Dr Chris Malyszewicz PhD, disgraced MRSA “expert” who got false positive results from his garden shed laboratory with his non-accredited correspondence course PhD from America and his lack of microbiology training, and demonstrable (and demonstrated, and admitted) lack of microbiology knowledge, fountain of every single MRSA “undercover swab” scare in every single tabloid, who had never previously made it into a broadsheet newspaper, who I roundly trounced in five consecutive Bad Science columns, and various Radio 4 shows, and who has not appeared in a single newspaper since then, is quoted at length and trumpeted as a major scientific expert today in no lesser paper than…. The Observer!!!
“The MRSA expert
Â· Dr Christopher Malyszewicz is a consultant chemist and biologist for Chemsol Group Ltd, and an expert in MRSA infections and disinfection procedures..” etc
And for anyone who’s interested, here is the full transcript of a radio show with me on, where Malyszewicz is confronted and admits a great deal. I’ve highlighted a couple of favourite bits, I think it gives a flavour of the man. From my own experience he comes across for what he is, very clearly, very early on in any conversation. You would have to do a lot of work to persuade yourself that this man was a sober specialist scientific commentator.
Mr Malyszewicz caused such a disastrous mess he has even been criticised in Parliament …
You and Yours Radio 4
Monday 14th November 2005 1205
For the past couple of years a number of scare stories about high levels of MRSA have appeared in many of our tabloid newspapers. And behind the papersâ€™ shock headlines is the man the popular press has dubbed â€œBritainâ€™s leading expert on MRSAâ€, Doctor Chris Malyszewicz, whose company Chemsol Consultancy in Northamptonshire boasts that itâ€™s among the leaders in helping fight MRSA, and which, via the tabloids, has helped to expose the shortcomings of a series of prominent hospitals.
Quote: We test eight hospitals in Britain for killer MRSA and find it rampant in every one. With the help of expert Doctor Chris Malyszewicz â€¦
Quote: Our samples were examined at the Chemsol Lab in Northampton by Doctor Chris Malyszewicz. He said â€¦.
Quote: Microbiologist Chris Malyszewicz who carried out the tests said â€œCleanliness in many hospitals â€¦â€
Quote: Leading MRSA expert Doctor Chris Malyszewicz added â€œWe have to make sure that â€¦â€
Quote: Microbiologist, Chris Malyszewicz, said he was shocked â€¦
Quote: MRSA expert Doctor Chris Malyszewicz said â€œWe need to return to the days of the early 1990â€™s where washing was done in hospital laundries.â€
JW: Well according to tests carried out by so called Doctor Malyszewicz heâ€™s found MRSA at hospitals up and down the country. But is Chris Malyszewicz really the expert that he and the tabloids would have us believe because many of the hospitals where he found evidence of MRSA subsequently carried out their own tests which gave negative results? Indeed the Malyszewicz testing methods became such a cause for concern that in July last year the Governmentâ€™s Inspector of Microbiology and the Health Protection Agency visited his back garden laboratory to see for themselves his procedures for sampling, transporting and testing for MRSA. And later this month Baroness Pitkeathley will be raising the concerns of health care professionals in Parliament.
Well someone whoâ€™s been following the story week by week recently is the hospital doctor Ben Goldacre, who writes the Bad Science column in The Guardian.
Doctor Ben Goldacre (Bad Science Columnist, The Guardian): Well I first got interested in it when a, about a year and a half ago friend of mine whoâ€™s an investigative journalist, an undercover journalist on another paper rang up and he said, â€œIâ€™ve been taking all of my swabs for my undercover MRSA swab scandal from a local hospital and theyâ€™re all coming back negative.â€ And he said, â€œWhat am I doing wrong?â€ And I sort of said â€œWell, you know, youâ€™re, what youâ€™re probably doing wrong is imagining that they should be positiveâ€, â€˜cause itâ€™s unlikely that youâ€™d grow MRSA from the kind of places that he was taking them from, sort of door handles and, and that sort of thing. And he said you know heâ€™d tried several different labs and, and he was worried that he wasnâ€™t following the protocol properly. And I said well you know probably best to leave it, which wasnâ€™t the answer that he wanted obviously.
