Molecular tests in Wakefield's own lab rebutted the basis for his MMR attack

This page is material from the award-winning investigation by Brian Deer for The Sunday Times of London, the UK’s Channel 4 TV network and BMJ, the British Medical Journal, which exposed vaccine research fraudster Andrew Wakefield | Investigation summary

Even as Andrew Wakefield launched his attack on MMR in 1998, at a press conference and in a video, coinciding with a Lancet paper, he knew that his own laboratory had tested his theory: that the ultimate culprit for the children's autism was measles virus in the vaccine. Royal Free researcher Nick Chadwick, carrying out sophisticated molecular analysis of samples from the children, using methods agreed by Wakefield, found no trace of measles virus

Below is the abstract from Dr Chadwick's Ph.D thesis, dated February 1998, and a table of results on 22 autistic children - including children reported in the Lancet and announced to the world to be evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism - revealing findings only finally released to the public on November 18 2004 with the Channel 4 documentary MMR: What they didn't tell you


Hypothesis. i) Atypical exposure to measles virus is a factor in the aetiology of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  ii) Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination is a factor in the aetiology of autistic enteropathy.

Aims. i) To compare a range of molecular techniques for measles RNA amplification.  ii) To develop a sensitive and robust method for the detection of measles RNA.  iii) To analyse clinical samples from IBD patients for the presence of measles RNA.  iv) To analyse clinical samples from autistic enteropathy patients for the presence of measles, mumps and rubella RNA.

Methods development.  Three RNA amplification methods were compared in terms of their sensitivity and fidelity for the detection of measles RNA and nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA) was found to be the most sensitive.  In a preliminary study, NASBA did not detect any measles RNA in a coded series of IBD and control intestinal tissues.

In order to improve the detection sensitivity, the use of hybrid capture, using measles-specific oglionucleotides linked to paramagnetic solid phase supports, was investigated.  Hybrid capture was found to increase the measles RNA detection sensitivity 100-fold when followed by RT-PCR.  An internal modified transcript was developed which could be co-amplified with measles RNA as an internal positive control.

IBD samples.  Resection samples from 20 IBD and control patients were used for measles hybrid capture followed by RT-PCR, in addition to peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 13 IBD and control patients.

Autistic enteropathy samples.  Biopsies, PBMCs and Vero/PBMC cocultures were analysed from 22 patients with autistic enteropathy and 6 controls.

Results.  Hybrid capture and RT-PCR could detect 104  molecules of a measles RNA transcript added to control tissue homogenates.  The fidelity of NASBA, in terms of its nucleic acid error rates, was found to be comparable with that of RT-PCR.  All samples were found to be positive for a housekeeping RNA species and internal modified positive control RNA.  None of the samples tested positive for measles, mumps or rubella RNA, although viral RNA was successfully amplified in positive control samples.

Conclusion. The results do not support previous data implicating persistent measles virus infection with the aetiology of IBD or autistic enteropathy.

Table: RT-PCR results on samples from autistic children, carried out in Andrew Wakefield's lab by Nick Chadwick, under Wakefield's supervision and using a methodology agreed by Wakefield. These results were in before Wakefield and the Royal Free launched the MMR scare in February 1998. All samples tested were negative for measles virus [N and H genes], as well as for rubella and mumps:

From: Molecular Strategies for the Detection of Measles Virus in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a thesis submitted for the degree of doctor of philosophy, by Nicholas Charles Chadwick, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of London

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