Judy Mikovits

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Judy Anne Mikovits is an American researcher. She was involved in controversies regarding her research in the area of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Mikovits was the research director of the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI), a chronic fatigue syndrome research organization and clinic in Reno, Nevada in the United States from 2006 to 2011. Mikovits led a research effort that reported in 2009 that a retrovirus known as xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) was associated with CFS and may have had a causal role, however the research came under fire, leading to an eventual retraction on December 22, 2011 by the journal Science.

In October 2011, Mikovits was terminated by WPI for refusing to turn over a cell line that was delivered to her laboratory by mistake, and subsequently came under investigation for alleged manipulation of data in her publications related to XMRV.[1] On November 18, 2011, Judy Mikovits was arrested in her Ventura County, California home. Her lawyer said she was arrested on charges of theft brought by the WPI, but that the charges had no merit.[2] By November 28, after negotiations with the WPI, 18 missing notebooks were returned.[3] Later, the criminal charges against her were dismissed by the Reno, NV District Attorney's office.


She got a BA in Chemistry with a specialization in biology at the University of Virginia in 1980. After graduation she went to the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland where she developed purification methods for Interferon alpha. In 1986 - 1987, she started working at Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in Kalamazoo Michigan in order to develop production methods to ensure biological materials manufactured using human blood products were free of contamination from HIV-1. In 1992 she completed a joint PhD program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with Ruscetti at George Washington University.[4] Because of her previous work experience, her PhD thesis was named “Negative Regulation of HIV Expression in Monocytes” She was a Postdoctoral Scholar in Molecular Virology at the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, National Cancer Institute under Dr. David Derse.

Early career[edit]

Mikovits worked for Francis "Frank" Ruscetti at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland during the 1980s. She remained in his lab as a postdoctoral researcher. Her work with Ruscetti included studies of several retroviruses and their interactions with the immune system.[5]

XMRV and CFS[edit]

The Whittemores hired Mikovits as research director of WPI in 2006.[6] Frustrated by a lack of answers for the illness, Whittemore decided that, "if there was a place of our own where we could find the answers, we could do it more quickly."[7] Her attempts to find a viral cause of CFS were initially unsuccessful.

In 2006 she co-founded and developed the first neuroimmune research institute dedicated to understanding the pathophysiology of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and related illnesses.[4]

In 2007, she met a co-discoverer of XMRV, Robert Silverman, at a conference. Silverman had found XMRV sequences, which are highly similar to mouse genomic sequences, in prostate cancer specimens several years earlier. Using tools obtained from Silverman, Mikovits began to look for XMRV in her CFS samples. In late 2008, a graduate student, who subsequently was hired as her technician, obtained two positive results from a group of twenty samples. He and Mikovits successively altered the experimental conditions until all samples gave a positive signal.[8]

In 2009, Mikovits and co-workers reported in the journal Science that they had detected XMRV DNA in CFS patients and control subjects.[8][9] Negative results were published soon after, disputing Mikovits's findings.[8][10] Robert Silverman, who was a co-author of the original XMRV-CFS article, told the Chicago Tribune that he was "concerned about lab contamination, despite our best efforts to avoid it".[11] The paper was ultimately retracted.

Two of the original authors of this paper subsequently reanalyzed the samples used in the research and found that the samples were contaminated with XMRV plasmid DNA, leading them to publish a partial retraction of their original results,[12] and on December 22, 2011, the editors of Science retracted the paper in its entirety.[13]

Lo and Alter in their 2010 paper entitled Detection of MLV-related virus gene sequences in blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy blood donors stated "Although we find evidence of a broader group of MLV-related viruses, rather than just XMRV, in patients with CFS and healthy blood donors, our results clearly support the central argument by Lombardi et al. that MLV-related viruses are associated with CFS and are present in some blood donors." This paper was later retracted by the authors.[14]

Mikovits and collaborators went on to participate (alongside two other research groups) in a larger 2012 study over 147 CFS patients and 146 controls. The study concluded that there was no evidence of XMRV or MLV infection in either group, a result she is quoted as calling "the definitive answer" on the issue.[15][16]


Mikovits has garnered criticism from some scientists for stating that XMRV is a communicable infection which is "clearly circulating through the population as is our fear and your fear". Virologist Vincent Racaniello responded to that, saying that it "is just inciting fear."[11][17] Mikovits showed slides at a conference which linked XMRV to Parkinson's disease, autism and multiple sclerosis. However, there is no published evidence that XMRV is associated with these diseases.[18][19][20][21]

Mikovits was arrested on November 18, 2011, based on allegations by the WPI that she had removed notebooks and other proprietary information from WPI. She was held temporarily pursuant to that case.[2] Subsequently, criminal charges brought against Mikovits by Washoe County, NV were dismissed by the District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney in Reno, NV.[22][23][24][25]

Published book[edit]

In 2014, Mikovits co-authored, "Plague: One Scientist’s Intrepid Search for the Truth about Human Retroviruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome".[26]


