The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) a five-year $10 million contract to study the polio-like condition known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), also sometimes referred to as acute flaccid paralysis (AFP).1 2
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “As part of the contract, UAB will organize and implement an international, multi-site study to learn more about the incidence and distribution of AFM and to better understand how the disease develops and progresses in children.” Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland is co-leading the study.1 2
“Knowledge gained from this study hopefully will provide the foundation for future treatment studies of antiviral drugs. We hope to better understand why acute flaccid myelitis occurs and which children are most at risk, and to develop the biorepository and associated clinical database to understand what we can do about it in the future,” Dr. Kimberlin said.2
I am struck by the fact that Dr. Kimberlin apparently has already concluded that AFM is caused by a virus and is hopeful the study he is conducting will confirm the validity of that assumption. … “Knowledge gained from this study hopefully will provide the foundation for future treatment studies of antiviral drugs.”
Isn’t this a bit premature? The contract runs from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2024 and the lead investigator is already saying that he hopes the study will confirm that the cause of AFM is a virus so that the U.S. government and pharmaceutical industry can come with an antiviral drug or vaccine to either prevent or cure the presumed viral infection. This should come as no surprise, given that Dr. Kimberlin’s fields of professional interest include “antiviral therapies, viral diseases, clinical research and trials design.”3 4
With such a remark by the person in charge of the study, the conclusion that the culprit behind AFM is a virus seems pre-ordained. If that isn’t enough, then consider that the focus of the study is to “review serious and life-threatening viruses in pediatric populations that could be connected to AFM cases.”2
In other words, this is not a broad study to investigate all possible causes of AFM, including environmental chemicals and vaccines, which can also cause paralysis. The study is not about finding the cause of AFM but rather finding a way to establish why a particular virus must be the cause of this devastating paralytic condition. Therefore, the UAB/Johns Hopkins-led study starts out with a clear bias.
This bias is difficult to explain in light of the CDC’s recent confirmation that in more than 99 percent of the confirmed cases of AFM identified in the U.S. since 2014, no virus was detected in the spinal fluid of the patients that could confirm a virus such as enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), as the cause of the paralysis. Despite this, EV-68 continues to be often mentioned as the most likely cause of AFM.5
The bias is also strange, given comments by the CDC’s Nancy Messonnier, MD that AFM “seems to be more of an autoimmune syndrome, as opposed to a direct result of a virus.” It is a “destructive disease of the neurological system,” she said. “If this virus (EV-D68) was causing this damage, we’d expect to be able to find the virus in the spinal fluid of most of these patients, and we’re not.”6 7
Dr. Messonnier, who is director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, has compared AFM to what happens with the autoimmune neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system.6
GBS has been found to be causally related to vaccines, notably the inactivated influenza vaccine and the MMR II (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine. Cases of GBS have also been reported after hepatitis B, meningococcal polysaccharide, tetanus and polio vaccinations.6
So why such a heavy bias in favor of a virus as the cause of AFM? This is not the way a study is supposed to be conducted according to the scientific method. It is certainly not the way the scientific process is meant to work.
1 Press Release. NIH awards contract for acute flaccid myelitis natural history study. U.S. National Institutes of Health July 23, 2019.
2 Koplon S. Researchers awarded $10 million to study acute flaccid myelitis. The University of Alabama at Birmingham July 23, 2019.
3 Definitive Contract HHSN272201600018C. GovTribe.com June 25, 2019.
4 David W. Kimberlin, MD. Children’s of Alabama.
5 Cáceres M. EV-D68 Virus Pushed as Cause of AFM Paralysis. The Vaccine Reaction July 29, 2019.
6 Cáceres M. AFM Compared to Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 21, 2018.
7 Cáceres M. AFM Not Transmissible from Human to Human Says CDC. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 7, 2018.