Patrick Holford and Andrew Wakefield’s Discredited Findings: Part 2

Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University is a staunch supporter of Dr Andrew Wakefield and in 2007 set out his case as to why others should likewise support Wakefield. Holford has updated his website to explore the issue: Patrick Holford’s Concerns About the MMR Vaccine.

Patrick Holford claims to have remarkable insight into the causation of autism and how to “bring them back” when children are on the autistic spectrum. He suggests that there is hard evidence that links MMR and autism.

Wakefield’s claims about the inflamed and diseased guts of the children in his original Lancet study have been shown to be unfounded (see Part 1).

But Holford is concerned about the measles antibodies in the cerebro-spinal fluid and the gut tissue of the children Wakefield examined; Holford believes that Wakefield found evidence of this. Whatever significant problems there may be with the rest of Wakefield’s work, surely this is the crux of the matter?

Despite a concerted effort to discredit Wakefield’s research, recent studies are confirming the link between autism, digestive problems, immune system abnormalities and the MMR vaccine. Wakefield’s own research has shown that, in a group of 15 autistic children versus healthy children, there is clear evidence of immune dysfunction.[3] Three studies have shown measles antibodies in the central nervous system, with the potential to damage both brain and gut.[4,5,6]

Yes, the findings concerning the measles antibodies are significant, albeit, not in a way that most people would admire. And here we pass to one of the most alarming and distressing aspects of this whole affair; something that has been known for some time but about which Patrick Holford is silent despite the extensive discussion in the 2007 Autism Omnibus Hearings. Those antibodies were never there.

The account of those (now) infamous PCR samples that ‘proved’ the existence and persistence of the measles antibodies in the children’s samples, along with the issues discussed below and in part 1 is why a lawyer for the US Govt. Health and Human Services Dept. recently made this remarkable comment in his concluding statements for the first part of the Autism Omnibus hearings in the US. The MMR-autism case has no plausible or verifiable science to support it.

It’s at best speculation, idle speculation. Now, at worst–at worst–it’s a contrivance. It’s a contrivance that’s been developed and articulated and promoted by its chief proponent, and that’s Andrew Wakefield. He promoted it for financial gain. Either way it’s not science.
pgs 28-9: Day 12 Transcript of Cedillo v. Secretary of Health and Human Services (pdf)

What about those samples, the ones with the measles RNA?

Orac has written an excellent account of the difference between real scientists and crank scientists. By liberal referral to the leading PCR authority, Dr Bustin, we learn precisely why we can have no confidence at all in the Unigenetics lab that reported many of these findings.

Now, here’s where Dr. Bustin was so devastating to the claim that MMR causes autism. Andrew Wakefield and Arthur Krigsman, who claimed to have replicated Wakefield’s work and found measles virus RNA in the guts of autistic children, both used Professor John O’Leary’s Unigenetics Laboratory in Ireland, and it was the Unigenetics lab whose results led to a paper by Uhlman et al and an as yet unpublished poster presentation by Walker et al, both claiming to find measles virus in the guts of autistic children.

The irregularities were extraordinary and the whole of Dr. Bustin’s testimony (pdf) is worth reading as a primer into how PCR can go horribly wrong.

Despite all of this well-documented scientific rigour, Patrick Holford still finds this an area of controversy and debate rather than acknowledging that there has been some bad science that has been roundly and repeatedly exposed. He mentions none of this in the theory of autism aetiology that he promotes in his books or websites. He promotes the existence of the measles antibodies in the gut and CSF as fact despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The theoretical underpinning for his heavily promoted treatment programme relies upon the existence and persistence of these measles antibodies.

So, the Unigenetics lab returned suspect results and can not be relied upon but surely the original PCR results from the Royal Free Hospital are above reproach? No.

Dr Nick Chadwick started to work as a graduate student in Dr Wakefield’s lab in the Royal Free Hospital in 1994. The lab started to focus on testing samples and tissue from autistic patients in 1996. Chadwick was responsible for processing the materials and looking for measles RNA. He reported that there were never any confirmed findings of measles RNA. The only positives that were obtained were rapidly shown to be false positives and he reported this. Chadwick’s account has been known for some time; more than enough time for Patrick Holford to have addressed this issue. At the very least he should have referred to it when purporting to give his email list an overview of Wakefield’s work and why we might consider signing that petition.

