Dr. Elizabeth Unger has been named to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s branch researching chronic fatigue syndrome, a move greeted with skepticism by CFS advocacy groups. She replaces her longtime boss, Dr. William C. Reeves, whose insistence on seeking a psychological explanation for CFS had enraged patient and medical groups that believe the cause is biological.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — under a spotlight again for conflicting research on chronic fatigue syndrome — have extended the search for a scientist to lead research into the disorder. The Atlanta-based agency is looking for someone to take over a branch that, critics say, has resisted and ridiculed outside research that suggesting a correlation between chronic fatigue syndrome and the XMRV retrovirus.
When Sen. David Vitter persuaded the EPA to agree to yet another review of its long-delayed assessment of the health risks of formaldehyde, he was praised by companies that use or manufacture a chemical found in everything from plywood to carpet. As long as the studies continue, the EPA will still list formaldehyde as a “probable” rather than a “known” carcinogen, even though three major scientific reviews now link it to leukemia and have strengthened its ties to other forms of cancer.
Dr. Howard Frumkin, the embattled director of a little-known but important division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been reassigned to a position with less authority, a smaller staff and a lower budget. For the past two years he had endured scathing criticism from Congress and the media for the CDC’s poor handling of public health problems created by the formaldehyde-contaminated trailers that the government provided to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Looks like the CDC’s chronic fatigue syndrome research group, led by Dr. William C. Reeves, may have some ‘splaining to do today in Washington. A possible research breakthrough — the discovery of a correlation between CFS and a retrovirus related to the AIDS virus — has fired up the medical community in recent weeks. “This is going to create an avalanche of subsequent studies,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, told the New York Times this month. But will the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention play a role in that research? It hasn’t so far.