Microbiologists raising doubts? It must be a cover-up

November 5th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, mirror, MRSA, scare stories | 72 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday November 5, 2005
The Guardian

There are times when it’s just great to be alive: you’re running through the archives, the wind’s in your hair, suddenly you stumble on a gem from last year’s Sunday Mirror and it just makes you bless the day you decided to become a sarcastic and hateful campaigning science journalist.

If this is going to make any sense we’ll need a quick recap. For the last three weeks we have been following the sorry affair of MRSA in the tabloids. Every major tabloid newspaper in Britain – Sun, Mirror, Mail, Evening Standard and more – has sent undercover journalists in to take swabs from hospitals which were proven to be positive for the “deadly superbug MRSA” in laboratory testing by an expert.

Article continues
These results all came from Dr Chris Malyszewicz, and his Northamptonshire-based Chemsol Consulting. He is not a microbiologist; in fact, he is not a doctor, and has only a “correspondence course” PhD from a non-accredited distance learning institution in the US.

His laboratory, a shed in his garden, is not accredited, unheard of for any lab doing NHS work; he makes his living producing disinfectant and other products targeted at people worried about MRSA; his methods were unable to distinguish MRSA from other bacteria; and this was proven when he finally released slides that he believed contained MRSA, and it turned out six out of eight did not contain even the smallest trace.

Not one paper has retracted its story. But how did the papers respond to the concerns, raised by senior microbiologists all over the country at the time, that this man was providing bogus results? Two days after Malyszewicz allowed a couple of real microbiologists in to examine the Chemsol “shedquarters” in his garden, the Sunday Mirror wrote a long, vitriolic piece about them.

“Health secretary John Reid was accused last night of trying to gag Britain’s leading expert on the killer bug MRSA.” That’s Britain’s leading expert who has no microbiology qualifications, and runs his operation from a shed in the garden. “Dr Chris Malyszewicz has pioneered a new method of testing for levels of MRSA and other bacteria,” they go on. Clearly he has. Malyszewicz adds: “They asked me a lot of questions about my procedures and academic background.”

By now you can picture them in the newsroom, shouting: “This story is dynamite! It’s a government cover-up!” And yes: “Tony Field, chairman of the national MRSA support group, said: ‘It was an outrageous attempt to discredit and silence him’.”

Now I’m going to put my chips on the table: I believe there has not been a single positive swab for MRSA found in any hospital by any undercover journalist to date that did not come from Chemsol. I believe this so strongly I will give a free “MMR is safe: tell your friends” T-shirt to the first person who can send me a clipping demonstrating otherwise.

· Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk


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72 Responses



  1. Dr* T said,

    November 5, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Ben,

    I fully enjoy your weekly missives (there’s certainly plenty of fodder) but I have issues.

    Does the column have any worth? (I mean this constructively). In other words, is it a real attempt to instil a scientific rigour in popular journalism or just boffins sitting round snorting derisorily at fools tramping muddy boots over sacred science? Is the column a little bit of the Guardian given over to pedants just to vent their accredited spleens before moulding back into the statistical population?

    Let me explain – your above story over the last few weeks -I have no reason to doubt it. What I’m more concerned about however, is not that it has been uncovered but that no newspaper (inc. the venerable Guinarad) has thought it worthwhile to run with it in a larger context. People’s jobs (at the hospitals concerned) have probably been put on the line, but (AFAIK) even the hospitals haven’t put up much of a fight.

    Your article has done an excellent job in rooting out this particular weed, but I find it scary that no-one cares.

    ——–
    On a different note (and much in keeping with the column) a bit of BS (in both senses…) grabbed my attention from today’s Guardian regarding the Cornish couple who have started selling their well water to Harrods – she claimed the water was very pure AND high in calcium.

    I’m going to sit in pedant’s corner.

    T

    *Accredited

  2. Tessa K said,

    November 5, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    Part of me wants to commend you Ben, for being so tenacious. Another part of me is starting to get concerned for your mental health. Obsessions can be tricky things…

  3. frank said,

    November 5, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Heck to all of your critics. Science needs more dobermans.

