isn't that the way responsible medical researchers are supposed to act?

But something about the possibility that autism could be linked to a retrovirus made John Coffin by his own admission "upset."  Could it be that if autism was linked to a retrovirus, and it behaved like HIV, that any stimulation of the immune system, by say a vaccine, could cause the retrovirus to replicate out of control and cause problems?  You can read my article on this subject where the UCSF Pediatric AIDS Department told me the same thing and you can also read it on their website.  HERE

And while the attacks on Dr. Mikovits paint her as a zealot, here's what Dr. Coffin has to say about her in the same article.  "I began comparing Judy Mikovits to Joan of Arc.  The scientists will burn her at the stake, but her faithful following will have her canonized."

Is it just me or is there something a little unusual about a scientist who makes such comments about another scientist? 

And the former English major in me can't help but be struck by how Coffin compares his fellow scientists to those who would burn a woman at the stake.  Does anybody need to tell Coffin that burning dangerous women at the stake went out of vogue a few centuries ago?  Could he have used a diferent analogy?  Has anybody made a complaint to the National Organization of Women?

So, while Coffin is comparing Dr. Mikovits to Joan of Arc, here's how Dr. Mikovits responds to the criticism, "I don't care if nobody else in the world wants to work on it!" Mikovits exclaimed at one point, rolling her eyes.  "Fine, leave us alone."

Who seems like the professional scientist to you?

The article also doesn't give full credit to Dr. Mikovits partner, Dr. Francis Ruscetti.  About Ruscetti the article only notes, "She soon enlisted Ruscetti, who had worked in Gallo's lab when it discovered HTLV-1 . . ." 

Dr. Francis Ruscetti is currently Head of the Leukocyte Biology Section, Laboratory of Experimental Biology at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland.  He had not simply "worked" in Gallo's lab when HTLV-1 was discovered, he was one of the two people who isolated HTLV-1, the first known human retrovirus, and is regarded as one of the fathers of retrovirology.

And what is all of the ruckus about?  It's about a partial retraction of the original article linking XMRV to chronic fatigue syndrome. 

Here is the text of that retraction, "In our 23 October 2009 report, "Detection of an infectious retrovirus, XMRV in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome" (1) two of the coauthors, Silverman and Das Gupta, analyzed DNA samples from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients and healthy controls.  A reexamination by Silverman and Das Gupta of the samples they used shows that some of the CFS peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) DNA preparations are contaminated with XMRV plasmid DNA (2).  The following figures and table were based on the contaminated data: Figure 1, single round PCR detection of XMRV sequences in CFS PBMC DNA samples; table S1, XMRV sequences previously attributed to CFS patients; and figure S2, the phylogenetic analysis of those sequences.  Therefore, we are retracting those figures and table."

Translation - Silverman and Das Gupta of UCSF found their samples were contaminated.  All of the other co-authors signed a paper agreeing that those samples were contaminated.  And when those other researchers tested their samples they found no such contamination. 

UCSF was also responsible for the VP-62 sequence, which was supposed to be the sequence for XMRV, but it appears not to be the case.  This flawed sequence may be simply a lab creation, and although it is probably close to XMRV, it may not exist in nature, explaining why many teams have not been able to find it.

When the FDA's Shyh-Ching-Lo and Harvey Alter of the National Institute of Health looked for a broader range of XMRVs than just the VP-62 sequence they found an even higher level of infection by this family of retroviruses.

And for this scientist whom Coffin appears to feel is headed for a burning at the stake, Michael Busch of the Blood Working Group notes that Ruscetti, Mikovits, Lo, and Alter deserve praise for their dedication to finding the answer.  Busch has been quoted as saying "I commend them for their scientific integrity and committment to the scientific process."

According to the Science article quoted at the beginning of this piece, Ruscetti notes, "It is quite legitimate for those people to say maybe these two papers were wrong," he said.  But he emphasizes that many scientific unknowns remain about XMRV.  He points to a study in the Journal of Virology in May that intentionally infected macaques with XMRV.  It shows that XMRV moved out of the blood of the monkeys but stayed in tissue reservoirs and the antibodies disappeared.  "We know nothing about the viral life cycle," he says.  You can read my article on the macaque study HERE.

It would be good if the science could proceed without rancor.  Statements such as those made by Dr. Coffin have no place in a respectful debate.

Kent Heceknlively is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism


Theresa O

MP, I definitely don't think that scientists should stop investigating the effects of XMRV on humans.

Even if there is no connection to autism or CFS/ME--and I don't know, one way or the other--it's unlikely that XMRV infections in human brains are a good thing. I, for one, would like to see the extent of the damage that's being caused--and I'd like to see biological products screened for this contaminant. You can decline vaccines, but if you need another biological product (insulin, clotting factor, etc.), you deserve to know that it is free from animal viruses.

There is no benefit to sweeping XMRV under the rug. (Or PCV1, PCV2, SV-40, etc.)


It's over.

XMRV as viable lead is done. Kaput. Finished.

The Blood Working Group study wasn't even the coup de grace. It was beating a dead horse.

