Wakefield, Baird, Archives

20 Feb

This is a Guest Blogged post, written by an author with a keen interest in Wakefield related issues. My gratitude to Nigel for writing the post which follows.

Wakefield and his colleagues were fast off the mark (http://www.thoughtfulhouse.org/pr/020608.htm) to criticise the study by Baird et al which recently appeared in Archives of Disease in Childhood. This was a well conducted study which failed to detect measles virus (MV) or elevated measles antibodies in the blood of autistic children. There is a general feeling that even if the almighty Jehovah himself, collaborating with the top researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, and with an advisory board of all recent Nobel laureates in medicine, produced a negative study on measles virus in autistic children, Wakefield would still find flaws in the work; remarkably rich from the single largest purveyor of junk science in the last 20 years.

As a criticism of the study Wakefield states “It is a major error to have presumed that peripheral blood mononuclear cells are a valid ‘proxy’ for gut mucosal lymphoid tissues when searching for persistent viral genetic material” and later states “ We are increasingly persuaded that measuring things in blood many years down the line tells us very little about the initiating events in what is, in effect, a static (non-progressive) encephalopathy unlike, for example, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, which is a progressive measles encephalopathy” .

The hypocrisy of this statement is quite breathtaking, but unsurprising from someone whose relationship with scientific honesty and integrity is somewhat elastic. For those who don’t have long memories, the first “alleged “ evidence of MV in autism came from Wakefiled’s collaboration with Kawashima where using standard methodologies which were highly effective at detecting MV laboratory contaminants, Wakefield claimed that blood cells from 3/9 autistic children gave positive results ( Dig Dis Sci 2000 45:723-9). This paper formed a key part of the UK MMR litigation from 2000-2003 driven by Wakefield himself until it was mysteriously dropped from the final claimants witness reports by Wakefield himself. Perhaps the realization that blood is a poor proxy for gut came to him in 2003, or more likely, that he knew the Kawashima data were junk and would not stand up in court.

Even more staggeringly, the vast majority of samples from autistic tested for MV by O’Leary in the Unigenetics lab in Dublin were from blood; including the now infamous blood samples taken from healthy children at Wakefield’s own child’s birthday party. Steve Bustin in his testimony on the US Cedillo case comprehensively shredded all of the work that came out of that lab. All of this data on blood has never appeared in the public domain although the junk science on MV in the gut did appear in the Uhlmann paper, in a low impact factor journal which promptly rolled over and died.

As always however, you cannot believe anything Wakefield says as being scientifically valid. In the blood there are cells which are representative of the gut lymphoid tissue. This is very well established and non-controversial. When T and B cells are activated in the gut associated lymphoid tissue, they acquire the alpha4beta 7 integrin and migrate via the mesenteric lymph nodes, and the thoracic duct into the circulating blood and then home back into the rest of the gut using the mucosal addressin, MAdCAM-1.. This happens in all healthy people constantly and it is possible to identify these gut-homing cells in blood. Since Wakefield claims that MV persists in the allegedly large lymph nodes in the gut wall, cells should be infected with MV at source and carry the virus with them into the blood. So come on Andy, with O’Leary’s supersensitive PCR, you should be able to detect at least some of these cells migrating to the gut via the blood. After all, the PCR is so sensitive it can detect MV in samples of distilled water, now that is really amazing!

I suppose one should always rejoice in the repentance of a sinner, and if Wakefield has now come to the conclusion that blood is not a proxy for gut lymphoid tissue, we should be happy he is now happy to recant on all his previous claims about blood cells being positive for MV in autism. I have a sneaky feeling however that this is just another “wriggle” to keep the show on the road. If one of his acolytes claims to find MV in blood of autistic children, you can bet that blood will once again become a valid proxy for gut lymphoid tissue.

3 Responses to “Wakefield, Baird, Archives”

  1. notmercury February 20, 2008 at 15:51 #

    Nice job Nigel!

    p.s. Loved your work with Spinal Tap

  2. Ms. Clark February 20, 2008 at 19:46 #

    “After all, the PCR is so sensitive it can detect MV in samples of distilled water, now that is really amazing!”

    That **is** some amazing PCR! :-/

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