  4. Dr* T said,

    November 5, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    Dobermen? ;)

  5. BarryG said,

    November 5, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    Yes… Like Cybermen but with more teeth :)

    BTW, I live in Oz and the MRSA (does his tests in his shed) joker has been featured on the “tabloid tv shows” quite a bit, returning false positives from just about everywhere (even broom handles, shock horror!!!)… Once he got exposed as being a know-nothing chimp they quietened down… But isn’t that the way that the tabloid media is nowadays… No gives a sh*t so they constantly have to “scare” us into thinking the world is gonna end in a couple of days, or maybe they have done it so much now that we are just too de-sensitized… And don’t get me started on the big scary killer bird-flu… At least chicken licken has something legitimate to be worried about now ;)

  6. amoebic vodka said,

    November 5, 2005 at 11:28 pm

    ‘ “Health secretary John Reid was accused last night of trying to gag Britain’s leading expert on the killer bug MRSA.” That’s Britain’s leading expert who has no microbiology qualifications, and runs his operation from a shed in the garden.’

    And who is such an expert on antibiotic resistant bacteria that he thinks antibiotics kill viruses.

    Aaarg, some methicillin-resistant bird flu. Doomed, we’re all doomed.

  7. David A said,

    November 7, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    Come on Ben, that’s not really putting your chips on the table. If you really believed so strongly that Chemsol are the only lab to find MRSA, then you would be willing to give away a t-shirt saying “The Daily Mail knows best about MMR” if any evidence was forthcoming!

    By the way, I agree with Dr T on this, when is the big front-page exposé report? What’s the point of unearthing all the damning evidence if it isn’t going to be used to discredit the alarmists? When are you appearing on daytime tv alongside Dr Malyszewicz to debate his findings in front of a large studio audience?

    Actually, how do you begin to discredit the MRSA myth beyond the “sarcastic and hateful campaigning science” column? It reminds of a Terry Pratchett quote “bad news runs round the world before good news has even got its boots on”

  8. Ben Goldacre said,

    November 7, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    Ok. I’m going on dirty protest and writing about nothing but MRSA until somebody notices.

  9. Dr* T said,

    November 7, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    You could get a ‘friend’ to send some ‘samples’ to Chemsol of swabs puportedly from a nasty, dirty NHS hospit-hell (I can do tabloid…) but in reality are sterile controls. Or……. somehow get a swab of the surrounds of the Good Doctor M’s ‘lab’.

    What other interesting swabs could we send…..?

  10. amoebic vodka said,

    November 7, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    Interesting swabs? A few weeks ago, Ben suggested his arse…

    We’re friends with some E. coli. He can have those if he wants.

  11. Ray said,

    November 7, 2005 at 8:39 pm

    I think Covering Science:
    Why the Media So Seldom Get It Right
    hit the nail on the head way back.”No medium for the wide dissemination of information will long endure if it continually tells a significant portion of its users that they are stupid … Frankly, the average reader does not want to be told that his latest enthusiasm is a lot of malarkey, at least not right away, and the media know this“.

  12. Mike Griffiths said,

    November 8, 2005 at 1:27 am

    I can’t wait to see the front page of the Daily Express. They’ll have to find space in amongst the ‘why oh why’ articles and the Diana conspiracies.

  13. RS said,

    November 8, 2005 at 11:40 am

    I presume we can expect a reply?

    society.guardian.co.uk/health/comment/0,7894,1636746,00.html

  14. Charles said,

    November 8, 2005 at 12:10 pm

    I lost interest after this phrase…

    “At the heart of the MMR vaccine controversy is an attempt to blind people with science”

    Kettle. Pot. Black.

  15. John A said,

    November 8, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    So interpreting a little, she seems to be saying that MMR might be increasing the incidence of autism in only a tiny proportion of the population who may be genetically predisposed. Wakefield’s work merely presents a hypothesis and a lot more work is required to test this.
    Seems like a radically different position from the idea that MMR is responsible for the rise in autism rates and should be given as separate jabs…

    The media artificially portrays a scientific issue as black or white or an argument from authority because it is unable or unwilling to present the evidence and therefore take a more qualified position. Then when this is attacked, the response is to misrepresent your opponents position as the equally polarised opposing view and to quickly scurry into the grey “you can’t prove its not not safe”. If your position is undefendable then counter-attack and go to ground.
    Sigh.

