MMR Yet Again

The Daily Mail will not let go of the mythical MMR-autism link. Their writer Sally Beck claims that:-

New American research shows that there could be a link between the controversial MMR triple vaccine and autism and bowel disease in children.

This is complete bollocks, to use a technical term.

First it is not new research. The Times reported it back in 2006. It is instructive to compare the two articles. The Times wrote:

The latest study, led by Arthur Krigsman, of New York University School of Medicine, involved 275 children. Serious intestinal inflammations were found in some of the autistic children and biopsies of gut tissue were performed on 82 of them. Of these, 70 are said to have shown evidence of the measles virus, which so far has been confirmed in 14 cases by more stringent DNA tests.

Steve Walker, assistant professor at Wake Forest University Medical Centre, North Carolina, who analysed the gut samples, said the work mirrored Dr Wakefield’s study. All the children involved were diagnosed with autism and had come to Dr Krigsman and Dr Walker seeking help for symptoms of serious digestive problems for which no explanation could be found.

Today, the Daily Mail’s Sally Beck wrote:

Now a team from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina are examining 275 children with regressive autism and bowel disease – and of the 82 tested so far, 70 prove positive for the measles virus.

Same team doing the analysis, exact same numbers. The Mail have recycled a five year old story and presented it as new. Incidently, I have cached a copy of the Mail story and should the current version be changed and the Mail try to pretend they never said what they said, the url here will be changed to the cached version.

Incidently, when Dr. Walker says his work “mirrored” that of Mr. Wakefield he is not saying “confirmed”. He is saying that the children had already been diagnosed as autistic and had been brought to him because of gut problems. Also,there is no control group, which is a shame because it would be useful to know how many non-autistic children with gut problems have the measles virus in their bowels.

Dr. Walker does not support the spin being put on his work:

Walker says the new research does not support the connection, and he notes that the results have not even been published in a peer-reviewed journal. “Even if we showed association (between measles virus and bowel disease) and we published it in a peer-reviewed journal, the conclusion will be simply that there is measles virus in the gut of a large number of children who have regressive autism and bowel disease. End of story.

“We haven’t done anything to demonstrate that the measles virus is causing autism or even causing bowel disease.”

So the Mail have taken a five year old story, printed it as new, and misrepresented the researcher’s own interpretation of his work in order to attempt a revival of a thoroughly discredited hypothesis. This is lazy, dangerous journalism.

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11 Responses to “MMR Yet Again”

  1. Chris Says:

    And they keep doing it! A while ago they at least had the comments attached so you could see that it was on old article, but those have been stripped. Truly a Daily Fail.

    It has been noted before:
    http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2011/09/scientists-fear-mmr-link-to-autism-a-newspaper-article-published-in-2006-refers-to-never-published-r.html

  2. Al Capone Junior Says:

    I looked up “lazy, dangerous journalism” and got several hits, the first of which was “the daily mail” and a close second was “fox news”

  3. Marc Gawley Says:

    Out of curiousity I also looked up “lazy, dangerous journalism” and found that Letting Off Steam (thanks to the comment above) came one place higher than the Daily Mail…!
    I wrote a piece on the Daily Mail just last week about a health article they ran: http://marcgawley.com/2011/09/28/coffee-depression-study-daily-mail/

  4. jaycueaitch Says:

    I’ve been informed over on the Bad Science forum that the Mail article does indeed date from 2006 so was obviously copied from the same press release as the Times article. Interesting that the article itself is not dated and without comments the web date at the top of the page gives the impression that it is new. So I stand by the lazy and dangerous comment.

  5. Zombie Daily Mail Article On MMR « Stuff And Nonsense Says:

    [...] it’s been brought up for discussion yet again on another skeptic forum – prompting a fisking from JQH (stop giggling at the back – I said [...]

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      Interesting post jdc. Date-stamps being removed from old MMR scare stories which makes them look new. Doubtless a mistake by the work experience kid and not blatant dishonesty and lying.

  6. Liz Ditz Says:

    Hi JayCueaitch,

    That darned Sally Beck article was bollocks in 2006.

    There was an upswing in “Wakefield’s research has been replicated!!!” postings the summer of 2010, and I wrote a draft of debunking the Walker paper then — and never posted it to my blog.

    At that time, the comments to the Beck piece were still live, and that’s what clued me in that it was from 2006.

    Then it came up again early this year, and I posted the first version of the debunking in January — with a not-crisp title.

    So I did some minor revisions and added a better, more direct title.

    The deficiencies of the Walker poster presentation have also been discussed at LB/RB:

    http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2011/02/russ-roberts-hosts-deer-on-autism-vaccination-and-scientific-fraud/#comment-134218

  7. Liz Ditz Says:

    Sorry — forgot to mention that the Mail article still had the comments attached in 2010 (as I recall) and the date on the comments were what tipped me off that it was an old article.

  8. jaycueaitch Says:

    Interesting that the comments have been removed. Combine that with jdc’s interesting point on his post he links to that date-stamps are being removed from old MMR scare stories …

  9. jdc325 Says:

    The article still shows as being recent on a google search (“7 hours ago”, as I write this), but if you click through it does now show a datestamp between the headline and the main body: 28/05/2006. So the Mail / MoS have now taken some action. I’ve also put in a complaint to the PCC about the content of the article being misleading. It was only when I made my PCC complaint and informed the Mail of this that the datestamp was added, so the lesson I’ve taken from this is to complain to the PCC first and then contact the Mail.

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