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The Truth About Andrew Wakefield

14 Oct

Regular readers will know that an eminent UK scientist writes the occasional guest blog piece for LB/RB. Here is his piece in the wake of the the Lipkin/Hornig study and the amusing claim that it vindicates Wakefield. Enjoy – Kev.

A scientist who has followed the Wakefield saga from the start sets the record straight.

According to recent newspaper reports Andrew Wakefield is planning to publish his account of the MMR/autism controversy next year, under the title The Lesser Truth. He is currently facing charges of gross professional misconduct at the General Medical Council (the case is expected to conclude in April 2009). Meanwhile, Wakefield and his supporters continue to claim that his research is valid and continue to smear the investigative journalist Brian Deer who exposed the conflicts of interest and dubious ethics – as well as the junk science – behind the claims of a link between MMR and autism. But it was Wakefield who was obliged to back down in court from his libel allegations against Deer. Wakefield was unable to contradict Deer’s claim that he has been “unremittingly evasive and dishonest in an effort to cover up his wrong-doing”.

Here are some truths about Wakefield and his research that may not find their way into The Lesser Truth:

Wakefield was never a respected researcher. His first foray into the Lancet was a controversial paper in 1989 saying that Crohn’s disease was due to problems in the blood supply to the gut (vasculitis). But this was wrong. In the early 1990s he was funded by pharmaceutical companies for research along the same lines, mostly in animal models, and produced a series of low-impact, forgettable, papers.

Wakefield first courted notoriety in 1993 when he claimed to have identified measles virus in Crohn’s disease gut tissue. Coincidently, measles virus can cause vasculitis so it is easy to understand how, from 1989 onwards, Wakefield had to find measles in Crohn’s. We now know this result was not possible: there is no measles virus in Crohn’s disease and the antibodies Wakefield used were not specific for measles either. In Wakefield’s own lab, a good molecular biologist, Nicholas Chadwick, could not find measles in Crohn’s by sensitive molecular techniques. However, Wakefield said he could find measles, using crude techniques using flawed reagents. Suppressing data which ruins your hypothesis is scientific fraud.

In February 1996 Wakefield cooked up the idea that MMR was involved in autism with the solicitor Richard Barr and parent activist Rosemary Kessick. He wrote a research protocol to get into the children’s colons to look for measles virus and gut damage, and applied to the Legal Aid Board for £55K.

By October 1996, the Royal Free team had scoped enough children to provide Wakefield with tissue samples so that his technician could look for measles virus in the guts of autistic children by immunohistochemistry. This was clearly research, without clinical or ethical justification.

By spring/summer 1997 Wakefield had enough cases and enough creative data for his story. He believed that autistic children had gut inflammation and most importantly, he believed that he had discovered the cause – measles virus persisting in the gut from MMR. Wakefield first tried to get this study published in Nature but it was rejected.

Towards the end of 1997 he sent an abstract of this work to be presented at Digestive Diseases Week in the USA in May 1998. He also submitted two papers to the Lancet. The first was accepted and published as the now notorious February 1998 Lancet paper. The second, the study claiming to have identified measles virus in the gut by immunohistochemistry, was rejected. To see Wakefield’s pictures of measles virus in the guts of autistic children go here (slides 37 and 38). The second paper was never published and has now mysteriously disappeared, although Wakefield showed it all over North America for years.

In 2000, Wakefield published a larger series on “autistic enterocolitis”, the new disease he claimed to have identified (Wakefield et al 2000 Enterocolitis in children with developmental disorders. American Journal of Gastroenterology 95: 2285-95). Analysis of the data in this paper has revealed that it was a scam: autistic children do not have a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Normal findings in children were called pathology, pathological results were re-examined and sexed up, and new abnormalities were manufactured, all to make it appear that these children had gut inflammation (MacDonald TT, Domizio P. Autistic enterocolitis; is it a histopathological entity? Histopathology. 2007 Feb;50(3):371-9).

As the litigation in the UK began to heat up around 2000, the defendants (the MMR manufacturers) started to ask simple questions, such as, where is the paper which shows measles in the gut of autistic children? This was part of the MMR/autism story that was rejected by Nature and the Lancet. Who knows why Wakefield never published it? Maybe he realised it was junk since at the same time his identification of measles virus in Crohn’s disease had unravelled. Maybe he knew that the experts for the defence had looked at the data and the methodology and shown it was junk.