    I wonder if this means you will be gaining some Daily Mail readers? Going back to Dr T’s comment, that seems like an opportunity…

  16. Susan said,

    November 8, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    It’s alright, I don’t think you’re expected to take it seriously, at the bottom of the article it states that: “Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist”

  17. Kevin Mannerings said,

    November 8, 2005 at 1:31 pm

    Well I certainly hope so RS. As things stand at the moment, Melanie Phillips makes Dr Goldacre look like a bad science journalist. One who is tendentious, biased, thinks he knows everything, patronising and the like. So come on Tiger, tell us where Melanie got it wrong.

    And when you have sorted that out, perhaps you could comment on the other side of the homeopathy story. You could start with telling your readers about the allegations made by the Swiss Association of Homeopathic Physicians about the ISPM “Egger study: manipulation of statistics, lack of expertise in the assessment og homeopathy. You will find the details in the post I made yesterday under the(incomplete) letter of mine, which you published without asking.

    Perhaps you could also tell us about your own qualifications and experience in the field of homeopathy, and your views on the ethics of one doctor rubbishing the work of other dedicated doctors and scientists.

    Believe me, this is one fan of yours just dying to hear about it.

  18. John A said,

    November 8, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    In case anyone doesn’t know, Kevin is referring to this thread on the site

  19. RS said,

    November 8, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    Funny that Phillips still regards the original Lancet paper as establishing anything. After all, a completely uncontrolled handful of patients totally trumps an epidemiological or case control study.

  20. RS said,

    November 8, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    MP “But Wakefield never suggested a link between MMR and Crohn’s disease, a disorder of the bowel. Wakefield reported instead the discovery of an entirely new syndrome, autistic enterocolitis, which produced distressing bowel symptoms along with a number of developmental problems resembling autism — but which the Cochrane report did not even mention.”

    That’s is a lovely example of Melanie Phillips in action. Did Wakefield not make his career out of implicating measles virus in inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease, and did he not claim that measles vaccine might be the origin of this virus?

    And the Cochrance review may not have mentioned “autistic enterocolitis” but it did find that “Low risk of bias evidence did not support a causal association with Crohn’s
    disease, ulcerative colitis or autism”, which comes to pretty much the same thing.

    Is this measles virus in the CSF paper she keeps gping on about the one in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons:

    “…three children underwent cerebrospinal
    fluid (CSF) assessments including studies for measles virus (MV). All
    three children had concomitant onset of gastrointestinal (GI)
    symptoms and had already had MV genomic RNA detected in
    biopsies of ileal lymphoid nodular hyperplasia (LNH)….The [control cases] were obtained from three nonautistic MMR-vaccinated children with indwelling shunts for
    hydrocephalus. None of the cases or controls had a history of
    measles exposure other than MMR vaccination….MV F gene was present in CSF from all three cases, but not in
    controls…”
    MP: “Moreover, it did not conclude that Wakefield’s evidence was unreliable. On the contrary, it said that no fewer than nine of the most celebrated studies that have been used against him were unreliable in the way they were constructed. As a result, it said, their conclusions that MMR was ‘safe’ or ‘well-tolerated’ need to be ‘interpreted with caution’.”

    Well that’s just taking the piss, it couldn’t conclude that Wakefield’s evidence was unreliable because it is so bad it could not even be considered for a Cochrane review. It is sadly time that someone once more pointed out why Wakefield’s Lancet paper is bollocks. Anyone know an opponent of Bad Science with a newspaper column? Anyone know any eminent epidemiologists?

  21. Hanne said,

    November 8, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    Oh, fantastic! This column and its lovely intelligent, humorous comments just keeps on getting better and better!

    On a worrying note, we’ve just had a bunch of CVs in for a job and one candidate has a Bsc (Hons) in International Spa Management. Talk about belittling the sciences…

    BSc (Hons) Environmental Science

  22. RS said,

    November 8, 2005 at 4:05 pm

    Oops, accidentally submitted before I intended to…is the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons not formerly Medical Sentinel, the in house magazine of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons? An organisation which is not only right-wing (that is it campaigns on a right-wing agenda over medical issues, such as opposition to socialised medicine), but also campaigns against vaccination programmes.

