“Vaccines cause autism” theory now suspected to be fraud

In a recent blogs I’ve told you, “Autism and Childhood Vaccinations: The Myth is Finally Debunked” and “U.K. bans doctor who linked autism to MMR vaccine.” But, even I was shocked when, while watching ABC World News last night, I saw a report suggesting, that the vaccine-autism link now appears to have been a deliberate fraud. Not only have untold children have been harmed because of this alleged fraud — but autism research has actually been set back. My hope is that criminal charges will soon follow. Here are the details:

ABC World News reported reported that many parents “know that vaccines protection their children from serious illness. But many still fear that the vaccines might cause autism because of all of the reports through the years.” Now, there is “new outrage over the doctor who first reported a link.”

USA Today reports, “An infamous 1998 study that ignited a worldwide scare over vaccines and autism — and led millions of parents to delay or decline potentially lifesaving shots for their children — was ‘an elaborate fraud,’ according to a scathing three-part investigation in the British medical journal BMJ.”

In 2009, “British medical authorities … found the study’s lead author, Andrew Wakefield, guilty of serious professional misconduct, stripping him of his ability to practice medicine in England.”

The BMJ now “reports that Wakefield, who was paid more than $675,000 by a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine makers, was not just unethical — he falsified data in the study, which suggested that children developed autism after getting a shot against measles, mumps and rubella.”

“The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems,” the AP reports. “Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.”

The LA Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that “none of the details of the medical histories of any of the patients could be matched to those cited in The Lancet article.”

What’s more, “all had been altered to make Wakefield’s claims more convincing. Ten of the authors subsequently asked that the paper be retracted.” In 2009, The Lancet withdrew Wakefield’s 1998 paper.

CNN points out that Wakefield’s “now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella.”

In the US alone, “more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.”

HealthDay reported that “besides harming those children who got sick after not receiving a vaccine, the alleged fraud may have even set back autism research, experts noted.”

Pediatric neurologist Max Wiznitzer, MD, of University Hospitals Case Medical Center, stated that “[autism] research monies were diverted to disprove a hypothesis that was never proven [in the first place], rather than invested in exploring issues that would be of benefit to the public and to children with the condition.”

This is a truly sad finale to a truly sad story. But, I’ll let you know about any future developments.

5 thoughts on ““Vaccines cause autism” theory now suspected to be fraud

  1. waltlarimore Post author

    Joe,

    First of all, I’ve never said that the “anti-vaccine information on the Internet regarding this issue comes from quacks.” Period. For you to contend otherwise is for you to perpetuate something that simply is not true.

    Second, I had not seen the research mentioned in the link. After looking into it, here’s what I’ve found:

    The American scientist whose research is referred to in the link has actually STRONGLY WARNED warned against making the “leap” to suggesting that the measles vaccine might actually cause autism. “That is NOT what our research is showing,” said Stephen J. Walker, Ph.D., an assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

    You can find a press release from Wake Forest with the details here.

    Walker and colleagues issued an ABSTRACT that apparently was presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in June in which they claimed that a high percentage of autistic children that they have tested with chronic bowel disease show evidence of measles virus in their intestines.

    However, Walker insists the his new findings do NOT support the disproven and discredited association between the MMR vaccine and autism.

    Furthermore, and this is critical to note, the results have NOT even been published in ANY peer-reviewed journal.

    “Even if we showed association (between measles virus and bowel disease) and we published it in a peer-reviewed journal, the conclusion will be simply that there is measles virus in the gut of a large number of children who have regressive autism and bowel disease. End of story,” Dr. Walker said. “We haven’t done anything to demonstrate that the measles virus is causing autism or even causing bowel disease.”

    Walker explains that exploring the causes of chronic bowel disease in autistic children is the major impetus for his research. “There are lots of viruses in the gut, and any one of them could be causing inflammation. If it truly is from a vaccine and this virus causes inflammation and a chronic bowel condition in some susceptible children, then that’s something that needs to be known.”

    The main task at hand, Walker said, is to determine what is causing the bowel condition in the autistic children, a condition that has a direct influence on cognitive and behavioral issues associated with autism.

    A high percentage of autistic children have chronic bowel disease, a discovery in the late 1990s that eventually led to the measles virus connection.

    “If anybody has severe GI problems, it causes problems with focus, it causes problems with everything. You can’t do anything until you get that resolved. We’ve all experienced that.

    “These kids experience it hour after hour every single day of their lives. Many of them are non-verbal so they can’t tell anybody what the problem is, and the behavior that they exhibit as a result of a severe stomach ache was once attributed to just being autistic and having weird behaviors – for example, leaning over the sharp edge of a coffee table for hours at a time. That seems weird, but what they’re doing is relieving pressure on their lower abdomen.”

    Walker said that relieving the bowel discomfort has been shown to improve other conditions associated with autism, such as cognition and the ability to learn. “There’s case after case where kids improved cognitively, behaviorally and biomedically when you treat the bowel disease. There is a great improvement from better nutrition alone. You see improvements in their overall condition.”

    Walker said he will continue to look for possible causes, the biological mechanism, and new treatments of the bowel condition. “That’s the goal for me: understanding the biology of what’s causing the disease and then gaining insight into the most effective way to treat it, so that clinicians will not have to go through a trial and error approach.”

    I know this is a long answer, Joe, but the search for truth is never easy. However, the truth can set you free.

    Dr. Walt

  2. Joe

    Thank you for your response. And I saw your clarification on another post, “BTW, Wendy, I looked up Dr. Blaylock, and, unfortunately, both he and his publication are listed on QuackWatch.com. That’s NOT a good thing and I’d never recommend anyone take any advice from someone who is suspected to be involved in quackery or fraud (and, I’m NOT saying Dr. Blaylock is, as I don’t know — but, just to say that he’s listed on this site).”

    Anyway, what I don’t understand is that the study in question supposedly says that the large majority of the autistic kids they studied who have the measles virus have the virus from the vaccine, rather than a naturally occurring (wild) measles virus. What does that mean?

  3. waltlarimore Post author

    The point is that the researchers have no idea what it means right now. It’s simply an observation that (1) of those kids with autism who (2) have chronic bowel problems that (3) many/most of this subgroup of kids with autism and chronic bowel troubles have the virus from the vaccine in their bowel.

    Is that good or bad? The researchers simply do not know.

    What they do say is that in no way does this implicate the MMR vaccine as a cause or being associated with autism.

    We’ll just have to watch the research and see where it goes.

  4. waltlarimore Post author

    Also, I do stand by my statement, “I’d never recommend anyone take any advice from someone who is suspected to be involved in quackery or fraud.”

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