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Monday, February 09, 2009

Junk Science Exposed Too Late for Some

The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) triple vaccine does not cause autism.

That's not a terribly original or controversial statement. The consensus of virtually all mainstream doctors was that vaccination was critical for children and that no link could be found between MMR and autism.

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) said so as far back in 2001 when they published AAP panel finds no link between ASD, MMR vaccine.

The report concludes, "The available evidence does not support the hypothesis that MMR vaccine causes autism or associated disorders or IBD" (Pediatrics. 2001;107:e84). It also says pediatricians need to work with families to ensure children are protected from these preventable diseases.

"Pediatricians should feel comfortable using MMR vaccine and recommending it for their patients," said Neal A. Halsey, M.D., FAAP, co-chair of the panel that wrote the 64-page report.

With all the available medical evidence om one side, you wouldn't think this would become a major issue. Yet it's not merely major but tragic.

It all stems from an article in the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet.

Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis,
and pervasive developmental disorder in children
A J Wakefield, S H Murch, A Anthony, J Linnell, D M Casson, M Malik, M Berelowitz, A P Dhillon,
M A Thomson, P Harvey, A Valentine, S E Davies, J A Walker-Smith
The Lancet, Volume 351, Number 9103 28 February 1998

Background We investigated a consecutive series of children with chronic enterocolitis and regressive developmental disorder.

Methods 12 children (mean age 6 years [range 3-10], 11 boys) were referred to a paediatric gastroenterology unit with a history of normal development followed by loss of acquired skills, including language, together with diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Children underwent gastroenterological, neurological, and developmental assessment and review of developmental records. Ileocolonoscopy and biopsy sampling, magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and lumbar puncture were done under sedation. Barium follow-through radiography was done where possible. Biochemical, haematological, and immunological profiles were examined.

Findings Onset of behavioural symptoms was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight of the 12 children, with measles infection in one child, and otitis media in another. All 12 children had intestinal abnormalities, ranging from lymphoid nodular hyperplasia to aphthoid ulceration. Histology showed patchy chronic inflammation in the colon in 11 children and reactive ileal lymphoid hyperplasia in seven, but no granulomas. Behavioural disorders included autism (nine), disintegrative psychosis (one), and possible postviral or vaccinal encephalitis (two). There were no focal neurological abnormalities and MRI and EEG tests were normal. Abnormal laboratory results were significantly raised urinary methylmalonic acid compared with age-matched controls (p=0·003), low haemoglobin in four children, and a low serum IgA in four children.

Interpretation We identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a group of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers.

We describe a pattern of colitis and ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia in children with developmental disorders. Intestinal and behavioural pathologies may have occurred together by chance, reflecting a selection bias in a self-referred group; however, the uniformity of the intestinal pathological changes and the fact that previous studies have found intestinal dysfunction in children with autistic-spectrum disorders, suggests that the connection is real and reflects a unique disease process.

We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue.

If there is a causal link between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and this syndrome, a rising incidence might be anticipated after the introduction of this vaccine in the UK in 1988. Published evidence is inadequate to show whether there is a change in incidence or a link with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.

Doesn't sound like much, does it? A study of a mere dozen children. Carefully worded findings. No evidence of a connection. More study is needed.

Yet, this study by itself caused the hysteria over vaccination over the past decade. Even though no link was made between MMR and autism, use of the MMR vaccine declined sharply, especially in Britain, and even the single disease vaccines that showed no connection whatsoever dropped in popularity.

The result is predictable and inevitable. Children died.
After its publication, rates of inoculation fell from 92% to below 80%. Populations acquire "herd immunity" from measles when more than 95% of people have been vaccinated.

Last week official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported last year, compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease.

That's from an article by Brian Ross of The Times of London. His actual accusations are much worse than causing hysteria. He says that the original article was fraudulent.
It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

To be fair, here is a .pdf of Dr. Wakefield's response.

Wakefield has been practically elevated into a god by the fringe nutgroups that regularly attack all mainstream medicine. The leader of the nut groups is Age of Autism, who awarded Wakefield their first, and I believe only, Galileo Award as a persecuted Man of Science. You won't be too surprised that autism diet-fad activist Jenny McCarthy and her husband Jim Carrey were Age of Autism's 2008 Couple of the Year.

The fact that many autism activists advocate a casein-free, gluten-free diet for their children, despite the lack of any solid medical evidence for its effectiveness, gives me the tie to write about this autism junk science. In truth, I would have written about it anyway. It displays, in unmistakable, deadly terms, the dangers of junk science, pseudoscience, and the war against mainsteam science that I have to write about all too often.

My lessons are simple. Science and medicine are consensus disciplines. One paper - especially a paper with a small number of subjects, without double-blind testing, without confirmation - is not science. Even if it makes newspaper headlines, one paper means nothing by itself. That's true for all science, all medicine, all nutrition. In a few, rare instances a huge, multi-year, carefully monitored study may reveal a danger that is so severe that you need to change your life in response. An after-the-fact study of a dozen people that states in so many words that no link was made is not one of these instances.

Wakefield was not ignored, or ridiculed, or prosecuted or persecuted by other doctors. The medical community checked out his claim and found there was nothing to it. That should have buried his work, like a thousand other preliminary articles that never get confirmation. The British government and its medical arms, along with the British press, apparently botched the response. The American press hasn't been much better. They reported the controversy rather than the science.

That's not good enough. Controversy sells, but conspiracies of the entire medical community don't exist. (The conspiracies are usually on the other side. Wakefield has been accused of taking large sums of money from lawyers who wanted to sue the vaccine manufacturers.)

The medical community is not always right. There are huge amounts we don't know yet. Those daring mavericks and loners who are opposed to the consensus? They're almost always wrong. They're almost always out to take your money. Some of them are real medical doctors. More have no expertise at all except for their ability to scare you and fool you.

This is why I do this blog. I hope that by reading it you can look at the fraudsters and tell them to go to hell at first sight, before they can do their damage.

Children are dying of measles in the U.K. They are dying because of ignorance and fear. While cases of measles have shown a slight rise in the U.S. because of parents not vaccinating their children, deaths are still rare. Worldwide, however, measles is still deadly, killing an estimated 197,000 children in 2007. Massive as that number is, it's still a 74% decline from 2000. Why? More vaccinations. Measles vaccinations worldwide pushed over 80% in 2007. That's right. There are now more parents vaccinations their children in the third world than in Britain.

The junk science brigade is trying to turn Britain into a third world country. Maybe now they have less chance to succeed. Let's hope more children don't have to die to prove them wrong.

UPDATE: News broke today that U.S. courts will deny accusations that the MMR vaccine caused autism.
A special U.S. court ruled against three families on Thursday who claimed vaccines caused their children's autism.

The Vaccine Court Omnibus Autism Proceeding ruled against the parents of Michelle Cedillo, Colten Snyder and William Yates Hazlehurst, who had claimed that a measles, mumps and rubella vaccines had combined with other vaccine ingredients to damage the three children.

"I conclude that the petitioners have not demonstrated that they are entitled to an award on Michelle's behalf," Special Master George Hastings, a former tax claims expert at the Department of Justice, wrote in the Cedillo ruling.

They also declared that the vaccines with the mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal did not cause autism symptms.

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