The latter infect vertebrates ranging from gibbon apes to koala bears to reptiles to domestic cats and are known to cause leukemia, as well as neurological disease.Murine leukemia viruses, or MLVs, are carried in the genomes of mice (murine comes from the Latin for “mouse”).Yet the expenditure of time and money to reach that conclusion was hardly an exercise in futility.The 2009 meeting in Bethesda marked the beginning of a change in the CFS cosmos, with a slew of prestigious scientists entering the field and government officials taking a more serious view of this formerly neglected disease.Once a retrovirus has infected an organism, it commandeers that organism’s genetic machinery, turning a once-healthy cell into a retroviral powerhouse that spreads the infection to more cells in an irreversible cascade.By 2009, scientists had identified a mere handful of specifically human retroviruses: HIV 1 and 2 (human immunodeficiency virus), the cause of AIDS; the HTLV group (human T-cell lymphotrophic virus), at least one of which—HTLV-1—was a cause of leukemia, lymphoma and an MS-like neurological disease; and HBRV (human beta retrovirus), tentatively considered the cause of a severe liver disease called primary biliary cirrhosis.
Last to speak, Mikovits led her audience through a terse, rapid-fire slide presentation.
MLVs so dependably cause cancer in lab-bred mice—especially leukemia and lymphoma—that a small fraternity of scientists at the NCI and elsewhere has fruitfully studied these viruses since the 1960s in an effort to understand how human cancer begins.
Given such far-reaching implications, it was not surprising that when Mikovits stopped talking, nearly a minute passed before someone spoke, and then it was to say, “Oh my God.”That simple expression of dread was the preliminary gasp in what would become, in the three years that followed, the most clamorous scramble in recent medical history to prove or disprove what seemed to be a viable hypothesis, one so dire it was facetiously dubbed the Doomsday Scenario by one skeptic.
At the center of speculation about the new retrovirus that day in July was an immunologist and AIDS researcher named Judy Ann Mikovits (pronounced My-ko-vitz), a diminutive 51-year-old in a sleek black suit and a crisp white shirt.
Mikovits was a 20-year veteran of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) who had coauthored more than forty scientific papers.