An open letter to Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor of The Independent

            John Stone 7 January 2010

Laurance [1] writes:

"One of the greatest puzzles of the saga is what has sustained this
level of mistrust in the medical authority."

It may seem like this to a newspaper jounalist, not paying enough
attention to the small print, but it does not seem like this to many
autism parents. One of the features of this episode is the reverse spin
given to studies which actually support further concern.

For instance, a widely reported study by Hornig et al 'Lack of
Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A
Case-Control Study' actually immeasurably enhanced the plausibility of
the Wakefield hypothesis by showing the persistance of measles virus in
the ileum of two patients (one autistic, one control, but both with
bowel disease and having had MMR) confirmed in 3 laboratories. To cap it
all in the discussion the authors stated:

"Our results differ with reports noting MV RNA in ileal biopsies of 75%
of ASD vs. 6% of control children [10]... Discrepancies are unlikely to
represent differences in experimental technique because similar primer
and probe sequences, cycling conditions and instruments were employed in
this and earlier reports; furthermore, one of the three laboratories
participating in this study performed the assays described in earlier
reports. Other factors to consider include differences in patient age,
sex, origin (Europe vs. North America), GI disease, recency of MMR
vaccine administration at time of biopsy, and methods for confirming
neuropsychiatric status in cases and controls."

thus, quietly endorsing the results of the Uhlmann (O'Leary/Wakefield)
study [2,3]. These anomalies were not picked up or reported by
mainstream journalists.

Another key case is the Cochrane review of MMR 2005 [4], which actually
gave a poor review to the six autism studies included, and found little
evidence for the vaccines safety - indeed, had found the safety studies
to be "largely inadequate" - against which the claim that it had not
found any evidence that MMR causes autism and bowel disease has to be
assesed for its relevance [5].

Meanwhile, a Cambridgeshire study of autism in children detected an
incidence of ~1 in 60 [6], a result which the Observer newspaper was
pilloried for reporting by Ben Goldacre and the lead author Simon Baron
Cohen, ahead of the GMC hearing against Wakefield and colleagues [7],
but which later turned out to be well-founded.

Whatever happens at the GMC, I suggest, the greatest gap in credibilty
lies with a scientific profession which has failed to explain what is
happening to our children.


[1] Jeremy Laurance, 'Health stories of the decade',

[2] Hornig et al, 'Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and
Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study',

[3] Uhlmann et al, 'Potential viral pathogenic mechanism for new variant
inflammatory bowel

[4] Demicheli et al, 'Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in

[5] John Stone, 'Re: Evidence is not bullying',

[6] Baron-Cohen et al, 'Prevalence of autism-spectrum conditions: UK
school-based population study', Br J Psychiatry. 2009 Jun;194(6):500-

[7] Ben Goldacre, 'MMR: the scare stories ar back',