Chadwick’s testimony to the Autism Omnibus hearings (pdf) was devastating.

pg 10
Q [Y]ou personally tested while you were in Dr. Wakefield’s lab gut biopsy material, CFS, PBMCs?

A Yes, that’s right.

Q And all the results were either negative, or if they were positive it always turned out that they were false positives?

A Yes, that’s correct.

Q Did you inform Dr. Wakefield of the negative results?

A Yes. Yes.

Chadwick further reported that Wakefield had decided that it would be useful to send samples to Dr Kawashima’s lab because he was also working on the detection of measles virus using another methodology. Chadwick discovered that there were serious and significant reporting errors from Kawashima’s lab and that, yet again, the only positive results were subsequently shown to be false positives. He had concerns about contamination. He informed Wakefield of the problem with the Kawashima results. Chadwick’s results also returned negative results, with every positive being subsequently shown to be a false positive.

pg 12
Q [D]uring your time on your Ph.D. research in Dr. Wakefield’s lab you only obtained nine positive PCR results for measles. Every time you did that you sequenced them.

A That’s correct, yes. We sent it off to a sequencing lab to be sequenced, and the data that came back showed that they were all false positive results.

Q Every positive result you got was a false positive?

A Yes…

[pg 12 cont. to pg 14]
Q [Y]ou state that you had reservations about the immunohistochemistry done to detect measles virus, specifically the use of an antibody from Porton Down?

A Yes, that’s right. The antibody seemed to cross-react.
Experiments we did in the lab seemed to show that the antibody cross-reacted with bacterial proteins, which I think is an artifact of how the antibody was made, and that led us or led me to think that it may have been cross-reacting with bacteria in the gut of patients rather than measles virus.

Q Now, that would lead to contamination?

A Well, it would lead to a false positive result. Say for instance if the antibody was binding to something in the guts of these patients, it may well have been a bacteria rather than the measles virus.

Q Okay. Producing the false positives in those?

A Yes, that’s correct.

Q You also state in your affidavit that you believe Dr Wakefield was aware of all your negative results when he submitted his paper “Ileal Lymphonodular Hyperplasia, Nonspecific Colitis and Pervasive Developmental Disorder,” which was published in 1998 to the Lancet.

A Yes, that’s correct.

Q You were working at the lab at that time, and you had actually published some articles with Dr. Wakefield on other subjects, hadn’t you?

A Yes. Yes.

Q Why isn’t your name on the paper I just referenced?

A Well, my name isn’t on that because none of my data went into that paper.
There was a manuscript which did use some PCR data I think from Dr. Kawashima’s lab, and I asked for my name to be taken off anything that was related to PCR data because I wasn’t comfortable with the quality of the data.

It is a remarkably serious step to request that your name is taken off a paper and should not be used in reference to data. The significance of this would be apparent to any researcher or scientist. Except, of course, to Patrick Holford, who does not mention any of this when instructing his readers in the role of MMR in the development of autism. Nor does he mention it when discussing the scientific rationale for his treatment programme for children on the autistic spectrum.

Patrick Holford has not included any of this material when updating his publications or websites nor when writing his recent books. If he were to, perhaps he would have to acknowledge that there is no scientific foundation to his treatment programme which relies upon the findings of Wakefield.

In 2007 Patrick Holford asked: Was Dr. Andrew Wakefield Right About the Link Between Autism, the Gut, Allergy and the MMR Vaccine?. He purported to give an overview:

If you are not sure, then please read on to find out what we know about autism, the gut, vaccinations and what food has to do with it.

We do not know any of that: the science has been well and truly exposed. At best, Patrick Holford is outdated in his knowledge and it is past time that he updated it. Something he had ample opportunity to do before repeating these beliefs in recently published books and, most recently, on his website (Patrick Holford’s Concerns About the MMR Vaccine).