    Anyway, so they screened patients (two 3yr olds, and an 8yr old) for positive measles virus RNA, then looked in CSF and found it there too? And then compared this with three CSF samples (aged 2yrs, 10, and 11) that were not selected for viral RNA? Uh huh.

    MP “None of this proves that MMR has caused autism in some children. But it does raise questions which need to be resolved as a matter of urgency. The only way to do so is to conduct large-scale clinical trials, which the government has consistently refused to do.”

    How would these help? Doesn’t Melanie think “Only a very small proportion are said to have been badly affected, possibly through a combination of environmental or genetic factors. But population-wide studies are considered too large and insensitive to pick up small numbers like this.”

  23. Ian said,

    November 8, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    Maybe I’m being crazy here. I’m a secondary science teacher and parent, with friends and family who’ve worked in the health service, and some care experience of my own. Measles, mumps and rubella are all potentially life-threatening diseases, with severe consequences even to those who survive them – and if I remember right, the effects are likely to be *more* severe for unprotected adults/teens exposed to them.

    The numbers of children who are claimed to have suffered ill effects from the MMR vaccine are tiny compared to those who would be at risk from these diseases, yes?

    This is the same country where it is perfectly legal for parents to smoke during pregnancy and throughout a child’s life, despite the massively higher risk of causing health problems for that child. How come no crusading Daily Mail journalists are talking about that?

  24. Jens B said,

    November 8, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    “Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons” may be peer review according to their website, but for some reason I’m unable to to them on PubMed -indeed I can’t much about them but their website (and critique -of course). Not exactly the sort of publication I’d put too much trust in.

    Jens, not a Dr for some time yet

  25. Ray said,

    November 8, 2005 at 7:45 pm

    Measles, mumps and rubella are all potentially life-threatening diseases, with severe consequences even to those who survive them

    And don’t forget Congenital Rubella Syndrome.

  26. reader said,

    November 8, 2005 at 8:05 pm

    This is all happening over on this page:

    www.badscience.net/?p=182

  27. ian glendinning said,

    November 9, 2005 at 11:35 am

    I’ve been thinking about Dr T’s comment. It’s a recurring worry of mine.

    It’s a meme game. The quality of an argument is not the main point. The main point (in getting people to notice and “science” editors to change their minds) is about how contagious the facts are relative to the myths.

    Though it pains me to say it, the facts need “an angle” to make them stick to prior held prejudices, it’s the only way to change people’s minds. I have no magic bullet, but this is war, (and all’s fair, etc.)

    Ian
    (a mere engineer and pragmatist)

  28. Nasty Jim said,

    November 10, 2005 at 12:03 am

    It’s a meme game

    Well, that’s the trouble. Pin the problem of autism on MMR, and you have a wonderfully satisfying explanation on all counts: you get a simple one-factor cause for the problem; fuckwit breeders can be confident there’s no blame in their precious gametes or they way they treat their brood; they can feel free of worries that their children might turn out as Rain Man; and it’s all the fault of a conspiracy of horrid doctors who can be sued. In comparison, what can science offer in the way of stroking? Not a lot. “Buggered if we know what’s going on”, and a best guess that it might be parents’ crap genes plus a load of unfathomable goings-on in the equally crap processes of human developmental biology.

  29. Tessa K said,

    November 10, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    I thought that autism was wholly genetic? I admit that my knowledge is based mainly on books by Simon Baron-Cohen and Temple Grandin, plus knowing some parents of autistic-spectrum kids.

    Can a chemical introduced into the body cause something that is normally only genetic? Can it make it manifest a bit earlier than it would have done? I don’t understand what mechanism is supposed to be going on here. Does MMR affect brain chemistry or development?

    Sorry if these are dumb questions.

  30. Ray said,

    November 10, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    > “Can a chemical introduced into the body cause something that is normally only genetic?”

    Yes. There are quite a few genetic metabolic disorders – notably Phenylketonuria – that fit that description. Instead of metabolising some particular food constituent properly, you metabolise it into something poisonous. So although it’s a genetic problem, you only get ill if you eat that particular thing.