Wakefield now hooked up with Dublin pathologist John O’Leary. O’Leary was supposedly an expert in an unsound and discarded methodology called in cell PCR, which he claimed allowed him to amplify measles genetic material in tissue samples, in this case, from the guts of children with autism, and identify its cellular location. He also set up PCR techniques to amplify measles from samples of gut. The O’Leary lab’s studies of Wakefield’s gut biopsy specimens were published in another notorious paper (Uhlmann et al. Potential viral pathogenic mechanism for new variant inflammatory bowel disease. J Clinical Path: Mol Pathol 2002;55: 84-90).

In his testimony to the Omnibus Autism proceedings in Washington in summer 2007, London-based molecular biologist Professor Stephen Bustin showed the utter incompetence of O’Leary and his lab. He revealed the fact that a result was called positive if the sample contained measles virus but no DNA (a biological impossibility). He also revealed that if they analysed the same autistic sample 6 times and got a positive once, the patient was deemed to be positive, even though they were also getting positive measles results out of samples of pure water.

It seems that O’Leary has belatedly seen the error of his ways: in the recently published Hornig study, his lab – in common with other labs in the USA – failed to find measles in samples from autistic children (Hornig et al 2008 Lack of association between measles virus vaccine and autism with enteropathy: a case-control study. PLOS One 3(9):e3140). The attempts by Wakefield and his acolytes to claim that the Hornig study vindicates the Uhlmann paper are preposterous. Distancing himself from Wakefield as fast as is possible for any man of 20 stone, O’Leary cleaned up his lab and did things properly.

A review of the career of Andrew Wakefield is a trawl through the underbelly of science. Wakefield did not do experiments to seek the truth – he did experiments to confirm his own beliefs. He produced junk science for over a decade and did immense damage to patients with Crohn’s disease, and autistic children and their parents. Hopefully the GMC will nail the charlatan, and show some sympathy for the Royal Free clinicians who thought Wakefield was honest. The Andy Wakefield show has now moved to the USA where he can get the attention he craves and he can play the role of the selfless seeker of truth whom the establishment had to silence. Being a victim is a good career move for him. It will help Thoughtful House sell junk therapies for autism to desperate parents and allow Andy to live in a really big house, where he can entertain his showbiz friends. He really wanted to be a famous scientist, but he was rubbish at that, so he had to become (in)famous by other means.

Salon – Inside the vaccine scare

22 Sep

Salon redeems itself from producing what Orac at the time called biggest, steamingest, drippiest turd ever dropped on the web.

Three years ago Salon published the notoriously innacurate ramblings of RFK Jr. After uproar in the web science community and numerous fixes and amends to the original piece, what was left was still an awful piece of credulous rubbish.

It seems that Salon learnt their lesson. This time, they have ensured that the person talking about vaccines and autism is a _scientist_ as oppose to a crowd-pleasing politician.

Rahul Parikh has published a review of Paul Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets which differs so wildly from the RFK Jr debacle that its almost impossible to think of them being in the same publication.

I don’t want to do a review of a review as that would be bizarre and unnecessary but Parikh makes some key points that I want to address. The first one is the way the book starts.

Early in Dr. Paul A. Offit’s new book, “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure,” he describes a threatening letter he received from a man in Seattle. “I will hang you by you neck until you are dead!” it read. The FBI deemed the threat credible, assigning Offit a protective officer who, for the next few months, followed him “to and from lunch, a gun hanging at his side.” He then recalls a suspicious phone call from a man who recited the names of Offit’s two children and where they went to school: “His implication was clear. He knew where my children went to school. The he hung up.” These days, the hospital he works in regularly screens his mail for suspicious packages.

Such stories usually come from pro-choice physicians on the front lines of the abortion debate. But Offit is no obstetrician. Rather, he is a baby doctor — the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The threats against him and his family have come not from antiabortion advocates, but rather from anti-vaccine crusaders who believe that vaccines cause autism. Offit, it turns out, has been targeted by them because he helped to develop a vaccine that prevents rotavirus, a serious gastrointestinal infection in children, and because he has been staunchly pro-vaccine in a time when there are many doubts about their safety.

It is amazing that we should be in a situation where a doctor who is actively saving lives is being targeted for that very fact. What is even more amazing is the fact that the very antivaxers who hate Offit so much simply don’t believe he _is_ being targeted. A few comments from Lisa Jo Rudy’s piece on Offit’s book illustrate this perfectly:

It’s very hard to judge the seriousness claims like Offit’s….

