Saturday October 15, 2005
A while ago an investigative television journalist friend rang me up. “I just went undercover to take some MRSA swabs for my filthy hospital superbug scandal,” he said, “but they all came back negative. What am I doing wrong?” Always happy to help, I suggested he swab “my arse” instead. Ten minutes later, I heard from him again. He’d just spoken to a tabloid health journalist who had told him which lab to use: “the lab that gives positive results when others do not” was how he described it to me.
What lab was this? Step up Northants-based Chemsol Consulting, and director Christopher Malyszewicz. If you see an MRSA superbug positive swab scandal, the chances are it came from his lab.
In fact, people have taken swabs from the very same hospitals given massive MRSA finds by Chemsol, sent them to other reputable mainstream labs, or their own, and got nothing. An academic paper by eminent microbiologists describing this process in relation to one hospital has been published in a peer reviewed academic journal, then loudly ignored by everyone in the media except little me. So how do we explain this extraordinary phenomena? A phenomena so replicable that even tabloid journalists are – uniquely – familiar with the ability of various different research laboratories to give different results?
First let’s clarify one thing: there probably are plenty of nasty hospitals that aren’t as clean as we’d like them to be, and deaths from MRSA are tragic. Certainly the UK has more MRSA than many other countries, an observed phenomenon which could of course be put down to various different causes. But we’re looking at the issue of one private laboratory, with an awful lot of business from undercover journalists doing stories on MRSA, that seems to give an awful lot of positive results where other labs do not. I asked Dr Malyszewicz why this happened. He said he did not know, and suggested that the microbiologists might be taking swabs from the wrong place at the wrong times. I asked why he thought the tabloids chose his lab (producing almost 20 articles). He did not know. I asked why various microbiologists have said he has refused to tell them about his full methods when they wanted to replicate and validate them in their own labs. He says this is not true.
I spoke to Peter Wilson, UCL Microbiologist, who said: “We got batches of the media that Dr Malyszewicz was using, we couldn’t distinguish Staph. epidermidis [not MRSA] from Staph. aureus [which could be MRSA] by whether it grew on that media. It seemed he was relying on whether or not it grew on that media to determine whether it was MRSA or not. Without getting full cooperation from the other side, it’s hard to know exactly what they were doing.”
Lastly I asked Dr Malyszewicz about his qualifications. He told me he has a BSc from Leicester University. Actually it’s from Leicester Polytechnic. He told me he has a PhD. The News of the World called him “Respected MRSA specialist Dr Christopher Malyszewicz”. The Sun called him “The UK’s top MRSA expert.” and “Microbiologist Christopher Malyszewicz”. He agreed his was a “non-accredited correspondence course PhD” from America. He has no actual microbiology qualification. Dr Malyszewicz says his PhD is not recognised in the UK. He is, however, charming to talk to, and to my delight has agreed to a filmed visit and interview so we can get to the bottom of everything. This story is going to run like dysentery.