Sunday, September 18, 2011

Autism and the MMR Vaccine:Was Wakefield Confirmed by Wake Forest University School of Medicine Study?

UPDATE: The question in my comment title was answered, to some extent, by information passed to me that this study was reported in 2007. I have no idea why it shows up on the Daily Mail online with today's date at the top of the page and with no internal story dates to indicate it is not current. It also shows up in Google News.  

I did a web search by the author's name and found the same article published in different places on the web on different dates. What I haven't found is what happened to the Wake Forest study?  If anyone knows feel free to offer your information. HLD

According to a report in the UK Daily Mail, Scientists fear MMR link to autism,  a study led by Dr. Stephen Walker of  the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina appears to confirm findings in the much maligned 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield. The research team are examining 275 children with regressive autism and bowel disease and,  of 82 tested so far,  70 prove positive for the vaccine strain, not the wild strain, of the measles virus. The report also indicates that the this is the second study including the O'Leary 2001 study to confirm the Wakefield findings:

"Last night the team's leader, Dr Stephen Walker, said: 'Of the handful of results we have in so far, all are vaccine strain and none are wild measles.

'This research proves that in the gastrointestinal tract of a number of children who have been diagnosed with regressive autism, there is evidence of measles virus.

'What it means is that the study done earlier by Dr Wakefield and published in 1998 is correct. That study didn’t draw any conclusions about specifically what it means to find measles virus in the gut, but the implication is it may be coming from the MMR vaccine. If that’s the case, and this live virus is residing in the gastrointestinal tract of some children, and then they have GI inflammation and other problems, it may be related to the MMR.'

The 1998 study by Dr Wakefield, then a reader in gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital in North London, and 12 other doctors claimed to have found a new bowel disease, autism enterocolitis.

At the time, Dr Wakefield said that although they had not proved a link between MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and autism, there was cause for concern and the Government should offer the option single vaccines - instead of only MMRs - until more research had been done.

The paper - and the confused interpretation of its findings - caused uproar and led to many parents withdrawing their co-operation for the triple jab. Ten of the paper's authors also signed retractions on the interpretation but stood by the science.

This is the second independent study to back up Dr Wakefield. In 2001 John O'Leary, Professor of Pathology at St James's Hospital and Trinity College, Dublin, replicated his findings.

Last night Dr Wakefield said: 'This new study confirms what we found in British children and again with Professor O'Leary. The only exposure these children have had to measles is through the MMR vaccine.

'They were developing normally until they regressed. They now suffer autism and bowel disease."'The Department of Health and some of the media wanted to dismiss our research as insignificant. The excuse was that no one else had the same findings as us. What they didn't say is that no one else had looked."

This study will be subjected to very close scrutiny.  Not just because it might implicate vaccines in some instances of autism, and should be examined closely as part of the scientific method,  but also because a war has been waged on Dr. Andrew Wakefield.  Those who have waged that war have much to lose if the information reported by the Daily Mail is confirmed.  Their own reputations are now on the line. They  can not,  and will not,  accept any study or information which calls into question their efforts to discredit Wakefield and his study. 


M.J. said...

Maybe this is the same study?

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – An American scientist whose research replicates a connection published in England in 2002 between the measles virus and bowel disease in autistic children strongly warns 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. Walker and colleagues have issued an abstract to be presented at this week’s International Meeting for Autism Research, indicating that a high percentage of autistic children that they have tested with chronic bowel disease show evidence of measles virus in their intestines.

...(read the rest at the link)

The project doesn't seem to be listed on Wake Forest's site, so maybe it was killed? Perhaps you could e-mail the primary author and ask him what happened to it? His contact information is here -

Anonymous said...

Dr. Wakefield may have been guilty of not disclosing personal financial benefit to discrediting the particular combined MMR vaccine, but according to an interview he did with Alex Jones (I know, sorry), so were those that shut him up in the UK.

The head of Elsevier, publishers of the British Medical Journal (who published and then retracted the doctor's work), sat on the board of GlaxoSmithKline (producers of the MMR vaccine). His brother was a high court judge who dismissed the appeal of parents seeking compensation for MMR vaccine damage. The chairman of the panel who sat in judgment on Dr. Wakefield did not disclose that he was a shareholder in GlaxoSmithKline.

Dr. Wakefield was built up as a strawman to represent everyone and everything against the business-as-usual, everythings-100%-OK-with-all-vaccines mindset. And then a PR campaign to destroy him was launched, so that by shooting the messenger, any message he's associated with is also destroyed. The spin tied the Fox News 'all vaccines are 100% bad' viewpoint to the reasonable desire for further vaccine safety research and then tried to sink them as one unit.

The bottom line is, well, the financial bottom line. If any vaccines end up tied to the drastic increases in autism, asthma, etc, the corporations responsible would end up bankrupt or the government indemnifying them would. The corporations like to claim that the science is done because that's to their advantage, when it simply isn't.

Liz Ditz said...

Hi Harold, you aren't the first person to be confused by the Daily Mail's perverse practice of failing to date-stamp articles posted on-line.

The Daily Mail (UK) continuting sorry contribution to fear uncertainty, doubt and vaccine fears covers the confusion, blog posts about the Walker poster presentation at the time of the 2006 IMFAR meeting, and subsequent developments.

You might find this particularly interesting

....Two of the complainants in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, the Cedillos and Hazelhursts, relied upon the unpublished Walker et al. research. Both the Special Masters in the hearings, and the presiding judge in the following Hazelhurst appeal, dismissed the evidentiary value of the Walker et al. study (exerpts from the hearings and the appeal are below). In other words, the Walker data have been examined and found unconvincing, because it was scientifically suspect.

AutismNewsBeat said...

The Wake Forest "study" was a poster presentation at an IMFAR conference. It has never been published - not even in Autism Insights.

Anonymous said...

The first time this study appeared in my google news feed (over a year ago, but still many years after the original publication), I did an extensive literature survey of articles published in the peer review literature by Stephen Walker. This abstract never did appear. One assumes that the data did not stand up to scrutiny, and perhaps was subject to the same false positives that made the Wakefield work invalid. It was disclosed in the Autism Omnibus hearings (the Cedillo case) that all of the apparent detection of measles virus were false positives. When the graduate student pointed this out to Wakefield, Wakefield insisted on publication of material he knew to be false.

Liz Ditz said...

It's even worse -- The Daily Mail (often called the Daily Fail in the UK) has lopped off the comments to the article, which is what clued me into the fact that it was from 2006, not the current date-stamp.

If you would like to complain to the Daily Mail about their practice of presenting outdated articles as if they were current, go to

I have.