Mark Blaxill, Safe Minds.

I have heard Dr. Offitt make his claims of threats, etc. on more than one occasion. But I have never seen any real evidence of those alleged threats.

Wade Rankin, autism/antivax blogger

I would suggest that a reference to the possibility that some agency or company would harm one’s children in the future could be construed and repeated as a “threat” to one’s children if that threat would help to garner sympathy and label an opposing side as nuts.

Mike B

An amazing reaction. They genuinely hate Paul Offit so much that they think he is making up threats made to his children. And they think he’s doing it to ‘garner sympathy and label an opposing side as nuts’. This is the type of denial and refusal to see their own shortcomings that has led to the sorry state of autism/vaccine science in the first place.

Parikh also documents the reality of the science today and the reality of how the wider world views the autism/anti-vaccine community.

Despite what Wakefield claimed in his paper, his hospital’s ethics committee never approved his experiments to put children to sleep under general anesthesia, do spinal taps on them, take biopsies of their intestines (one of the children was hospitalized after his colon perforated in several places) and take volumes of blood from their veins. Deer also discovered serious conflicts of interest: Wakefield’s research was secretly bankrolled by a personal injury lawyer whose clients were suing MMR makers. Wakefield himself was given close to a million dollars to prove that the MMR caused autism. He had filed a patent for a new MMR vaccine at the same time he was doing his research. Upon learning this, Lancet retracted his paper, and he was charged with professional misconduct in 2005. If he is found guilty of misconduct, he will never practice medicine in the U.K. again.

The people in the autism/anti-vaccine community see Wakefield as a persecuted hero. Everyone else in the entire world who takes an interest in the matter sees him as a weak man who tried to game people – and did. Possibly he still is.

This level of disconnect between what those in the autism/antivax community see as the reality and the _actual_ reality is sometimes shocking. Even for me who has been in the front line of this debate for five years now, some of the things I read about and see from these people make my jaw drop.

I blogged about an example of this not long ago when Safe Minds Board Member Heidi Roger stated that Polio could be preferable to autism – and even that death could be better than autism.

This is a sadly far from uncommon opinion amongst a certain type of autism/antivax believer. To sum up their personality type would, I think, bring a sizeable minority of them very close to Munchausen syndrome by proxy/ Fabricated or induced illness , the indications of which seem very familiar to me from reading the Yahoo groups over the last few years:

* A child who has one or more medical problems that do not respond to treatment or that follow an unusual course that is persistent, puzzling and unexplained.
* Physical or laboratory findings that are highly unusual, discrepant with history, or physically or clinically impossible.
* A parent who appears to be medically knowledgeable and/or fascinated with medical details and hospital gossip, appears to enjoy the hospital environment, and expresses interest in the details of other patients’ problems.
* A highly attentive parent who is reluctant to leave their child’s side and who themselves seem to require constant attention.
* A parent who appears to be unusually calm in the face of serious difficulties in their child’s medical course while being highly supportive and encouraging of the physician, or one who is angry, devalues staff, and demands further intervention, more procedures, second opinions, and transfers to other, more sophisticated, facilities.
* The suspected parent may work in the health care field themselves or profess interest in a health-related job.
* The signs and symptoms of a child’s illness do not occur in the parent’s absence (hospitalization and careful monitoring may be necessary to establish this causal relationship).
* A family history of similar or unexplained illness or death in a sibling.
* A parent with symptoms similar to their child’s own medical problems or an illness history that itself is puzzling and unusual.
* A suspected emotionally distant relationship between parents; the spouse often fails to visit the patient and has little contact with physicians even when the child is hospitalized with serious illness.
* A parent who reports dramatic, negative events, such as house fires, burglaries, or car accidents, that affect them and their family while their child is undergoing treatment.
* A parent who seems to have an insatiable need for adulation or who makes self-serving efforts for public acknowledgment of their abilities.

I might catch some flak for making this comparison but whilst I am not suggesting that everyone autism/antivax adherent is MSbP or FII, I do think – as I say – a sizeable minority are. In the list above I have emboldened the characteristics I personally have seen lots of evidence of.

At any rate, whether there is genuine evidence of MSbP or FII or not, there is definitely an ongoing unreality to a certain group of peoples lives with autism. Why? To pretend to themselves they have total control over something that they do not understand? To medicalise something in order to keep alive the hope of a medical cure? To fuel their pre-existing lust for conspiracy theories? All of the above? None? Something else?