He came back to me about ten minutes later very triumphantly and he said, â€œOh Iâ€™ve, Iâ€™ve just rung upâ€¦â€ well I shanâ€™t mention her name, on a different tabloid, and he said, â€œSheâ€™s told me the lab to go toâ€, and he described that lab as â€œthe lab that always gives you positive resultsâ€, which obviously sounded very dubious to me.
Now as soon as I realised that, I started looking through the archives and I saw that it was true. In fact all of the positive MRSA swab scandals in every single newspaper all came from one company called Chemsol, based in Northants, with a chap called Doctor Malyszewicz. And thatâ€™s when I started looking in to the story. It turned out that Dr Malyszewicz wasnâ€™t actually a doctor. Heâ€™s got a non-accredited mail order correspondence course PhD from America and a, I think a, a, a, a polytechnic degree in chemistry from a very long time ago.
JW: So heâ€™s not a microbiologist?
BG: No, absolutely not. And I think when youâ€™ve got somebody whoâ€™s not a microbiologist whoâ€™s giving positive results where other people arenâ€™t and who is the place where all the tabloids are going, so all the tabloid, thereâ€™s not a single tabloid story that hasnâ€™t come out of this one lab, and I, and I, I would say that the (indistinct), the reason for that is that if they went anywhere else they wouldnâ€™t get the positive results that they want for their story. In fact people have gone round behind them in hospitals, on the very day I think that theyâ€™ve done their tests, if not the day after, where nothingâ€™s been changed in the hospital, and theyâ€™ve got negative results.
JW: So what does this say about the reporting of MRSA by the popular press?
BG: Well I think they, I mean they just wanted a, they wanted a, an MRSA swab scandal and they knew the man that was going to give it to them. I think it, I mean itâ€™s pretty wily really. And the, I think itâ€™s also a shame because MRSA is obviously a, a problem and I think it undermines, you know it undermines the, the, the reality of the problem with MRSA. And it also undermines the integrity of the press when theyâ€™re going round very clearly seeking out laboratories that will give them specific, you know the, the results that they want.
JW: But, but MRSA, as you say, is a big problem, I mean it results in many needless deaths every year, I mean surely any highlighting of the issue is justified?
BG: I just donâ€™t think itâ€™s right for journalists to go round making up stories like that.
JW: Well theyâ€™re not making it up of course. Theyâ€™re, theyâ€™re being supplied these, these figures by Mr Malyszewicz. Youâ€™re just saying that you question the figures; you have questioned his results.
BG: Well thatâ€™s very interesting. I mean when you talk to Mr Malyszewicz itâ€™s very obvious from the moment you get to him that this is not a man who knows his stuff. I mean, he talks in a very confused and confusing and slightly incoherent way. He uses technical terminology incorrectly. He mispronounces the names of very common bacteria. And also I understand from readings of reports of people whoâ€™ve been to his premises that really itâ€™s just a shed in the back garden. It doesnâ€™t have proper laboratory fittings. Itâ€™s got basically kitchen fittings.
I think the problem really is that the tabloids they all desperately want to be sort of Julia Roberts. They want to sort of be the sort of you know the dramatic campaigning journalists whoâ€™ve found â€¦
JW: The Erin Brockovich?
BG: Yeah absolutely. They want, they want the big scandal and theyâ€™re willing to, to do anything to put themselves in that quite grandiose position but I, but itâ€™s just not the reality with this story.
JW: Well joining us now is the Governmentâ€™s Inspector of Microbiology, Professor Brian Duerden. Heâ€™s in our Cardiff studio.
And Professor Duerden when you visited Mr Malyszewiczâ€™s laboratory back in July 2004 what did you make of it? What did you make of his, his testing procedures?
