The key finding (chronic colitis found in ASD children) of Dr. Wakefield's early case report published in The Lancet in 1998 HAS been independently confirmed by medical researchers in five different countries.
That is a very significant claim. After all, independent confirmation of a recent finding, would make the validity of a finding more likely, and if 6 independent laboratories found the same gut changes in autistic children, then then likelihood that this was a) a fluke or b) made up by Andrew Wakefield would be drastically reduced.
Finally, one of those commenters has posted those ‘independent confirmations’ – so I thought it might be worth having a look at them.
Krigsman, A. (Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine Director of Gastroenterology Services), et al.,Ileocolonoscopy in Children with Autistic spectrum Disorder and Chronic Gastrointestinal symptoms. Autism Insights 2010:2 1-11.
Gonzalez, L., et al., Endoscopic and Histological Characteristics of the Digestive Mucosa in Autistic Children with gastro-Intestinal Symptoms. Arch Venez Pueric Pediatr, 2005;69:19-25.
Balzola, F., et al., Panenteric IBD-like disease in a patient with regressive autism shown for the first time by wireless capsule enteroscopy: Another piece in the jig-saw of the gut-brain syndrome? American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005. 100(4): p. 979-981.
Balzola, F., et al., Autistic enterocolitis: Confirmation of a new infammatory bowel disease in an Italian cohort of patients. Gastroenterology 2005;128(Suppl. 2);A-303.
Galiatsatos, P., et al., Autistic enterocolitis: Fact or fiction. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2009;23:95-98.
Let’s look at number 1, Krigsman et al. The name sounds vaguely familiar. In fact, anyone who has read a little about the MMR-autism affair will know Arthur Krigsman as the clinical director of Thoughtful House, which happens to be the same Texas Clinic out of which Andrew Wakefield practises. One editor of “Autism Insight”, the journal in which this “independent confirmation” was published, is Andrew Wakefield (another one the senior author of the study, Carol Stott). Gosh, I bet peer review was harsh for this one.
Gonzales et al, number 2, has been published in “Arch Venez Pueric Pediatr” which stands for Archivos Venezolanos de Puericultura y Pediatría. It was a bit tricky to get my hands on the paper, especially since the citation was not quite right, but I did manage and was not surprised to find that indeed the authors cannot replicate Wakefield’s 1998 “findings” of a distinct autistic enterocolitis, although they do report a higher incidence of gastrointestinal problems in their autistic group.
Balzola et al, number 3, is a case report of one adult autistic patient with inflammed bowel.
Similarly, Balzola et al, number 4, is a meeting abstract that never saw the light of day as a peer reviewed study.
Autistic enterocolitis: confirmation of a new inflammatory bowel disease in an Italian cohort of patients.
Federico Balzola, Clauser Daniela*, Alessandro Repici, Valeria Barbon, Anna Sapino***, Cristiana Barbera**, Pier Luigi Calvo**, Marina Gandione*, Roberto Rigardetto*, Mario Rizzetto.
Dept of Gastroenterology. University of Turin. Molinette Hospital Turin, Italy
*Dept of Neuropsychiatry for Children. University of Turin Regina Margherita Pediatric Hospital, Turin, Italy ** Dept of Pediatric Gastroenterology. University of Turin Regina Margherita Pediatric Hospital, Turin, Italy *** Dept of Biomedical Science and Human Oncology University of Turin
Although the causes of autism are largely unknown, this long-life developmental disorder is now recognised to affect as many as 1 to 500 children. An upper and lower intestinal disease has been recently described in these patients (pts) in spite of gastrointestinal symptoms have been reported by the parents back more many years. This disorder comprising ileo-colonic lymphoid nodular hyperplasia (LNH) and chronic inflammatory colonic disease was called autistic enterocolitis: an association between autism and bowel disease was then proposed.
Nine consecutive male pts (mean age 18 years, range 7-30 years) with a diagnosis of autism according to ICD-10 criteria that showed chronic intestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea) were enrolled. After routinely blood and stool tests, gastroscopy and colonoscopy with multiple biopsies were performed under sedation. A wireless enteroscopy capsule was also performed in 3 adult pts.
Anemia and fecal blood positive test were found in 2 pts and 3 pts, respectively. Gastroscopy revealed mucosal gastritis in 4 pts, esophagitis in 1 and duodenitis in 1 pts. Histological findings showed a chronic inflammation of the stomach and duodenum in 6 pts (66%) but inconsistent with celiac disease. Macroscopic mucosal abnormalities (aphtoid ulcerations and loss of vascular pattern) were found in 1 pts (11%) at colonoscopy and a LNH in the terminal ileum in 4 pts. (44%) Microscopic colitis with intraepithelial lymphocytes and eosinophils infiltrations, mucosal atrophy and follicular hyperplasia was histologically present in all the pts (100%) whereas a chronic inflammation with iperemia and villous shortening of the terminal ileum was shown in 6 (66%) pts. The wireless capsule revealed areas of bleeding or patchy erythema, mucosal erosions and ulcers in both jejunum and ileum in 1 patients whereas a particular chronic jejunum and ileal erosive pattern was evident in the other two.
These preliminary data are strongly consistent with previous descriptions of autistic enterocolitis and supported a not-coincidental occurrence. Moreover, they showed for the first time a small intestinal involvement, suggesting a panenteric localisation of this new IBD. The treatment to gain clinical remission has still to be tried and it will be extremely important to ameliorate the quality of life of such pts who are likely to be overlooked because of their long-life problems in the communication of symptoms.
These findings do not support a distinct pathology unique to autism. Additionally, Wakefield's original claim was essentially, 'MMR vaccination, then appearance of gastrointestinal symptoms, then regression into autism'. So not only was Wakefield's original claim roundly disproven, but Balzola et al.'s findings do not indicate anything remotely descriptive of Wakefield's original claim. This abstract also remains just that, i.e. an abstract presented at a meeting 5 years ago and has not gone through any peer-review, nor publication.
Finally, number 5, Galiatsatos et al., is a case report, featuring two adult patients with gastrointestinal problems and an ASD diagnosis. The authors call for “more investigations” in their discussion.
So what do we have here? Three (3) genuinely published cases of autistic adults who had consulted a doctor for gastrointestinal problems and were found to have gastrointestinal problems. One conference report from April 2005 that has not gone through peer review and has not appeared in a real journal in the 5 years since the conference. One real study looking at over 50 autistic children which does not confirm Wakefield’s findings. And finally, one study by Wakefield’s buddies in a freshly founded journal run by Andrew Wakefield and his buddies, to say that their buddy Andy was really right all along – how is that for "independent" confirmation?!
Edited on 19 January 2011 to add a find that Sullivan from LBRB led me to - it appears that the 2007 and 2008 tax forms (990) from Thoughtful House mention a "VENEZUELA COLLABORATION" under the projects they fund - a bit of thoughtful googling produced this gem
Gastrointestinal Pathology in Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Venezuelan Experience by Lenny G. Gonzalez, MD
Meet Lenny Gonzales, another Wakefield "buddy".