  31. Teek said,

    November 10, 2005 at 1:56 pm

    People, all good points so far, good to see the Daily Mail’s awful journalism being criticised!!! i just thought i’d add my tuppence worth too… here’s a link to a letter that the Guardian printed yesterday (well, most of it, they edited the first paragraph), along with Ben Goldacre’s brilliant rebuttal of Melanie Philips’ accusations – enjoy, let me know what you all think…!!

    www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,1637144,00.html

    p.s. my letter’s the last on the page…

    cheers folks!!

  32. Tessa K said,

    November 10, 2005 at 8:13 pm

    Ray – just to be clear: Are you saying that you need a genetic predisposition to something for it to be activated? Would the children who developed autistic symptoms post-vaccination have turned out to be autistic anyway or is there some sort of latent autism that needs a trigger?

  33. Ray said,

    November 10, 2005 at 8:40 pm

    I thought you were asking whether there are genetic conditions that only manifest as disease if you take some substance into the body. There are. I’m not saying autism is one of them.

  34. Tessa K said,

    November 11, 2005 at 11:24 am

    Ray – I was asking that in general and about autism.

  35. alex b said,

    November 11, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    It is hard to say whether there is a genetic pre-disposition that is kicked off by an environmental factor. It needs seriously huge clinical trials, and the fact is, the cost of research would outweigh the benefit of understanding the genetics of it. Sadly, unless big pharma’ has money to make, or rich powerful leaders may be effected, the research will not happen on the neccesary scale.

  36. Ian said,

    November 11, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    The problem is that there is a limited amount of resources (money, labs, researchers) and what seems to be an infinite number of diseases, conditions, syndromes… the resources go to the perceived urgent cases, which depends on your point of view. There is always going to be someone left with an unresearched condition.

    The definition of urgency varies with location as well; in the US diabetes is starting to be a big problem (and there have been recent concerns in the UK too) so that’s where the funding will go. Those who miss out are individuals with rare conditions which don’t catch the headlines.

  37. RS said,

    November 11, 2005 at 6:04 pm

    There have been a number of studies that have looked at the genetics of autism. As with most psychiatric disorders heritability strongly suggests a significant genetic component, I believe that some cases are due to a chromosomal error, and we’re in the early days of gene association studies. I am not aware of any particular environmental risk factors other than the usual pre- and peri-natal ones. If the MMR scare hadn’t been so shrill perhaps more research could have been done looking for risk factors other than MMR.

  38. GWO said,

    November 14, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    Right now, You & Yours are laying into “Doctor” Chris Malyszewicz, and his Northamptonshire-based Chemsol, using an actual Doctor named Goldacre, who has a much camper voice than I’d like to have thought.

  39. M said,

    November 14, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    I was going to say that GWO. It must all be a CONSPIRACY in that case, musn’t it?

  40. Ben Goldacre said,

    November 14, 2005 at 12:16 pm

    God, you’re right, I do sound a bit girly.

    The audio will be here later btw:

    www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/networks/radio4/aod.shtml?radio4/youandyours_mon

    (Click “forward 15 mins” on the BBC player page and you skip straight to the bit where Malyszewicz himself starts speaking.)

  41. M said,

    November 14, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    There’s also a weird sort of cracking-slapping noise when Chris Malyszewicz is speaking. I can only think that this must be Ben slapping him repeatedly. Since I have no idea what he looks like I am free to imagine this being a very, very girly slap…

  42. Ben Goldacre said,

    November 14, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    I must say it’s great to have you all here.

  43. Rob Sang said,

    November 14, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    Evidence be damned, The Sun is standing by its reporting.

  44. GWO said,

    November 14, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    It’s the broadcast media attempting to discredit non-broadcasters. I was a phone-a-friend on Millionaire recently, and I was truly horrified to discover I sound like Kenneth Williams.

  45. H said,

    November 14, 2005 at 12:46 pm

    Missed it.

    Does he really sound like a girl?

    It’ll be here later on the BBC’s listen again:

    www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/networks/radio4/aod.shtml?radio4/youandyours_mon

  46. stever said,

    November 14, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    I thought he sound like Barry White.

  47. Natalie said,

    November 14, 2005 at 5:53 pm

    Ah poor Ben, you don’t sound how I expected but not girly!

    Just be thankful, I was on the radio and sounded like the most Brummie person in the world (a bit like Ozzy Osbourne!) Nothing wrong with being Brummie, but sounding like a man….

