Before the MMR science, the press conference

4 Sep

As I’ve already posted not once but twice, yet one more study has been published showing yet one more time that the MMR doesn’t cause autism.

Prior to the lifting of the embargo on the study itself, there was a press conference featuring some of the study authors (Lipkin and Hornig were both in attendance) and several journalists as well as ‘freelance writer’ David Kirby.

Most of the questions concentrated on what this study showed, however someone there wanted to try and use this new study to (somewhat bizarrely) exonerate the O’Leary lab’s role in the poor science done by Wakefield and in the lab’s role in the Cedillo hearing (where it was trounced for poor science).

The whole press conference is here.

As an example, here is David’s first question.

http://webjay.org/flash/dark_player

Now thats more a set of questions than _a_ question, the initial question regarding Hannah Poling is both inaccurate and pointless. Inaccurate as, regardless of what David claims, no statement has been published by anyone that states Hannah Poling’s autism was caused by a vaccine. Pointless as this science has absolutely no bearing on her case. It has never been claimed she had measles virus in her gut.

David’s second point regarding O’Leary is fascinating. Because one of the labs used in this new paper was O’Leary’s and because the lab performed well, David seems to be claiming that that exonerates the O’Leary lab from past errors. I’m not sure how that can be true. As Stephen Bustin clearly showed during the Cedillo hearing, the errors of the O’Leary lab were twofold. The first was one of methodology. They forgot to do an RT step. Now I don’t know what that means but it was clear that it was a fairly serious (and basic) error. What it caused was the O’Leary lab to falsely identify contaminants as measles RNA. The second error was failing to pick this contamination up. So its not just a case of contamination, its a case of poor procedure.

I’m going to hazard a guess here and suggest that since the time of Bustin’s initial investigation (some years ago now) the O’Leary lab have figured out how to do an RT Step.

David’s second question followed:

http://webjay.org/flash/dark_player

So, we’re back to the very small sub-population argument. I really want to know – if the leading supporter of the vaccine hypotheses is now angling towards this ‘sub-sub’ group, what impact does that have on the autism epidemic idea? I mean, how can you have an autism epidemic generated by a very small sub-sub group?

Anyway, the answer to David’s question from the assembled scientists was ‘uh, who knows? That’s not what our study was about’. Or words to that effect.

David’s third (and fourth) questions followed. Please listen carefully to the answers which I’ve left on. You might also want to note the (somewhat amusing) deep sigh from the guy answering David as David keeps trying to make him say that MMR isn’t totally 100% safe.

http://webjay.org/flash/dark_player

And then by the time of David’s attempted fifth question, the answering team were obviously getting a bit fed up.

http://webjay.org/flash/dark_player

So that (to me) is a pretty fascinating insight into the denial that exists even at the very highest levels of the autism/vaccine hypotheses.

Just as a postscript, David asked them (totally randomly it seemed) if the best study would be one of vaccinated vs unvaccinated kids. Here is the reply. A reply grounded in real science.

http://webjay.org/flash/dark_player

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8 Responses to “Before the MMR science, the press conference”

  1. brian September 4, 2008 at 21:03 #

    “They forgot to do an RT step. Now I don’t know what that means but it was clear that it was a fairly serious (and basic) error.”

    The RT stands for “Reverse Transcriptase”, an enzyme that makes a DNA copy of an RNA molecule.

    Measles virus exists as an RNA molecule. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay amplifies DNA. Thus to detect an RNA molecule in a PCR assay, the RNA must first be copied (by the reverse transcriptase enzyme) into DNA, which can then be amplified.

    Bustin showed that the O’Leary lab reported positive results even when they could not possibly have detected an RNA molecule because they had left out the step to copy that RNA into DNA. Thus the positive results reported for such assays were undoubtedly false positives.

  2. Ms. Clark September 4, 2008 at 21:03 #

    I think that David Kirby shows up at those press conferences (by phone) at the behest of antivaccine lawyers. His first questions were totally about the effect of this study on the outcome of vaccine cases and/or how a finding in a particular vaccine lawsuit might somehow contradict the findings of the study. I don’t think Kirby was there because he has some kind of burning interest in autism. I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t like or respect the mercury parents at all. It looks like he’s a paid mouthpiece, to me. His background is that he owned a PR business. He did PR for Liz Taylor when she wsa into supporting the AIDS community. Why shouldn’t we think that he was doing PR for anti-vaccine lawyers when he called in with his “questions”? He didn’t identify himself as a blogger. Which makes me wonder, if Kirby the blogger was allowed to ask questions, how about other bloggers? Pro-vaccine bloggers should have been allowed to ask questions of the researchers, too. I would have asked Hornig and Lipkin what they thought about thimerosal now … OK it would be off topic, but no more off topic than Kirby’s questions were.

  3. Sullivan September 4, 2008 at 21:06 #

    It was interesting to listen to the whole thing. To put things in perspective, people were supposed to have one question, but most (if not all) squeezed two questions in. Mr. Kirby, however, asked and asked and asked.

    In addition, he basically testified. His “question” about Hannah Poling was more of a statement/assertion, as were many of his other “questions”.

  4. OLeary was not exonerated September 5, 2008 at 01:02 #

    Anyone trying to spin the current research into an exoneration of the lies that were done by the Wakefield team (one doesn’t “forget” to do the RT step unless one is a spaniel) is either stupid or a liar.

  5. Ms. Clark September 5, 2008 at 03:45 #

    The problems with the O’Leary lab went WAAAY beyond forgetting to do the RT step.

    They didn’t maintain the equipment which was obviously broken, not just that they had the settings wrong, it was broken. Then as I recall they also had equipment where the settings were wrong. Everything about the lab was like they had someone with a 6th grade education and no concern at all for doing anything proper running it. The place was contaminated with plasmids because they were making the plasmids right next to the lab.
    The lab would need to be cleaned with like a “scorched earth” process removing everything and treating every surface including the ceiling for them to be able to use it again for PCR!!!

  6. Ringside Seat September 5, 2008 at 08:22 #

    Kirby plainly got straight on the phone to Wakefield to ask what to say. The standard of the response really is sad. They are trying to raise an argument for O’Leary’s previous claims to be taken seriously in the omnibus litigation, even though O’Leary himself wouldn’t attend to give evidence, and now Hornig, Buie, Bellini and O’Leary now join Wakefield’s previous collaborators, Walker-Smith, Murch and Dhillon in published denunciation of his claims.

    Even so, Wakefield’s response to this paper is pitiful. Literally pitiful.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Science-Based Medicine » The worst of times for antivaccine believers: Yet another study fails to show any link between the MMR vaccine and autism - September 8, 2008

    [...] about the O’Leary lab. (Note added after publication: The press conference can be found here.) I’ve also heard rumblings from the antivaccination underground that the talking point will [...]

  2. MMR and autism: new study | Autism Library - September 9, 2008

    [...] has audio from the press conference, which is [...]

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