It gets to a point when it starts to not matter. When autistic children are literally being experimented on with absolutely no control in place like they are being with chelation, like they are being with Lupron and like they now are being with OSR we have to do something. When children in the UK are dying of vaccine preventable disease and children in the US are being hospitalised then we need to do something.

Paul Offit did something.

The Bernadine Healy Card

31 May

Last month, ex NIH leader, Bernadine Healy came out of her semi-retirement to weigh in on the autism/vaccine hypothesis:

….the rise of this disorder, which shows up before age 3, happens to coincide with the increased number and type of vaccine shots in the first few years of life. So as a trigger, vaccines carry a ring of both historical and biological plausibility.

It was a credulous article designed, I suspect, to have a bit of a snipe at HHS – currently embroiled in the Autism Omnibus. Why do I say that?

Well, being a UK citizen I’d never heard of Bernadine Healy so I did a bit of looking around to see if I could adequately explain to myself why such a luminary would say such plainly silly and unscientific things.

It seems that:

on 10 Feb [1993], Healy, who is known for her bluntness, went to her new boss, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Donna Shalala and asked about her future. Shalala apparently matched Healy for bluntness. “She let me know it wouldn’t work out in the long term.” Said Healy.

So possibly there is some lingering resentment towards HHS. Who knows. It seems doubtful that this would entirely (if at all) explain Healy’s decision to parrot pseudo-science but – people do silly things sometimes.

What I found fascinating was that this is not the first time Healy has taken an active role in direct opposition to science and the scientific process:

…..patients are forced into a one-size-fits-all straitjacket…..EBM [evidence based medicine] carries its own ideological and political agenda separate from its clinical purpose.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and former director of the National Institutes of Health, falsely claimed that “several” neurologists who “evaluated” Terri Schiavo determined that she had “a functional mind” and was “minimally conscious.”

Dr Bernadine Healey, former director of the National Institute of Health said, “Blenderizing these diverse trials into one giant 232,606-patient-strong study to come up with a seductively simple proclamation is just silly….”

That latter was Healy’s attack on a study that highlighted the dangers of vitamins.

So we can see that Healy has a history that is peppered with leanings toward a credulous approach.

It also seems that she is first and foremost a politician, willing to sacrifice her scientific credibility to support her party (she is a Republican):

Healy was appointed director of the National Institutes of Health in 1991….when Healy assumed control, the agency was beset with problems…..[s]cientists were leaving in record numbers because of…..politicization of scientific agendas (a prime example was the ban on fetal-tissue research because the Republican administration believed it encouraged abortion)

Healy had, at that time expressed support for fetal-tissue research:

….she had been a member of a panel that advised continuation of fetal-tissue research, her appointment was also seen as a move away from politicized science.

So, it must’ve come as something of a shock to NIH scientists when:

….she lobbied against overturning the Bush Administration’s ban on fetal tissue research, despite her previous support for such research.

She also had to defend herself against charges of mishandling a scientific misconduct case:

Healy demanded that OSI (like internal affairs for the NIH) rewrite a draft report that found misconduct on the part of Popovic. The OSI report also severely criticized Gallo.

“When her order for a rewrite was refused, Dr. Healy replaced the chief investigator [Suzanne Hadley] with one more malleable,” the subcommittee report said. The resulting OSI report was “watered down,” the subcommittee document said.


In 1992, the National Academy of Sciences’ panel completed its investigation and produced a report critical of Gallo.

Healy chose to ignore the findings of the NAS panel and commissioned her own ad hoc committee of top NIH scientists, whom she called her “wise men,” the report said. Healy required the members to sign a secrecy agreement.

(Full story also here).

Maybe the biggest question mark against Healy’s scientific credibility and ability to be impartial as this. She was a member of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition:

The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), formerly the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, is an industry-funded lobby group which promotes the idea that environmental science on issues including smoking, pesticides and global warming is “junk science”, which should be replaced by “sound science”.

Notably, TASSC promote the interests of tobacco companies:

Initially, the primary focus of TASSC was an attempt to discredit research on Environmental Tobacco Smoke [passive smoking] as a long-term cause of increased cancer and heart problem rates in the community — especially among office workers and children living with smoking parents. It subsequently advanced industry-friendly positions on a wide range of topics, including global warming, smoking, phthalates, and pesticides. Later still, they extended the role of TASSC to Europe using Dr George Carlo. TASSC used the label of ‘junk science’ to criticise work that was unfavorable to the interests of its backers.