Professor Brian Duerden (Inspector of Microbiology): Well there, there were two things. The laboratory itself is a, a small building as has been described by, by Ben Goldacre. And (indistinct) â€¦
JW: Itâ€™s a garden shed. Itâ€™s a garden shed.
BD: Itâ€™s, itâ€™s better than my garden shed but it is a wooden building in his garden and itâ€™s not equipped to the level I would expect of a laboratory. It certainly would not pass any accreditation standards, whether this was with Clinical Pathology Accreditation or with the UK Accreditation Service.
JW: And what about his methods for testing MRSA? Were they of a sufficient standard to give accurate results?
BD: I was not at all convinced by his methods. In particular he was not doing methods that (indistinct) distinguished between common, harmless Staphylococci from the skin, Staphylococcus Epidermidis, which is very often Methicillin Resistant, but is, is not a harmful pathogen. Doesnâ€™t distinguish between that and Staphylococcus Aureus which then can be Methicillin Resistant and is the problem organism.
JW: So you wanted to check? I mean he got these results that nobody seemed to be able to replicate, that there was MRSA present in various places. You wanted to check those. He sent you ten of his isolates, as theyâ€™re called, in which his tests showed his evidence for MRSA. What did you find when you looked at his findings?
BD: Well when I visited nearly eighteen months ago with, with a colleague we asked him to send some of his isolates to the Centre for Infection, which is the Health Protection Agency Laboratory at Colindale, the national reference facility for Staphylococci, Staphylococcus Aureus. Now he didnâ€™t send them to my laboratory because that would be inappropriate; he sent them to the Health Protection Agency eventually a few months ago. And of the ten isolates that were sent in I believe two were identified as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, MRSA, but they were of, of a very unusual type.
JW: So where do you think they may have come from there? Where did they turn up?
BD: I, Iâ€™ve, Iâ€™ve no idea. Heâ€™d, heâ€™d been sampling in an environmental setting somewhere in, in an NHS premises.
JW: So letâ€™s be clear, of those ten samples that he sent you eight were just wrong and two were extremely dubious. Is that what youâ€™re saying?
BD: Eight did not contain MRSA. Two did contain an MRSA but it was a very unusual strain. It was not one we would expect to find, or have found, in, in, in patients in this country.
JW: So what (indistinct), what effect has Mr Malyszewiczâ€™s results, whatâ€™s that had on patients and staff at the hospitals where heâ€™s conducted these tests and, and which have appeared in the, in the headlines as a result?
BD: Well there are two things. One, it frightens patients and it puts them off getting treatment in the NHS. The other is that it diverts the resources in those hospitals to answering unfounded criticisms. And this isnâ€™t to say that MRSAâ€™s not a problem; we do have hospital infections, health care associated infections, with this organism. But this, when you have wrong reports coming out, this just actually does nobody any good you know because science has to be based on fact, medical science has to be based on fact.
JW: But as the Governmentâ€™s Inspector of Microbiology do you not have any powers to prevent someone like apparently Mr Malyszewicz who, about whom you have concerns, from, from carrying out such tests in his laboratory and publishing the results in the tabloids?
BD: Well in fact not, not really because I, I have no right to go in and, and shut (indistinct) his laboratory down. Itâ€™s his private business. He is, heâ€™s not a member of a professional body; he himself is not a, a registered health care scientist or like myself a medical doctor who is, is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists. So there isnâ€™t a professional body or a, a body like the Medical General Council; so thereâ€™s none of that. Neither his, his laboratory accredited so I, I canâ€™t go to an accrediting body to suggest that that be withdrawn. So there, there isnâ€™t a sanction there because heâ€™s not within the, the formal system.
JW: And whatâ€™s been the response of the popular press when youâ€™ve raised your concerns about Mr Malyszewiczâ€™s testing procedures with them?
BD: Iâ€™ve, well as you will have seen from the, the reports that have come out they, they have carried on and, and published this work and used his evidence.
