MMR scare began with false positives and altered records

The Times Online helps to unravel the beginnings of Britain’s scare over the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine: “Hidden records show MMR truth.”

Child Eleven was one of a dozen children who were enrolled in the programme at the hospital. Its research caused one of the biggest stirs in modern medical history when its results were published in The Lancet medical journal. The five-page paper suggested a potential link between MMR and what the doctors called a “syndrome” of autism and inflammatory bowel disease.

Eleven boys and one girl, aged between 2½ and 9½, were said, for the most part, to have a diagnosis of regressive autism, where children appear to develop quite normally, but then, terrifyingly, lose their language skills. The bowel disease was described as nonspecific colitis, a severe form of inflammation.

The dynamite in The Lancet was the claim that their conditions could be linked to the MMR vaccine, which had been given to all 12 children.

According to the paper, published on February 28, 1998, the parents of eight of the children said their “previously normal” child developed “behavioural symptoms” within days of receiving the jab.

“In these eight children the average interval from exposure to first behavioural symptoms was 6.3 days,” said the paper.

At face value, these findings were more than grounds for the panic that took off over MMR.“It took a big fight to get the information,” said Mr Eleven. “They told me there was no measles virus. I had the tests repeated three times at different labs in the US, and they all came back negative.”

This struck a different note from what Wakefield suggested when describing his research to the world.

Eleven years later, the fallout continues around the world. The paper triggered a public health crisis. In Britain, immunisation rates collapsed from 92% before the Lancet paper was published, to 80% at the peak of Britain’s alarm. Measles has returned as officially “endemic”.

With less than 95% of the population vaccinated, Britain has lost its herd immunity against the disease. In 1998 there were 56 cases reported; last year there were 1,348, according to figures released last week that showed a 36% increase on 2007. Two British children have died from measles, and others put on ventilators, while many parents of autistic children torture themselves for having let a son or daughter receive the injection.

Yet the science remains a problem. No researchers have been able to replicate the results produced by Wakefield’s team in the Lancet study.

Some used statistics to see if autism took off in 1988, when MMR was introduced. It did not. Others used virology to see if MMR caused bowel disease, a core suggestion in the paper. It did not. Yet more replicated the exact Wakefield tests. They showed nothing like what he said.

Aspects of the project are now before the General Medical Council (GMC), the doctors’ disciplinary body….

In evidence presented to the GMC, however, there has emerged potential explanations of how Wakefield was able to obtain the results he did. This evidence, combined with unprecedented access to medical records, a mass of confidential documents and cooperation from parents during an investigation by this newspaper, has shown the selective reporting and changes to findings that allowed a link between MMR and autism to be asserted….

It was nevertheless striking that their conclusion was that 11 of the children’s bowels were in fact diseased when their colleagues had found no abnormalities in at least seven of the cases.

This is just a clear case of the original researcher falsifying data to create a desired outcome. It’s scientific fraud.  And also,

What parents did not know was that, two years before, Wakefield had been hired by Jabs’s lawyer, Richard Barr, a high-street solicitor in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Barr had obtained legal aid to probe MMR for any evidence that could be used against the manufacturers. He is adamant that at all times he acted professionally, and diligently represented his clients.

A string of Sunday Times reports have exposed how Wakefield earned £435,643 through his work with Barr, plus funding to support his research.

There is no suggestion the other doctors knew of Wakefield’s involvement with Barr.

What has not been reported is that the nature of the project had been visualised before any of the children were even admitted to the Royal Free.

In June 1996 – the month before Child One’s arrival at the hospital – Wakefield and Barr filed a confidential document with the government’s Legal Aid Board, appearing already to know of a “new syndrome”.

Referring to inflammatory bowel disease, and then bowel problems with autism, Wakefield and Barr wrote to the board, successfully seeking money.

“The objective,” they wrote, “is to seek evidence which will be acceptable in a court of law of the causative connection between either the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine or the measles/rubella vaccine and certain conditions which have been reported with considerable frequency by families who are seeking compensation.”

Just a reminder: Wakefield was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for testifying against the safety of vaccines in lawsuits brought by parents hoping to reap millions in damages. And he stood to make millions by discrediting a combined shot so that he could sell his own series of single-shot immunizations.

UPDATE: Wakefield has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct and falsifying research. The Lancet has withdrawn the paper, meaning that they consider it to be invalid.

Clovis points? not exactly

A typical Clovis point is a finely worked, pointed tool with the marks of many strikes on it. The tools recently found in Colorado may be from the era of Clovis stone tools, but they are not exactly Clovis points–Clovis bifaces perhaps.

The fine, fat stones shown in the picture are from a cache of blanks. They are stone-tool material, roughly cleaned up into at the quarrying site and then stored in a more convenient location against need. The owners planned to return to this cache when they needed to make tools.

Left, Clovis point right, biface

Left, Clovis point right, biface

If you want to knap your own stone tools, you can start with this video.


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Cache of Clovis points turns up in Colorado backyard

Photo by Glenn Asakawa, University of Colorado

Photo by Glenn Asakawa, University of Colorado

Last May, a resident of Boulder, Colorado, was having a little landscape work done when the work uncovered a cache of 83 stone tools buried about 1/2 metre underground. Wisely, the owner called in scientists to take a look. The tools test out as genuine, with the blood of four different types of Pleistocene mammals on four different kinds of tools

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Darwin was right

Sea sponge

Sea sponge

A new fossil discovery had proven that another of Darwin’s hypotheses about evolution was correct. During his lifetime, no animal fossils were known earlier than the Cambrian Explosion [of diversity], 540 million years ago. It occurred when animals developed hard body parts that could be fossilized, so some people call it an “induration.” It’s mostly in rare, fine limestones that you find the outlines, and sometimes the pigments, of soft body parts. Darwin, however, reasoned that evolution must have occurred for millions of years before the Cambrian Explosion for that diversity to develop. And he was right.

Fossils push animal life back millions of years

A novel technique used to date fossils buried in rock sediment in Oman shows that sponges, among the most primitive of animal organisms, flourished there more than 635 million years ago.


National Geographic has a sad story. They have the first ever photograph of a rare quail in the Philippines not seen in several decades — taken at a food market. The unusual bird was then whisked away and sold for meat.

Worcester's buttonquail

Worcester's buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri)

I wonder how often something like that happens when the photographers aren’t around? Fisherman in Newfoundland used to chop up giant squid and use them for bait, not realizing that the squids were unknown to science.

Stick insects!

Bishop Alan has a blog–and some stick insects or “walking sticks.” He wrote a series of posts all about his pet stick insects. He added his own close-up pictures of baby and adult stick insects, food plants, etc. His most recent article is called “Giant prickly virgin births.”

Using the Web: factory cats project

Clever people are using their skills plus the web to generate publicity and resources to pay for the care and adoption of rescued cats in the Factory Cats Project. The first project, Foreclosure Cats, was to rescue sixty cats perforce abandoned when a man was evicted from his home. I hope that someone helped him, too! That encouraged the people to use the same plan for the Factory Cats project, a colony of forty feral cats.

Adopt a cat

Adopt a cat

Local artists have created artworks that represent the cats, and the money is being used to pay for the cats’ care. Click on the link for the Animal Rescue Art Project. The original artworks are being auctioned on eBay and you can buy copies of the images on Cafepress.

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Mysterious old recipes

I found this on the Bookcrossing chat forum. Go to old recipe cards and click on the recipe for Rosy Perfection Salad.


To my untutored eye, it looks like Trilobite in Aspic!

Posted in food, humor. Tags: , . 1 Comment »
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