TASSC’s funders included:

Dow Chemical
General Motors
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Lorillard Tobacco
Louisiana Chemical Association
National Pest Control Association
Occidental Petroleum
Philip Morris
Procter & Gamble
Santa Fe Pacific Gold
W.R. Grace

More can be found here.

So, all in all, I am disposed to not trust the words, or ‘beliefs’ of Bernadine Healy very much. Anyone who campaigns against the dangers of passive smoking to children or who is prepared to block science they allegedly once supported when it is politically expedient doesn’t seem that good a judge of what constitutes good science.

Vaccines = bad, vitamin supplements = good

17 Apr

A fascinating mini-storm has been quietly bubbling away in the UK over the last couple of months concerning the vitamin and mineral supplement industry. It has a tie in to autism these days as one of the features of the more extreme forms of biomed is an increase – sometime to megadose levels – of vitamin and mineral supplements.

Here’s a video from BBC News yesterday. And if you can’t get the video, here’s the online report.

A review of 67 studies found “no convincing evidence” that antioxidant supplements cut the risk of dying.

Scientists at Copenhagen University said vitamins A and E could interfere with the body’s natural defences.

“Even more, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E seem to increase mortality,” according to the review by the respected Cochrane Collaboration.

The report reported a neutral finding for Vitamin C but it already established that mega-doses of Vitamin C:

….can cause nausea, diarrhea, kidney stones and inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis).

These vitamins and minerals are routinely recommended by extreme biomed practitioners for autistic children. There is no scientific evidence of any kind that they do anything to alleviate any autistic symptoms.

I blogged yesterday about a paper called ‘Trusting blindly can be the biggest risk of all’: organised resistance to childhood vaccination in the UK which whilst fascinating in its own right, makes mention of attitudes towards vaccines as risks ‘of the unknown’.

The Vaccine Critical groups rely heavily on a discourse of unknowns in order to challenge and undermine the rationality of vaccination. For example, a majority of the groups make the argument that we do not know the effects of vaccination because of insufficient safety trials, both pre- and post-licence.

And yet, these same groups are more than happy to ply themselves and their children with supplements that have also had little to no safety trials.

There is a huge cognitive dissonance at work here that is worth a sociological study in its own right. Why is it OK to administer some things with no trials and not others? Another idea that anti-vaccine groups tend to espouse is the idea that because ‘we’re all different’ we need to tailor what we’re given to us individually.

We’ve got to actually make sure that what we’re giving is right for the individual child. The Department of Health are not good at determining whether a child shouldn’t have something. They treat them all as exactly the same (JABS).

And yet, once again, we seem to have non-individualised plans (such as the so called Yasko diet, or the GFCF diet or the recommendation to take huge doses of mineral supplements) when it comes to biomed. Why is it OK for one set of treatments and not others?

I think there is more going on here than the authors of the ‘Trusting blindly…’ paper realise. I genuinely believe that for some people it really is a pathological hatred of vaccines . There is no rhyme or reason for it but I’m sure it is there.

Dear CDC

26 Mar

I read with interest Dr Schuchat’s opinion piece in the AJC today.

Whilst it is gratifying to see someone of Dr Schuchat’s calibre responding to previous claims regarding vaccines in autism I would like to make a few points to Dr Schuchat and the CDC in general.

Firstly, this level of response is around eight years too late. What have you been doing on the media/PR front over the last eight years? I’ll tell you what your ‘opponents’ have been doing – they’ve been conducting protests outside your offices, outside the offices of the AAP etc. They’ve been setting up and organising vaccine/autism groups and heavily marketing them via the use of organic and paid for web based advertising.

The only people who have made any kind of attempt to counter these groups and the misinformation (deliberate or not) they publish is people like myself. I am not attempting to aggrandise myself at all. I am attempting to convey to you how one sided the ‘battle’ has been over the last few years.

Where were you? You were needed. You could’ve helped. Instead you sat back and hoped this would all go away. It didn’t. It won’t.

Secondly, the level of Dr Schuchat’s response is very close to condescending. Simply stating that:

Kirby’s column included many inaccuracies related to childhood vaccines. As such, it illustrates that when it comes to immunizations, child development and specific medical conditions, the best source of guidance is the child’s health care provider.

is patronising in the extreme. The level and quality of the debate has moved on in the last eight years. Bland assurances won’t cut it. You need to be specific and offer evidence. Autistic people, parents of autistic people and interested professionals are smart enough to know and understand a certain level of science these days.

