PCR with caution

June 22, 2012 at 7:05 pm 3 comments

PCR is perhaps the most prevalent and powerful tool used in molecular biology labs around the world. When performed correctly, PCR can give you fast, accurate and quantitative results. However, it is exactly this power (the power of amplification) that can lead to disaster when performed carelessly.

The folks at BioMed central have posted an interesting article looking at the recent debate surrounding the discovery of a virus that supposedly causes chronic fatigue syndrome and how PCR contamination may be blamed for faulty results.

Here’s an excerpt from the BioMed Central Blog:

Xenotrophic murine leukemia-related virus (XMRV) has been associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a debilitating condition of unknown etiology, and also prostate cancer. These associations have been hotly debated, with subsequent studies either supporting or questioning the connection.

However, most studies, whether they support or negate the link between XMRV and the two diseases, rely heavily on evidence provided by PCR testing. Therefore, when Retrovirology published four research articles in December 2010 that revealed underlying contamination issues associated with PCR analysis for XMRV, this impacted dramatically on the validity of previous research. All four studies demonstrate that murine genetic material can contaminate experiments leading to false positive findings.

Click here to read more.

For a thorough guide to performing accurate Quantitative PCR download Bio-Rad’s real-time amplification guide.

Entry filed under: Biotechnology News, Of Interest, PCR. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Angie Croix  |  January 15, 2011 at 9:30 am

    It did not impact the Validity of the Original findings of the paper published in Science Oct 2009, as many of their subjects were also Positive for XMRV antibodies in a Serology test. You can not get an antibody from a contaminant in a blood serum test.
    Thus, it was the latter PCR finding that
    were in question.

  • 2. oerganix  |  February 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Only one of the “contamination papers” had anything useful to say to researchers – the one revealing that one brand of reagent (?) was contaminated. The others simply shook their fingers at researchers who have decades of experience and were entirely aware of the possiblity of contamination and had taken all necessary precautions to prevent it.

    If you were aware of the politics in UK, where the most egregious media blitz originated, you would be suspicious of the motivations of these paid-to-publish-papers researchers. The Dept of Works & Pensions in UK, similar to US SSA, is advised by Unum (gigantic disability insurer characterized as an “outlaw company” by many state insurance regulators). Unum and UK DWP have a decades long policy of trying to refute any biomedical research into the viral cause(s) of ME/CFS. It’s part of their marketing campaign selling the disease as mental – a set of “illness beliefs”, to use their terminology.

    You really ought to have included the WPI response to this inaccuate publicity campaign: http://www.wpinstitute.org/news/docs/WPI_XMRV_010111.pdf

  • […] our post PCR with caution published earlier this year we told you about the controversy surrounding a study showing that a […]


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