Debunking Anti-vaxxers: Vol. 3

In September 2016, I started a project piece debunking classic anti-vaxxer arguments. It started with a popular list of 28 studies that allegedly support Andrew Wakefield’s “revolutionary” research, the altar to which anti-vaxxers pray.

We started by striking out 12 of the 28 studies (43 percent) for various reasons, including repeats, studies authored by Wakefield, studies in Wakefield’s own publication and other irrelevant studies. You can view the full list here.

In the last installment, we eliminated three of the remaining 16 studies. This time, we will eliminate three more studies to reduce the list of “supporting” studies down to 13.

Evaluation of an Association Between Gastrointestinal Symptoms and Cytokine Production Against Common Dietary Proteins in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
The Journal of Pediatrics May 2005;146(5):605-10

This is another study by Dr. Harumi Jyonouchi, the same guy we left off with in Debunking Anti-vaxxers: Vol. 2. I should have read this before moving onto the third installment of the series because this study is very similar to the last study we debunked.

With that said, I can just copy/paste my rebuttal to that study for this one since they’re essentially dealing with the same topic (a consistent theme with the list of 28 studies):

This study found an association between cytokine production against dietary proteins and GI symptoms in ASD (autistic spectrum disorder). A large proportion of ASD subjects with GI symptoms were included in the study (75 out of 109), so it is possible that food allergy is most relevant among the subset of ASD subject.

What does this mean? Essentially, the study deals with the effects of dietary restrictions on autistic children with positive GI symptoms. In no way does this study replicate or support Wakefield’s claim that MMR vaccines cause autism. It simply deals with the similar theme of GI issues and autism. That’s pretty much the only link other than Wakefield referenced the study several times in his book “Waging War on the Autistic Child: The Arizona 5 and the Legacy of Baron von.”

Many believe that diet plays a role in autism, including Wakefield. If you’re arguing about dietary plans and autism, this is a damn good study to cite. If you use this to argue vaccines cause autism, you didn’t read shit.

Autistic Enterocolitis: Fact or Fiction?
Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology February 2009; 23(2): 95-98

Just because something is in a scientific journal does not mean it is a study. This is a great example.

This “study” is not a study at all. Rather, it’s a “brief communication” discussion piece that’s three pages long. Half of the article is explaining two case studies of two adults with both gastro issues and an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

Two anecdotes. Zero research beyond that.

From the article:

There have been several reports, mainly anecdotal, of a link between ASD and chronic gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms; however, scientific data are scarce and often criticized.

Also:

Clearly, more studies need to be conducted to better define the relationship between ASDs and the GI tract.

At any rate, this isn’t research and does not stand up to the scientific method in any sort of way considering it’s a short “think about it” piece using two anecdotes. Essentially, it’s worthless as “support.”

Phenotypic expression of autoimmune autistic disorder (AAD): A major subset of autism
Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 2009:21(3): 148-161

This study was conducted by Dr. Vijendra Singh. That name should sound familiar if you read Debunking Anti-vaxxers: Vol. 2, because another one of his studies was featured there. In fact, a good handful of the studies on the list of 28 were done by a few common names. This shouldn’t be surprising since the overwhelming majority of scientists find flaws in their research, greatly reducing the number of believers with an MD or PhD to only a few.

When it comes to scientific research, it is important not to cherry pick the one study that supports your cause if there are many more that refute the claim. This is a prime example.

Singh theorizes that autism is an autoimmune disorder where MMR vaccines can be a root cause; something about increased antibodies in the sera of autistic children. Only through replication and similar testing can this theory prove to be valid. Such studies have been done:

  • “Are there altered antibody responses to measles, mumps, or rubella viruses in autism?”Journal of NueroVirology May 2007, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 252–259 – Excerpt: “No significant differences in antibody titers to measles, mumps, and rubella viruses and diphtheria toxoid were found among the four groups. Additionally, there were no significant differences between the four groups for total immunoglobulin (Ig)G or IgM. Interestingly, the authors did find a significant number (15/59) of autism subjects (classic and regressive onset combined) who had a very low or no antibody titer against rubella virus, compared to a combine control/Tourette’s group.”
  • “Measles vaccination and antibody response in autism spectrum disorders”Archives of Disease in Childhood 2008;93:832-837 – Excerpt: “No difference was found between cases and controls for measles antibody response. There was no dose–response relationship between autism symptoms and antibody concentrations. Measles virus nucleic acid was amplified by reverse transcriptase-PCR in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from one patient with autism and two typically developing children. There was no evidence of a differential response to measles virus or the measles component of the MMR in children with ASD, with or without regression, and controls who had either one or two doses of MMR.”
  • No Evidence of Persisting Measles Virus in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells From Children With Autism Spectrum DisorderPediatrics October 2006, VOLUME 118 / ISSUE 4 – Excerpt: “No sample from either autism spectrum disorder or control groups was found to contain nucleic acids from any measles virus gene. In the nested polymerase chain reaction and in-house assays, none of the samples yielded positive results. Furthermore, there was no difference in anti-measles antibody titers between the autism and control groups. There is no evidence of measles virus persistence in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of children with autism spectrum disorder.”
  • Response to measles-mumps-rubella vaccine in children with autism spectrum disordersIn Vivo 2013 May-Jun;27(3):377-82 – Excerpt: “Children with ASD have a similar level and seropositivity rate of antibodies against the MMR vaccine to same-age controls. As persistent infections are typically associated with high antibody levels, our results support the arguments against a role of MMR vaccination as a causal factor or co-factor in development of ASD.”

If Singh’s study was the only known example suggesting autoimmune disorders and MMR vaccines caused autism, then anti-vaxxers actually have something. Unfortunately, many similar studies have been refuting the hypothesis. Add this to Dr. Singh’s already shaky history with questionable methodologies in previous studies, and you have a research paper that hardly qualifies as empirical evidence.

Coming up on “Debunking Anti-vaxxers”…
We’ll dive into three more studies used as supporting evidence by anti-vaxxers which include the topics of celiac disease as autism, another GI symptoms in autism study, and autism vs Clostridium tetani. What does that last one even mean? Tune in to find out!

Related stories:

Debunking Anti-vaxxers: Vol. 2

Debunking Anti-Vaxxers: Vol. 1

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