    Oh and Dr Chris, I could almost feel sorry for him…but I don’t and throughly enjoyed it!!

  48. Natalie said,

    November 14, 2005 at 5:54 pm

    Oh…and I do mean Doctor in inverted commas…not starting that debate again!!

  49. Ben Goldacre said,

    November 14, 2005 at 5:59 pm

    If anybody wants to email me a recording of how they think I ought to sound, I’m always up for suggestions. I could post it here, you could vote on a favourite, and then I could get practising? It’s never too late to change these things, and if it will stop small children tugging at their mothers’ skirts in the street and crying “mummy mummy listen to that man with the funny voice” then it will all have been worthwhile.

  50. Natalie said,

    November 15, 2005 at 2:25 am

    Oh…someone has taken the comments to heart! Its not a funny voice at all, frankly I was a bit scared you would sound like Frankenstein (due to the picture that accompanies your column) so it all came as a bit of a relief! More like the caring lilt of a real doctor….!!!

  51. MostlySunny said,

    November 15, 2005 at 7:07 am

    I think Ben sounds a bit like a young Tony Blair…. ;)

  52. Michael P said,

    November 15, 2005 at 8:48 am

    For some strange reason I was expecting an Andrew Lincoln type voice. Absolutely no idea why. I think ‘girly’ is a bit much though.

  53. Ben Goldacre said,

    November 15, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    This is really out of hand.

  54. MikeTheGoat said,

    November 15, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    Any idea if the BBC are going to post a transcript of the MRSA discussion? I don’t have speakers on my work computer and streaming via realplayer is just too painful on dial-up at home.

  55. Mark Gould said,

    November 15, 2005 at 8:55 pm

    Just been listening to the Y&Y discussion (even though I hate the programme as a rule). Mr Chemsol’s reference to his accounts made me wonder…

    So… a quick trip to the Companies House website (www.companieshouse.gov.uk). Check the Chemsol companies. Hmm.

    The companies called Chemsol {Group | Labs | Research} Limited, with a registered address in Northamptonshire, have all failed to submit their accounts for the last year. Incidentally, they have only been registered since July 2004, so this isn’t a particularly good start.

    Keep up the good work, Ben.

    Cheers,
    Mark.

  56. Mark Gould said,

    November 15, 2005 at 9:00 pm

    In the interests of fairness, I should report that a further check on Chemical Solutions Consultancy (UK) Limited reveals that at least one of the relevant companies has met its obligations to file accounts.

  57. Ben Goldacre said,

    November 15, 2005 at 9:30 pm

    Well I never knew you could do that. I am having a total Companies House party here, is there anything else really obvious that I’m missing on how easily you can stalk companies? And is there anyone business savvy enough to give me a few pointers on not misinterpreting the stuff, maybe a good book on the subject, so I don’t fall into any “bad finance” traps? Just enough that I don’t sound like a total vagina when I talk to some city journos, you know.

  58. Mark Gould said,

    November 15, 2005 at 9:34 pm

    More oddness. Mr Chemsol’s claim that he wasn’t really au fait with MRSA is somewhat at odds with a posting he made on 26 May to an MRSA discussion board (www.robprince.net/mrsa/forum-usa.asp?action=replies&forumID=837):

    On Y&Y: “MRSA is something I was bludgeoned or pushed into..”

    On the web: “…it was my work over 4.5 years ago that brought this whole issue to media attention, otherwise this would not probably be here today as it is…”

    Turning to the Australian connection, he admits in the web posting that his lab was visited by “the Government” in July 2004. (I’m afraid I have an image of Blair, Brown, Prescott, Blunkett, Clarke, et al blundering around in his garden shed.) It is not clear from the Y&Y discussion when his samples were tested.

    On Y&Y, in response to a question about working for an Australian company and the risk of cross-contamination: “…I don’t work for an Australian company, no. We have only ever done one run — for Sydney which was prior to that anyway and those isolates were autoclaved prior to any work being sent to Colindale.”

    On the web: “At present I am culturing Strains from California USA and Melbourne, Australia.”

    Perhaps Geography is not his strong point.

