The Wakefieldites, with WDDTY of course in the vanguard (though of course they are not in the least bit anti-vaccinationist), are crowing like mad things, thanks to a paper that appears to link autism to gastro-intestinal problems.
Wakefield was right, autism is linked to gut problems, is the crowing headline in WDDTY.
Does it stand up to scrutiny?
As the discredited Andrew Wakefield observed years ago, children with autism are far more likely to suffer gastro-intestinal (GI) problems such as constipation, diarrhea and food sensitivities. In fact, autistic children are eight times more likely to suffer from a gut upset, researchers report this week.
No, he didn’t observe this, he set out to find a link between measles and autism; I believe he used the term “measles enterocolitis”, also “autism enterocolitis”, a medically unrecognised term then as now.
Although Wakefield mooted that the MMR vaccine could be triggering GI problems—and was struck off for his troubles—researchers from the University of California are more non-committal, and say they don’t know the cause.
No, he was struck off for three dozen violations including four counts of dishonesty and 12 counts involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children.
The GMC panel ruled that Wakefield had “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant”, acted both against the interests of his patients, and “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in his published research.
Nonetheless, the association is there, as the researchers found when they examined a thousand autistic children. The children were six to eight times more likely than a non-autistic child to have a GI problem, which is linked to autistic behaviour such as social withdrawal, irritability and repetitive behaviour.
(Source: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2013; doi: 10.1007/s10803-013-1973-x)
Source: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders November 2013 Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with Autism, Developmental Delays or Typical Development Virginia Chaidez, Robin L. Hansen, Irva Hertz-Picciotto
Wakefield claimed to have found measles “DNA” in the gut of the children whose samples he took (without proper consent), but measles is an RNA virus and his claimed link was stated in court by the appropriate experts to be evidence of contamination.
Was Wakefield right? No. If there is a link, this paper does not show it to be the one he proposed, and the offences for which he was struck off were ethical, not related to the validity of his research anyway.
It remains the case that an enormous statistic exercise has consistently failed to show any link between MMR and autism. Autism diagnosis rates vary independently of MMR vaccination rates.
As usual, the anti-vaccinationists are adapting facts to fit their pre-existing hypothesis. As usual, science will adapt its consensus view to the new information. This early finding does give some grounds for thinking that autism and persistent GI problems may share a common cause, possibly an autoimmune syndrome, but that is speculation at this stage.
- Blame Wakefield For Missed Autism-Gut Connection (forbes.com)