  1. ^ "Manipulation alleged in paper linking virus, chronic fatigue syndrome". Chicago Tribune. October 3, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2011-11-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Missing notebooks returned to Reno chronic disease lab". 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  4. ^ a b Judy A. Mikovits, PhD
  5. ^ National Cancer Institute biography Archived 2010-05-27 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Grady, Denise (11 October 2009). "A Big Splash From an Upstart Medical Center". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Grady, Denise (12 October 2009). "Is a Virus the Cause of Fatigue Syndrome?". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b c Callaway, Ewen (14 March 2011). "Virology: Fighting for a cause". Nature. 471 (7338): 282–85. Bibcode:2011Natur.471..282C. doi:10.1038/471282a. PMID 21412308.
  9. ^ Lombardi VC, Ruscetti FW, Das Gupta J, et al. (October 2009). "Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". Science. 326 (5952): 585–9. Bibcode:2009Sci...326..585L. doi:10.1126/science.1179052. PMC 3073172. PMID 19815723. (Retracted)
  10. ^ Sam Kean (15 Jan 2010). "An Indefatigable Debate Over Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". Science. 327 (5963): 254–255. Bibcode:2010Sci...327..254K. doi:10.1126/science.327.5963.254. PMID 20075217.
  11. ^ a b Tsouderos, Trine (17 March 2011). "Research casts doubt on theory of cause of chronic fatigue". Chicago Tribune.
  12. ^ Silverman, R. H.; Das Gupta, J.; Lombardi, V. C.; Ruscetti, F. W.; Pfost, M. A.; Hagen, K. S.; Peterson, D. L.; Ruscetti, S. K.; Bagni, R. K.; Petrow-Sadowski, C.; Gold, B.; Dean, M.; Mikovits, J. A. (2011). "Partial Retraction". Science. 334 (6053): 176. Bibcode:2011Sci...334..176S. doi:10.1126/science.1212182. PMID 21940859.
  13. ^ Cohen, Jon (22 December 2011). "In a Rare Move, Science Without Authors' Consent Retracts Paper That Tied Mouse Virus to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". Retrieved 22 December 2011.
  14. ^ Lo, S. -C.; Pripuzova, N.; Li, B.; Komaroff, A. L.; Hung, G. -C.; Wang, R.; Alter, H. J. (2010). "Detection of MLV-related virus gene sequences in blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy blood donors". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (36): 15874–9. Bibcode:2010PNAS..10715874L. doi:10.1073/pnas.1006901107. PMC 2936598. PMID 20798047. (Retracted)
  15. ^ Enserink, M. (20 September 2012). "New XMRV Studies Bring Closure--and Fresh Dispute". Science. 337 (6101): 1441–1442. doi:10.1126/science.337.6101.1441. PMID 22997296.
  16. ^ Alter, H. J.; Mikovits, J. A.; Switzer, W. M.; Ruscetti, F. W.; Lo, S.-C.; Klimas, N.; Komaroff, A. L.; Montoya, J. G.; Bateman, L.; Levine, S.; Peterson, D.; Levin, B.; Hanson, M. R.; Genfi, A.; Bhat, M.; Zheng, H.; Wang, R.; Li, B.; Hung, G.-C.; Lee, L. L.; Sameroff, S.; Heneine, W.; Coffin, J.; Hornig, M.; Lipkin, W. I. (18 September 2012). "A Multicenter Blinded Analysis Indicates No Association between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and either Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-Related Virus or Polytropic Murine Leukemia Virus". mBio. 3 (5): e00266-12–e00266-12. doi:10.1128/mBio.00266-12. PMC 3448165. PMID 22991430.
  17. ^ Powers, Lenita (13 January 2010). "Reno researchers dispute British challenge to virus discovery". Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  18. ^ Satterfield BC, Garcia RA, Gurrieri F, Schwartz CE (2010). "PCR and serology find no association between xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and autism". Mol Autism. 1 (1): 14. doi:10.1186/2040-2392-1-14. PMC 2964727. PMID 20946639.
  19. ^ Luczkowiak, J; Sierra, O; González-Martín, JJ; Herrero-Beaumont, G; Delgado, R (2011). "No xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus detected in fibromyalgia patients". Emerging Infectious Diseases. 17 (2): 314–5. doi:10.3201/eid1702.100978. PMC 3204766. PMID 21291619.
  20. ^ Digard, P.; Strohschein, O.; Brandt, K.; Seeher, A. U.; Klein, S.; Kurth, S.; Paul, R.; Meisel, F.; Scheibenbogen, C.; Bannert, N. (2010). Digard, Paul (ed.). "No Evidence for XMRV in German CFS and MS Patients with Fatigue Despite the Ability of the Virus to Infect Human Blood Cells in Vitro". PLoS ONE. 5 (12): e15632. Bibcode:2010PLoSO...515632H. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015632. PMC 3008728. PMID 21203514.
  21. ^ Jeziorski, E.; Foulongne, V.; Ludwig, C.; Louhaem, D.; Chiocchia, G.; Segondy, M.; Rodière, M.; Sitbon, M.; Courgnaud, V. R. (2010). "No evidence for XMRV association in pediatric idiopathic diseases in France". Retrovirology. 7: 63. doi:10.1186/1742-4690-7-63. PMC 2920251. PMID 20678193.
  22. ^ "Official Court Document" (PDF).
  23. ^ "June 13 Criminal Charges Dropped Against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Researcher Judy Mikovits". sciencemag.org. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  24. ^ "June 15 Nevada drops charges against researcher Mikovits". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  25. ^ "June 14 No Theft Charge for Chronic Fatigue Researcher". nytimes.com. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  26. ^ Kent Heckenlively; Judy Mikovits (2014). "Plague: One Scientist's Intrepid Search for the Truth about Human Retroviruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), Autism, and Other Diseases". Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 9781628739299. Retrieved 2016-03-15.