  59. amoebic vodka said,

    November 16, 2005 at 2:25 pm

    “The companies called Chemsol {Group | Labs | Research} Limited, with a registered address in Northamptonshire, have all failed to submit their accounts for the last year. Incidentally, they have only been registered since July 2004, so this isn’t a particularly good start.”

    Beat you to it: www.badscience.net/?p=179#comment-371

    Checking Companies House is always a good idea when buying stuff off Ebay. Along with checking the website. Chemsol’s website is particularly funny. If a company website doesn’t contain any contact information, the name and address of the person owning the domain name can usually be found with a WHOIS search.

    Which, for chemsolconsultancy.com, reveals it is also called “Chemical Solutions Consultancy” in addition to the Chemsol {Group | Labs | Research} Limited already mentioned.

    Perhaps some of the teachers who post comments here might like to use the questionaire on the site as an example of how to write loaded questions:

    Q1: Are We Being Led Into a False Sense of Security By Insincere Chemical Manufacturers?

    Q2: Is Information provided by Product Suppliers Always Correct?

    Q3: Are the Public Always Provided With The Truth about Products they buy?

    Q4: Is Advertising about Fact, or a vehicle to promote sales at the expense of the Public’s ignorance?

    www.chemsolconsultancy.com/research.htm (scroll to the bottom)

    As we see it, Chemsol manufactures chemicals (it sells anti-MRSA disinfectant kits) and on the same page as the questionaire says a whole lot of things that are clearly wrong (antibiotics kill viruses etc). It advertises its products by doing the MRSA testing for various tabloids. It appears the questionnaire is referring to its own way of doing business.

    We didn’t think Ben’s voice sounded girly.

  60. MostlySunny said,

    November 16, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    oi Amoebas – when are you updating your blog??

  61. amoebic vodka said,

    November 16, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    When we can think of something that doesn’t involve bird flu or copying and pasting from Bad Science. And when we stop posting stuff here instead of in our blog…

    Update on Ben’s voice: we think he sounds a bit like….one whois search later…yep, that explains everything…

  62. Mark Gould said,

    November 17, 2005 at 7:41 am

    My apologies, amoebas. I can’t even claim that I hadn’t seen your original comment — when I went back to look at it, it did look familiar.

    To answer the question you raised there. It is possible for a business to have existed since 1986, but only be registered as a company more recently. It is not obligatory to register a business as a company. However, not doing so means that you would personally be liable for all the business’s debts and so on, and would not benefit from the limitation of liability that company law can offer.

  63. MostlySunny said,

    November 17, 2005 at 9:57 am

    ie a sole proprietarship which is not obliged to file its accounts as a matter of public record.

  64. Ray said,

    November 17, 2005 at 12:37 pm

    and would not benefit from the limitation of liability that company law can offer

    As in Utopia Limited:

    As a Company you’ve come to utter sorrow–
    But the Liquidators say,
    “Never mind–you needn’t pay,”
    So you start another company to-morrow!

  65. Dave F said,

    November 19, 2005 at 6:57 pm

    Does this explain the voice?

    www.scienceawards.org/science/past/2003/gallery/cat2-L.htm

  66. Leo said,

    November 29, 2005 at 9:39 am

    Can you please post a link so that I can hear CM interview. When I try to listen to the link it goes to Monday 28th Nov. Thanks

  67. Michael P said,

    November 29, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    Sorry Leo, as far as I know the ‘listen again’ things’s only available for 7 days :-(

  68. Richard said,

    December 4, 2005 at 10:27 am

    But there is a programmes listing “listen again”, which has an alphabetical listing of programmes. What was the programme title and it could probably be found there.

    I want to hear Dr BEliNda Goldacre.

  69. Richard said,

    December 4, 2005 at 10:36 am

    No that doesnt work with the l in Belinda…. update:

    Dr BENigale Goldacre…. that ought to do it!

  70. thejeanproject said,

    January 23, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    hi, i might have missed something but in one of your articles Ben you said that “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.”
    Which journal and microbiologists was that please?
    Ta
    J

  71. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 23, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    already elsewhere:

    www.badscience.net/?p=179#comment-370

    but here it is again:

    J Hosp Infect. 2004 Mar;56(3):250-1.
    Isolation of MRSA from communal areas in a teaching hospital.
    Manning N, Wilson AP, Ridgway GL.

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