The real death knell of the hypothesis was Paprotka et al (Science, 1 July 2011, 94-97.) Basically, they were able to show that the XMRV retrovirus is an artifact passaging and probably originated sometime between '93-95. Since CFS and autism predate that considerably, causality is pretty hard to justify. Throw on top of that Levy et al which demonstrated that infection of humans by XMRV was highly unlikely and there's no there there.

Time to move on to other more viable hypotheses.

Theresa O

Interesting update on XMRV here:

Below are some sections of the write-up that struck me as interesting. None of what's below is mine; it's all from the paper.

* * *

T-cell traffic into the central nervous system is thought to occur when activated T-cells cross the blood-brain barrier [4]. The T-cells presumably act as a “Trojan horse” to store and transport infectious materials across the blood-brain barrier. This “Trojan horse” hypothesis has been well established in the pathogenesis of many viruses that infect the central nervous system [5, 6, 7]. Based on the assumption that XMRV infected lymphocytes could infiltrate and infect the neuronal cells, we conducted an in-vitro coinfection/ co-culture study using XMRV-infected Jurkat cells with neuronal cells.

…As in the neuronal infection study (Fig 2A), the co-culture/co-infection of XMRV-infected Jurkat (XMRV equivalent of 500 pg) with neuronal cells resulted in proportionate XMRV infection in neuronal cells (Fig. 2B).

…We observed that even the small amount of XMRV in the XMRV-infected Jurkats could release virus and infect the neuronal cells (results not shown). Interestingly, in the co-cultures/co-infection study, we co-culture the XMRV-infected Jurkats with neuronal cells only for four hours. The released virus during this time was able to infect the bystander neuronal cells. These observations support the possibility that the infiltrated XMRV-infected T-cells could infect neuronal cells.

…In a recent animal study, XMRV was administered to rhesus macaques through intravenous inoculation [9]. Interestingly, 291 days post-infection, infected cells were detectable by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in brain, showing the possibility of XMRV infection in the brain. This study further substantiates our speculation that XMRV could infect brain cells. Further in-vitro and in-vivo studies are warranted to identify and characterize the XMRV, and its role if any, in the brain cells.


4. Galea, I., M. Bernardes-Silva, P. A. Forse, N. van Rooijen, R. S. Liblau, and V. H. Perry. 2007. An antigen-specific pathway for CD8 T cells across the bloodbrain barrier. J Exp Med 204:2023-30.

5. Houff, S. A., and J. R. Berger. 2008. The bone marrow, B cells, and JC virus. Journal of Neurovirology 14:341-3.

6. Houff, S. A., E. O. Major, D. A. Katz, C. V. Kufta, J. L. Sever, S. Pittaluga, J. R. Roberts, J. Gitt, N. Saini, and W. Lux. 1988. Involvement of JC virus-infected mononuclear cells from the bone marrow and spleen in the pathogenesis of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. N Engl J Med 318:301-5.

7. Monaco, M. C. G., W. J. Atwood, M. Gravell, C. S. Tornatore, and E. O. Major. 1996. JC virus infection of hematopoietic progenitor cells, primary B lymphocytes, and tonsillar stromal cells: Implications for viral latency. Journal of Virology 70:7004-7012.

9. Onlamoon, N., J. Das Gupta, P. Sharma, K. Rogers, S. Suppiah, J. Rhea, R. J. Molinaro, C. Gaughan, B. Dong, E. A. Klein, X. Qiu, S. Devare, G. Schochetman, J. Hackett, Jr., R. H. Silverman, and F. Villinger. 2011. Infection, Viral Dissemination, and Antibody Responses of Rhesus Macaques Exposed to the Human Gammaretrovirus XMRV. J Virol 85:4547-57.


USA have exported autism to Canada and the the world.Time
will explore the truth.This is why he can not talk about
autism,but it is too late now,the numbers are too high,the
concerns now evident.Once millions of people become ill
with autism,alzheimers,cancer and auto-immune disorders the answers will present themselves.

Cynthia Cournoyer

To the degree that anything can be linked to a virus, it could be linked to vaccines. New methods of detecting extraneous viruses in vaccines prove that vaccine science is not exact.

Going down the XMRV/CFS/Vaccines/Autism road will always end in silence, unless truly honest and necessarily, brave, scientists are found.


Thank you Kent, for speaking truth to power. That Coffin now thinks he's the Pope of Science is chilling.

Coffin and his buddy Stoye have demonstrated their sexist attitudes before in body language, sneers and disdainful emoting from their eyes, at podcast and videotaped conferences. I remember how disrespectfully Stoye treated Heidi Bauer, jounalist.

Funny how no other journalists have reported on the men's eye color or body language.


ARI newsletter

"...Stubs conducted his study on a young autistic boy who has responded favourably to several other treatments for immune dysfunction. During AZT treatment the child showed significant improvement in communication, cognitive skills, social relating, and academic and motor skills."

"... Pamela Walters and colleagues report that children with HIV- caused encephalopathy (brain inflammation) frequently develop symptoms of autism..."

