Since the publication of the latest MMR study to refute any connection to autism, the principal believers in the idea that vaccines _simply must_ have some connection to autism have been floundering to spin some positives from the study. They have decided to concentrate on getting this study to exonerate Unigenetics (the lab of Professor John O’Leary). A little backstory is necessary here.
The idea that MMR leads to autism was first perpetuated by Andrew Wakefield. The idea goes that the MMR is injected, the measles component travels to the gut where it persists and causes severe gastric issues. It travels on to the brain and causes autism. Hence, it is – in the Wakefield scenario – the measles virus component of the MMR that causes autism.
In order to test this hypothesis, Wakefield tested for the presence of measles virus in the gut of autistic kids and lo and behold found loads. The way he found them was to send his biopsy samples off to the lab of John O’Leary, Unigenetics, in Dublin. Unigenetics ran the tests on the Wakefield samples and reported they had found measles RNA in significant percentages in Wakefield’s samples. They tested the samples using a technique called PCR.
So, later on, as study after study failed to replicate Wakefield’s – except, tellingly, for studies that went through Unigentics – investigators became suspicious of the results being generated at Unigenetics. As part of the UK litigation into MMR Professor Stephen Bustin – quite possibly _the_ world expert in PCR – went in and spent over 150 hours examining the methods used at Unigenetics to get their results. What he found was a bombshell.
Two things clearly arose from Bustin’s investigation. The first was a clear error of methodology. They forgot to perform an ‘RT Step’. What this was and what it meant is cleared up nicely here by commenter Brian:
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.
Its worth noting here that Bustin found this methodological error by following Unigenetics lab manual if I recall correctly.
Here is Bustin himself:
If you detect a target that is _apparently_ measles virus in the absence of an RT step by definition it can’t be measles virus because it has to be DNA [measles virus does not exist as a DNA molecule]. It’s a very simple concept. At least it is to me. It’s not to everyone else.
So what were they reporting as measles virus? Lab contamination. That was the second error.
OK, so now back to today and the new MMR paper and the drive to make it exonerate O’Leary.
The new study used three labs to perform its detection. All three performed excellently. One of the labs was (you guessed it) John O’Learys in Dublin.
So, two new press releases have hit since then. I’ll quote from them both.
This is from Thoughtful House (Andrew Wakefield’s Texan fiefdom):
This new study confirmed that results from the laboratory of Professor John O’Leary….were correct, and identical to the results obtained by the laboratories of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University.
In that this new study affirms the reliability of Professor O’Leary’s laboratory and therefore of his previous findings, a major impact upon the current hearings in vaccine court is likely, wherein the government’s defense relies largely on the claim that Professor O’Leary’s finding of measles in the intestinal biopsy of Michelle Cedillo (a child with severe autism and epilepsy) was unreliable. The historical reliability of the measles assay used in Professor O’Leary’s laboratory is now confirmed.
One of the three labs involved in the Hornig study was led by John O’Leary who conducted the testing for the Wakefield study. The three Hornig study labs validated each other,
confirming the rigorousness of Dr. O’Leary’s work. Dr. O’Leary conducted the testing for one of the autism test cases now in the Federal Court for Vaccine Claims. The child, who regressed into autism
and bowel disease after receiving the MMR, tested positive for measles virus.
So, you can see that this is the spin – exonerating Unigenetics work that Stephen Bustin had demolished.
They take a rather simplistic viewpoint of things – that because the lab performed well now, it did then. I think that’s rather a large assumption.
I also think that they have forgotten the timeline of events surrounding the Cedillo case.
Michelle Cedillo’s positive measles virus finding was in 2002:
From the cross examination of Arthur Krigsman:
Q: OKay, now in support of your opinion that Michelle has persistent measles virus in the lymphoid tissue of her bowel, you cite to the positive finding in *2002* by the Unigenetics in Dublin, Ireland of measles RNA in the tissue sample tested in Michelle, correct?
A: By the published report, of their findings.
Q: But from Unigenetics, specific to Michelle?
(Page 531, line 9 – 18)
Stephen Bustin did not enter the lab until January 2004.
From the Direct examination of Stephen Bustin:
Q:…..Now, you were granted physical access to the Unigenetics laboratory?
A: I was, yes.
A: In January 2004 and then again in May 2004.
(Page 1964, line 12 – 16)
In other words, Michelle Cedillo’s test results were generated by Unigenetics, _before_ Stephen Bustin (or anyone else) had discovered the catastrophic errors that made it impossible they were detecting measles.
The question becomes – if you were John O’Leary and someone had made it perfectly clear that you had done bad work two years earlier would you then carry on missing out the RT step? Or would you not? By the time 2008 rolled around, would you hope that your lab staff could do their jobs properly? Or wouldn’t you really care?
The idea that this new MMR study somehow exonerates the work of Unigenetics prior to 2004 is a joke. Unfortunately, Michelle Cedillo’s testing was done prior to 2004. Two years prior, back to a time when Unigenetics weren’t so good at lab work.