Michael Fitzpatrick is a general practitioner and autism parent in the U.K. who has been countering misinformation for over a decade. His books include Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion and MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know. Dr. Fitzpatrick offered to take Andrew Wakefield’s recent challenge for a public debate. Mr. Wakefield has not responded.
One report of a replication of key finding by Andrew Wakefield’s team was presented at an IMFAR conference in 2006but never published. Even though it has not been published, and has in fact failed to replicate, that work by Steve Walker is often cited by Mr. Wakefield’s supporters.
Below are a series of points Dr. Fitzpatrick has collected in regards to the Walker study.
‘It [the Children’s Immunisation Centre – offering single measles vaccines] argues that the MMR vaccine can cause autism, saying: ‘In 2009 a Dr Walker in the USA studied 275 autistic children and found in a large percentage of cases that these children had the live measles virus in their gut after vaccination with the triple MMR’.Sunday Times, 21 April 2013.
1. In 2006 Dr Stephen Walker presented a poster at the Montreal IMFAR meeting claiming to have identified measles virus in intestinal biopsies of children with autism. These preliminary, provisional, unconfirmed, non-peer-reviewed findings in an uncontrolled study (which does not mention MMR) were widely reported – and enthusiastically acclaimed by Dr Andrew Wakefield.
2. In a subsequent statement issued by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, Walker denied that he had shown any link between measles virus and autism.http://www.wakehealth.edu/News-Releases/2006/Wake_Forest_Researcher_Warns_Against_Making_Connection_Between_Presence_of_Measles_Virus_and_Autism.htm
3. The Walker study has never been published.
4. The Walker study was dismissed as evidence in the 2009 Omnibus Autism Proceedings in the USA after a detailed critique by expert witnesses.http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2011/01/the-daily-mail-uk-continuing-sorry-contribution-to-fear-uncertainty-and-doubt-vaccine-fears.html
5. The Walker study is not included in a recent list of ‘28 studies from around the world that support Dr Wakefield’s work’ (though none of these validate his claim of a link between MMR and autism).
6. Though reports claimed that the Walker study had ‘replicated’ the work of Wakefield’s Dublin collaborator John O’Leary published in 2002, this work has been thoroughly discredited, most comprehensively by Professor Stephen Bustin (and is no longer even claimed by Wakefield in his support).
(Stephen A Bustin, Why There Is No Link Between Measles Virus and Autism, DOI: 10.5772/52844)
7. A co-author on the 2006 Walker study (and on his recent, unrelated, 2013 publication) is Dr Arthur Krigsman, a long-standing colleague and supporter of Dr Wakefield (and collaborator in his current Autism Media Channel initiative). http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0058058
Observations on Dr Krigsman by the ‘Special Masters’ in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings 2009:
‘After studying the extensive evidence in this case for many months, I am convinced that the reports and advice given to the Cedillos by Dr Krigsman and some other physicians, advising the Cedillos that there is a causal connection between Michelle’s MMR vaccination and her chronic conditions have been very wrong. Unfortunately, the Cedillos have been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment.’
Dr Krigsman appeared as both expert witness and as ‘treating physician’ to Michelle Cedillo and Colten Snyder. The special masters found that his credentials were ‘scant’ and noted that though he claimed to be ‘assistant clinical professor’ at New York University he had never taught there. His four publications were reduced on inquiry to one. It emerged that he left New York following disciplinary action at his former hospital and was fined $5,000 on arrival in Texas for misrepresenting his registration status.
The special masters were not impressed by Dr Krigsman’s performance as an expert witness. Hastings commented that in the Cedillo case he ‘did not find Dr Krigsman to be an expert upon whom I could reasonably rely for sound opinion and judgment’.
It was in relation to his personal testimony as Michelle’s doctor that Hastings found Dr Krigsman to be most ‘unpersuasive’ and of ‘doubtful credibility’. He was shocked to discover that he had ‘presented an opinion concerning Michelle’s case either without examining Michelle’s medical records at all, or after badly misreading these records’. He noted that Dr Krigsman had ‘diagnosed Michelle with “inflammatory bowel disease” in July of 2003, before he had even met and examined her’. Hastings further noted that ‘Dr Krigsman seems highly inclined to diagnose the presence of gastrointestinal inflammation on the basis of almost any chronic gastrointestinal symptoms’. He concluded that Dr Krigsman had advanced a ‘grossly mistaken understanding of Michelle’s gastrointestinal symptoms’ and that ‘a simple reading of Michelle’s medical records demonstrates that Dr Krigsman’s understanding was clearly wrong’. Michelle endured five upper gastrointestinal endoscopies and three lower gastrointestinal endoscopies, none of which in the opinion of the respondent’s experts, revealed inflammatory bowel disease.
Michael Fitzpatrick 23 April 2013