Patrick Holford depends upon Wakefield’s work to justify some of his entrepreneurial and charitable endeavours. He owes it to the people who rely upon him to revise his acceptance of Wakefield’s science and findings. And people are guided by Patrick Holford when it comes to MMR. Petition signatory 4794 credits Patrick Holford with her daughter’s decision not to vaccinate her children (she was previously later numbers, there have been some edits to the petition):

Thank God my daughter used her judgement and did not have the MMR for her children. She based her decision on extensive research, most particularly ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ and Patrick Holford.

Patrick Holford owes it to that woman to put together a better overview of the research that purports to find a link between MMR and autism: he may even owe it to her that he should strongly reconsider his position on a number of important matters.

Related posts

Patrick Holford and Dr Andrew Wakefield’s Discredited Findings: Part 1
Kevin Leitch on Andrew Wakefield and the death of the MMR debacle and Justice for Katie
Mike Stanton on Patrick Holford and his unusual views on vaccination, MMR and autism
Patrick Holford Claims Remarkable Benefits for Homeopathic Vaccinations
Holford Watch: Holford believes Secretin is “Worth considering” as an autism treatment; however, there is no evidence that this treatment is effective and
Holford is sceptical about off-label prescribing, but thinks that secretin for autism is “Worth considering”
Patrick Holford alias Doctor Knock aka Holt Senior


Filed under Andrew Wakefield, autism, autistic spectrum disorders, immunization, measles, MMR, vaccination, vaccines, Wakefield

15 responses to “Patrick Holford and Andrew Wakefield’s Discredited Findings: Part 2

  1. Pingback: Patrick Holford and Andrew Wakefield’s Discredited Findings: Part 1 « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  2. It’s astonishing that PH is still propagating the falsehood of autism-MMR connection. I would have thought he would choose to quietly distance himself from the rubbished claims of Wakefield. How can he choose instead to keep telling people what he must know is false, thereby putting the health of children at risk?

    Also repulsive is his choice of language in referring to autistic children; “bring them back.” What exactly is it he purports to bring them back from and where should they be instead?

    Thanks for keeping people clued up about all this.

  3. What exactly is it he purports to bring them back from and where should they be instead?

    For Holford, it appears that autism is at the very bottom of a hierarchical model of ‘mental disease’: maybe he seeks to ‘bring them back’ from the ‘depths’ to which he thinks they have sunk?

    Tactful bloke, Holford. I’m rather surprised that organisations like Mind are happy to be associated with him.

  4. tifosi246

    The Guardian covers the results of “the biggest review conducted to date” of MMR and autism by Guy’s Hospital. Read the story at:
    MMR links to autism dismissed by huge study

    Nice to see it on the front page of the print newspaper. Even better if the tabloids did the same 78 point front-page headline on this as they did for the Wakefield scare, but I won’t hold my breath.

    The Guardian also pick up the story in their leader: From Science to Conscience which says:

    As the philosopher Karl Popper argued, the hallmark of scientific theorising is that it can be falsified by new evidence. After all, understanding only advances when people learn from their mistakes. Even before today, it was abundantly clear that the once-postulated link between the combined vaccination for mumps, measles and rubella (the MMR jab) on one hand, and autism on the other, could not be sustained. Paper after paper had concluded that the jab was safe. Few scientists needed any more persuasion, but for any who still harboured lingering doubts, the publication this morning of the largest ever study on the subject should finally lay these to rest…The reality, however, is that this may not alter the views of some who still insist MMR is a threat, for their thinking was never scientific and so is not amenable to the developing facts…The MMR-autism debate is no longer a live question of science. Those still arguing otherwise must understand that it has become a question of conscience instead.

    Dear Prof. Holford, it is time for you to publicly retract. Game over.

  5. Sadly, it is unlikely that those who don’t wish to believe will find this study acceptable. There were 250 participants by the time that people had dropped out. Furthermore, and rightly, the scientists did not perform bowel biopsies (it would have been desperately unethical absent some strong driver) so this will not placate the people who believe that the measles virus is sequestered there. Not that it ever was, as we now know, following the evidence of Chadwick and Bustin – but prior beliefs die hard…

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