Justin Reilly, esq.

Thank you Kent for this piece. If Coffin said that, it is really disgusting.

kathy blanco

If any witnessed Coffin at that recorded meeting at I think it was NIH, you will see the attitude. I don't get the attitude either of James Oleske, who once was interested in autism (immune disorders in autism). Don't you think he gave Coffin the one up on how controversial it was? Reminds me of interviews by those who worked with Hillary Kiprowski saying, I didn't use chimpanzees in the polio vaccine, as all the workers buried him in his lies. In like fashion, Dr John Martin discovered the stealth virus, a contaminant in vaccines. I was even interviewed in a cleaver way to get after this man who was a trailblaizer, albeit a not so cleaver one. Don't you think he got the once over when he talked about that with his DAN collegues? They don't speak of it, why? Because even in the DAN movement you have to be politically correct by saying some vaccines have value or worth. Personally, this is why we are here, because we didn't have the... excuse me to say, have the balls to say it that vaccines have inherit risks, and you cannot predict what's inside them, you can't predict if a certain child is more sensitive to their ill affects than the other. That said, I have been personally affected by XMRV, testing positive, and SV40. Both a retrovirus and virus found in vaccines. I am not even talking mercury, because mercury is just an exciter of viruses and downplays the immune and metabolic system even more. I lost my mother to SV40. I lost my children to it too. And now, I learn I lost also them to XMRV. Even myself. I don't like to be lied to, and I don't feel like my government owes the CDC or NIH any money when you can't trust them as far as you can throw them. If they can't "deal" with the controversial ioatragenic diseases, perhaps they need to not be funded anymore? Perhaps our politicians need to hear the real truth of the giant secrets and coverups and disgusting behaviors they have displayed as people suffer and die of horrific life changing medical mistake/philosophy diseases. Personally, I am staying FAR away from allopathy as I can...but honestly? To best a retrovirus, do you think a herb will do that? I mean really? A vitamin? No, now I have to fo full swing back to the pharma I hate to put these demons to rest in our bodies. I hate this world, I truly do.

John Stone

On the day it was announced that evidence is emerging that particles can travel faster than light it is distressing to hear the language of mediaeval religious heresy once again being used in relation to science. It was heard once before in 2006 when the British establishment got cold feet about prosecuting Andrew Wakefield. Articles started to appear demanding that the GMC call off the dogs, including from Michael Fitzpatrick, Fiona Godlee, and the New Scientist. The inappropriately named Independent newspaper feared that Wakefield would become the new Jan Hus

Of course, we do not execute heretics anymore in the West but we do humiliate them, and they did that in the middle ages too. Peter Demetz in his history of Prague 'Prague in Black and Gold' recounts about the trial of Hus:

"After the judgement was passed, the cardinals and bishops prepared for the theatrical scene of the degrading of the heretic. Hus was first clothed in ceremonial vestments, as if he were to celebrate mass, and then with another exhortation to submit, the vestments were taken from him one by while the prescribed curses were uttered. Next, his tonsure was obliterated (there was a short discussion whether to use a razor or a scissors, and the scissors won), and a paper hat, eighteen inches high, with the images drawn on it of three devils seizing an unfortunate's soul, wat put on his head..."

Unfortunately, this is still how scientific disputes are resolved, and the scientists who are no less venal or cowardly than the cardinals and bishops who arraigned Hus behave just as disgustingly, and have just as little dignity.

Thank you Kent for bringing this to AoA readers' attention.



“This is supposed to be a smart man that is high up in his field”

This is a man who influences what gets published and who gets FUNDED. This is a man who teaches students, those who enter the field of virology in order to reveal the unknowns, cure diseases and advance the human race. He teaches them that: “You don't talk about autism in the U.S.-it's too politically charged,".

Nice one, professor.

Thank you, Kent.


It is mind boggling that they would allow more children to become sick just so that can protect their careers. There are many similarities between ASD children and HIV infected children. I urge all of you to see this link:


If he thinks autism is politically charged now, what does he think the political atomosphere will be in the near future if is turns out to be so very true?

This is suppose to be a smart man that is high up in his field - a man that could stop par-ty-ing during his college years to study for his exams because he could foresee the future of diaster if he did not????


I am left completely speechless. I had been wondering too why Coffin had changed his mind about XMRV early on, even before the contamination arguments started pouring. His attitude changed at some point, from enthusiastic and supportive to completely antagonist. I would never have imagined the autism implication could have been the reason, even in my worst nightmare...

This is absolutely disgusting.

That someone as influencial and high-profile as John Coffin can quote "You don't talk about autism in the U.S.-it's too politically charged," is absolutely shocking.

If the autism epidemic has been allowed to progress in the past decades and now affecting so many children, yet no progress has been made on finding the root cause and effective treatments, this is exactly why: "You don't talk about autism in the U.S.".

You shall not look at Medusa in the eyes, or you shall turn into a stone.

Researchers, take good note: Do not find the root cause of the epidemic, do not go anywhere close, or you will regret it.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)