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Editorials

Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c7452 (Published 06 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:c7452

Re:If Wakefield's Lancet study was a fraud, why were its findings duplicated in 5 other countries?

Lucija Tomljenovic asks why Andrew Wakefield's findings were
duplicated in 5 other countries. The answer is easy:

They were not.

The findings in the since retracted Lancet paper were reported as
follows:

"We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be
related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms
was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation."

There has not been an independent verification of this triad of
results, also not in the list Dr. Tomljenovic provides (1), which
comprises case reports, conference proceedings and papers of colleagues of
Wakefield's in journals he edited, as Debajyoti Datta rightly points out
(2).

The case of bowel inflammation in one autistic adult and two
editorials from a time when the extent of data manipulation in the Lancet
paper were still unclear (2000 and 2005) (3) don't "duplicate" Wakefield's
findings and the reference to the Cochrane's 2005 review of the MMR
vaccine (4) is a typical anti-vaccine canard. The topic at hand is whether
MMR causes autism with gut problems - the same Cochrane Review answers
precisely this question:

"No credible evidence of an involvement of MMR with either autism or
Crohn's disease was found."

I was wondering why a post-doctoral fellow, with free access to the
biomedical literature, an associate editor of a biomedial journal herself
(5), with no declared conflict of interest, would indiscrimately copy and
paste from anti-vaccine pages defending Andrew Wakefield, but quickly
found that Dr. Tomljenovic has recently spoken on the same anti-vaccine
conference as Andrew Wakefield (6), which might explain her bias. The
willingness of someone with scientific training to associate with the anti
-vaccine circus is still baffling.

(1) http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full/reply#bmj_el_248023

(2) http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full/reply#bmj_el_248215

(3) http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full/reply#bmj_el_248456

(4) http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab004407.html

(5) http://www.j-alz.com/about/board.html

(6) http://vaccinesafetyconference.com/speakers.html

Competing interests: I have previously blogged about this issue.

24 January 2011
Catherina G. Becker
Reader
Edinburgh