[back] Baird G. et al.

Spurious MMR Study Purposefully Provides No Autism Answers

Archives of Disease in Childhood
Letter To The Editor
7 February 2008
What does this study test, and why?

John Stone

Autism parent

Dear Editor

Of the original 1770 Special Educational Needs (SEN) cases in this study [1], 255 were Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Of the 1770 735 dropped out, then a further 780 were excluded for reasons which are not transparent. 255 were left (a different 255 from before): some ASD, some just SEN but we do not know in what proportion. Then, exactly 100 were excluded because of inadequate blood tests. Of the remainder 101 had ASD (less the 40 per cent of the original 255 autistic cases). None is reported to have bowel disease (the sub-group of Wakefield's study) or adverse reaction to MMR.

It is not clear what the scientific purpose of this study is. The study states "We did not obtain gut mucosal samples for ethical reasons". It would, of course, be unethical to obtain gut biopsies from cases without gut symptoms, and since none of the cases in the study had gut symptoms there would be no grounds for subjecting them to such invasive treatment. This, of course, makes this a distinct group from the children referred to Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues at the Paediatric Gastroenterology department of the Royal Free Hospital in the 1990s and slighlty beyond.

In this regard it is worth noting the recent warning of the National Autistic Society (NAS):

"The National Autistic Society is keenly aware of the concerns of parents surrounding suggested links between autism and the MMR vaccine. The charity is concerned that the GMC hearing, and surrounding media coverage, will create further confusion and make it even more difficult for parents to access appropriate medical advice for their children.

"It is particularly important that this case is not allowed to increase the lack of sympathy that some parents of children with autism have encountered from health professionals, particularly on suspected gut and bowel problems. Parents have reported to the NAS that in some cases their concerns have been dismissed as hysteria following previous publicity around the MMR vaccine. It is crucial that health professionals listen to parents' concerns and respect their views as the experts on their individual children.

"There is an urgent need for further, authoritative research into the causes of autism, to improve our understanding of the condition, to respond to parents' concerns and to enable us to ensure that there are appropriate services and support in place to meet people's needs." [2]

There is presently not enough consensus about the etiology of ASD to assume there is any single origin, nor anything to rule out ASD subjects having gut symptoms which justify on occasion invasive procedures. The NAS apparently consider that there is a sub-group which is being denied sympathy, investigation or treatment, and this is in itself troubling. It also suggests that this study is not representative since no such cases are included, and it does not address their problems.

The NAS warning relates to the GMC hearing involving doctors Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch which is set to resume on 25 March approaching. I do not think it is being unduly cynical to query the publication of this study at the present time as a media event, bearing in mind that it seems to have been carried out five or six years ago. Moreover, the study has once again been promoted as refuting the Wakefield hypothesis when it in fact tests for a possibility that had not been proposed. Meanwhile, the plight of autistic children with gastro-intestinal symptoms is excluded both from the study and public attention, as if they did not exist. The NAS statement warned of "creating further confusion" and this is precisely what this study and its media exposure has done.

John Stone


[1] Gillian Baird, Andrew Pickles, Emily Simonoff, Tony Charman, Peter Sullivan, Susie Chandler, Tom Loucas, David Meldrum, Muhammed Afzal, Brenda Thomas, Li Jin, and David Brown, Measles vaccination and antibody response in autism spectrum disorders Arch Dis Child 2008; 0: adc.2007.122937v1

General Medical Council hearing against Dr Andrew Wakefield


For Further Information:

For the full text of this spurious, elderly, very small study currently being propagandised by the UK Department of Health in order to attempt to ensure that the links between child vaccination and autism are never properly studied and researched, see Measles vaccination and antibody response in autism spectrum disorders autism spectrum disorders, G. Baird et al, Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/adc.2007.122937