The rush to report on MMR/regressive autism study

Yesterday the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, and the Times online reported about a study on research on an MMR vaccine/autism link being undertaken by Dr. Stephen Walker of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina. However, Dr. Walker’s study is funded by the National Autism Association (NAA), which endorses an MMR vaccine/autism link. The Daily Mail, the Telegraph, and the Times online articles give the impression that Dr. Walker’s research has or is being published when actually, it is only being presented as a poster presentation at the International Meeting For Autism Research (IMFAR).

Further, there are serious questions about the experimental design, quality and integrity of the data collected by Dr. Walker, as well as conflicts of interest among its authors. According to the results of Dr. Walker’s study, 82 children with regressive autism and bowel disease, 70 have so far proved positive for the measles virus. The team will be examining a total of 275 children with regressive autism and bowel disease.

International Meeting For Autism Research (IMFAR), and the media, would do well to be wary of what research they rush to present to the public.

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    • María Luján

      Hi Kristina
      Do you have the information about in what medical journal was published? Thank you in advance
      María Luján

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      Hi Maria. According to the story below, the findings will be presented this week in Montreal. It’s not clear if they have actually been published.

      The conference is the 5th International Meeting for Autism Research.

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      Here is the abstract for Dr. Walker’s paper to be presented at the Montral conference (International Meeting for Autism Research).

      Walker, Karin Hepner, Jeffrey Segal, Arthur Krigsman,
      Wake Forest University School of Medicine
      Background: Autistic enterocolitis, consisting of a
      nonspecific ileocolitis coupled with ileocolonic
      lymphonodular hyperplasia (LNH), was first introduced
      as a new, potentially virus-induced disease entity eight
      years ago in a group of ASD children with developmental
      Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to
      examine ileal biopsy tissue in a large cohort of pediatric
      patients who carry a diagnosis of regressive autism and
      whose chronic gastrointestinal symptoms warranted
      diagnostic endoscopic evaluation, for evidence of measles
      virus RNA.
      Methods: Patients who had been diagnosed with autism
      and who were referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist for
      evaluation of chronic GI symptoms were eligible to
      participate in this IRB approved study. For each patient,
      medical histories, vaccination records, histopathology
      reports, and ileocolonoscopic biopsy tissue were available
      for evaluation. Terminal ileum (TI) biopsy tissue was
      assayed by RT-PCR for the presence of measles virus
      RNA and PCR-positive samples were sequenced.
      Results: Medical and clinical data have been collected for
      >275 patients who fit the study inclusion criteria. PCR
      analysis on TI biopsy tissue from an initial 82 patients
      showed that 70 (85%) were positive for the F gene
      amplicon. Fourteen have been verified by DNA sequence
      and an additional 56 amplicons are being sequenced now.
      Work is ongoing to assay the remaining specimens (~200)
      and to identify and assay relevant control tissue samples.
      Conclusions: Preliminary results from this large cohort of
      pediatric autistic patients with chronic GI symptoms
      confirm earlier findings of measles virus RNA in the
      terminal ileum and support an association between
      measles virus and ileocolitis /LNH.
      Sponsors: ARI; NAA; individual donations

    • Lisa Randall

      For heaven’s sake, were there no controls in this study? Is there any reason at all to suppose that even if their finding in the autistic children is correct, it is any different from what would be found in non-autistic children?

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      There doesn’t appear to be. I have also been wondering how the children in the study were found and selected.

    • Michelle Dawson

      As I just wrote here , there is a study re the MMR and autism at IMFAR 2006 that does have a control group.

      Yasmin L D’Souza, Eric Fombonne, Brian J Ward, Division of Infectious Diseases, McGill University Health Center (MUHC)

      BACKGROUND: Claims of an association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR) and the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are based primarily on the identification of measles virus (MV) nucleic acids in tissues and body fluids by PCR. These data come almost exclusively from a single group of investigators, Uhlmann and colleagues (Mol Pathol 2002; 55: 84-90).
      OBJECTIVES: We sought to replicate the PCR assays used by Uhlmann et al. to determine whether or not MV nucleic acids persist in children with ASD compared with non-ASD children.
      METHODS: We recruited 54 children with ASD and 34 developmentally normal controls referred to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were isolated and up to three real-time reversetranscriptase PCR (RT-PCR) assays were performed. These assays targeted the N, F and H genes of MV using the primer pairs published by Uhlmann et al., with detection by SYBR Green I. Amplicons from positive reactions were sequenced.
      RESULTS: The Uhlmann primer-based assays gave rise to a large number of positive reactions in both groups. For example, a positive signal was observed in 93% of ASD samples and 100% of the control samples using the F gene assay. Almost all of the positive reactions in the assays were eliminated by melting curve analysis and amplicon band-size on agarose gels. The amplicons for the remaining positive reactions were cloned and sequenced. No sample from either ASD or control groups was found to contain nucleic acids from any MV gene.
      CONCLUSION: There is no evidence of MV persistence in the PBMC of children with ASD.

    • Dad Of Cameron

      “It’s not clear if they have actually been published.”

      It’s not clear that it would actually be published, that may not be what Krigsman does. Perhaps he doesn’t believe in real peer review. Do a PubMed search for him – 1 asthma paper. Do a PubMed search for Krigsman Autism – 0 results.

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    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      D of C, it all makes one wonder if some reporter may have been scouring the IMFAR program and pulled out Walker’s study since it’s on a “newsworthy” topic.

    • Camille

      Kristina, I think that NAA got some reporters to push it ahead of the story… Walker’s thing is just a poster, by the way, not a speaking presentation. They stand next to their poster in a hallway, usually, and answer questions. Michelle Dawson will be at IMFAR. yaaay!

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      The IMFAR program makes it clear that ARI, NAA, and “donations” funded Walker’s research. Very curious to hear what Michelle Dawson has to say—

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    • Jarod Slattery

      Great stuff ici.

    • Michael Polidori

      You quote a study where Fombonne is one of the authors. Fombonne is a paid witness for the vaccine industry. He is a known manipulator of evidence in studies, interested only in defending his lucaritive contracts as an expert witness.

      Anything with Fombonne’s name on it is immediately suspect. I do not read his articles any longer after that fraudulent study he did in Montreal where he used vaccinations rates from one city as the base for the children he studied in another.

    • Michael Polidori

      One other thing to note on Fombonne. His Quebec study was done in Quebec for one reason. They have the lowest vaccination recommendations of any province in Canada. If vaccines are to blame for autism, and you are out to defend vaccine manufacturers from that liability, what better place to not find evidence of autism than a province with extremely low vaccination rates?

      Vaccine manufacturers will not let facts or deaths or injuries stand in the way of their profits or their grip on our health care dollars, whether they are from government sponsored health benefits, private insurers or out of pocket, money is their main interest. Protecting the vehicle of their wealth, the status quo of regulation and manufacturing practices, is equally important to them. Both of those concerns are above the health and safety of their “customers”, including children.