Don’t be shy about providing people with science. You have some truly excellent science on ‘your side’ as I and others have attempted to blog about in the last five years to no small effect. For example, Googling mmr autism displays, amongst others, the blog of a friend of mine – also the parent of an autistic child and also convinced of the need to blog about the bad science surrounding the various vaccine/autism hypotheses. Googling thiomersal autism brings up _this_ blog. We’re doing your job for you!

You’re being left behind in this debate. Its time you caught up.

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 ( 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.

AAP needs help of rational parents

18 Feb

As part of the welcome addressing of the needs and concerns of the real autism and autistic community in regards to science and as part of their efforts to address the pseudo-science and quackery of the anti-vaccine agenda of certain autism related groups, the AAP are looking for rational parents to help them. I will certainly be offering my details should they be of service and I would urge any parent of an autistic child who is sick of hearing the unscientific and self serving agenda of such groups – groups who not only belittle autistic people but also gladly and readily place the health and well being of others at risk for absolutely no purpose to contact the AAP to offer their details also.

If you wish me to pass on your details, please either leave your name and email address in the comment section of this post, or email them to me or you can email the author of the AAP letter reproduced below.


As part of our ongoing response to media stories regarding autism and vaccines, the AAP communications department is compiling a list of parents who support the AAP and are available for interviews. We are looking for two types of parents who could serve as spokespersons:

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their child’s vaccines and his or her autism.

Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for immunization.

We are asking for your help identifying parents who would be good spokespersons. They do not need to be expert public speakers. They just need to be open with their story and interested in speaking out on the issue. We will contact candidates in advance to conduct pre-interviews, to offer guidance on talking to reporters and to obtain a signed waiver giving us permission to release their name.

If a parent were placed on our list, we would offer their name and contact information to select media. We hope to build a list of parents from a wide range of geographical areas.

As the Jenny McCarthy and “Eli Stone” stories illustrate, this issue is likely to recur in the national and local media. The AAP is committed to doing all we can to counter such erroneous reports with factual information supported by scientific evidence and AAP recommendations.

The anti-vaccine groups often have emotional family stories on their side. The ability to offer a reporter an interview with a similarly compelling parent who is sympathetic to the AAP’s goals is a powerful tool for our media relations program.

Please contact me if you have any questions or to suggest a parent to interview.

Thank you,

Susan Stevens Martin
Director, Division of Media Relations
American Academy of Pediatrics

Lets take the example of just one worldwide disease that is vaccine preventable. Measles. In Jan 2007 The Guardian reported:

Between 1999 and 2005, there was a 60% reduction in annual measles deaths worldwide, from 873,000 to 345,000….

Fantastic news. But let that figure of 345,000 stay in your mind. That was how many people died all over the world from measles in 2005.

What do the countries most affected by measles think?

Urbain Olanguena Awono, Cameroon’s public health minister, described the fall in deaths as a spectacular achievement. “We are winning the fight against measles, which has long killed, sickened and disabled our children,” he said. “Our determination is stronger than ever to make measles history by further strengthening our measles control activities, working in concert with our international partners and setting aside resources.”

And who form part of their international partners I wonder? Merck? Wyeth? Bayer? SafeMinds? TACA?

There is even cautious talk of the possibility of ridding the world of measles, but while the eradication of smallpox was a triumph, the long struggle to eliminate the final reservoirs of polio in a handful of countries has shown how difficult it is to stamp out a disease.

And it is the same with measles – a handful of countries are holding back the eradication of measles.

Measles eradication could conceivably be stymied not by the developing world, but by dissenters in rich countries such as the UK

Thats right. My rich, upper middle class fellow countrymen and women. And their American rich upper middle class counterparts. Some of whom think the idea of AAP appealing for help to save kids lives is funny to the point of making jokes about the deaths of children:

From: krstagliano
Date: Feb 16, 2008 6:57 AM
Subject: [EOHarm] Re: JB, email from AAP looking for sick kids

Can you imagine the ad campaign? Dad sitting in a confessional proclaiming his remorse and grief for not vaccinating his child, while the bell tolls in the background. Then a quick shot over to a small pink casket with a dolly on top and mother on her knees sobbing in front of the altar……[]


Hilarious eh? Those whacky guys and gals at EoH really know how to make with the funnies.

Please don’t let this morally and scientifically bankrupt bunch of me-me’s keep hogging the media with their poor science. Support the AAP in the US and the NHS in the UK.