JW: Well listening to all of this is Chris Malyszewicz of Chemsol Consultancy. Heâ€™s in our Northampton studio.
Mr Malyszewicz your results according to Professor Duerden there are, are not valid. What do you say?
Chris Malyszewicz (Chemsol Consultancy): (Indistinct) I tend to disagree actually. Iâ€™m not, not saying point blank that the fact at the end of the day we have got MRSA all over the place â€˜cause we havenâ€™t. And in fact if you, if you look carefully, which a lot of people havenâ€™t, that the MRSA reporting that weâ€™ve done in the last three years, or three and a half years, has actually been forty five per cent have been negatives anyway. Those obviously are never reported and never be factual because those results are still on our system and have never been actually disclosed. So in fact when somebody says, well yes itâ€™s the lab that always produces MRSA positive results the answerâ€™s no it doesnâ€™t unfortunately â€¦
JW: But do you feel comfortable with the way youâ€™ve been referred to in, in the popular press you know as an MRSA expert?
CM: For the last thirty two years my job has, my living has always been involved in disinfection studies and bacteriological detection. Part of that work has been with new contact slides which have been to identify specifically Staph Aureus and Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (indistinct) â€¦
JW: But you, but, but I mean youâ€™re not a doctor are you? Youâ€™re not a microbiologist. Your, your lab is in a large, what amounts to garden shed. Itâ€™s not accredited and its results according to the Governmentâ€™s Inspector of Microbiology are dubious to say the least and wrong in most cases.
CM: I think I disagree with that very strongly. Based on the issues that we actually are not a Government funded laboratory; it is out of my own pocket; itâ€™s something that Iâ€™ve had to pay for dearly myself. The MRSA issue is something that I was bludgeoned or pushed in to. Itâ€™s not a particular area that Iâ€™m, Iâ€™m particularly au fait with or an area which Iâ€™m not really very comfortable with. Itâ€™s â€¦
JW: So youâ€™re, youâ€™re admitting youâ€™re not qualified to carry out these tests that the tabloids then trumpet as, as being valid?
CM: Iâ€™m sorry that I am qualified to take the tests. Weâ€™ve also â€¦
JW: You said you were not au fait with this area. Itâ€™s rather important that you are isnâ€™t it?
CM: Well when I say au fait in other words itâ€™s not something that I have studied in depth until four years ago, that when we took this up as a long term project it was something that we actually embodied in to the actual contact slide principles. Now we have taken a lot of information from the right people, from Oxoid and those companies which are very experienced in detection of MRSA. The PB, or Penicillin Binding test is the ultimate gold standard for detecting Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus on the (indistinct). Iâ€™m not saying for a minute I donâ€™t think theyâ€™re wrong. If they are wrong then obviously weâ€™re back to the drawing board.
JW: But if your results are wrong, I mean youâ€™ve slurred the reputation of hospitals; youâ€™ve unnecessarily alarmed patients and of course youâ€™ve cost the tax payer a great deal of money as these tests are done all over again by the hospitals who then report they find nothing.
CM: Iâ€™m, Iâ€™m very sorry to say that but in fact thereâ€™s a Scottish laboratory twelve months ago who did an independent result themselves and their results were horrendously higher than Iâ€™ve ever found before. So, no, I think thatâ€™s completely wrong to say that.
JW: But Mr Malyszewicz I mean you, you sell donâ€™t you a range of anti bacterial products, so called MRSA kits. I mean you have a vested interest donâ€™t you in finding MRSA because you, you sell the, you sell the stuff to get rid of it?
CM: Interesting questionâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦ In factâ€¦ no, Iâ€™m not. As a formulator of a disinfection for industry and personal hygiene this, this is my living. I am unfortunate not to have vested interest in MRSA as this was never designed to enhance any sales of products. If I wanted to I could have offered products over three years ago when the situation was first discovered. It didnâ€™t happen that way.
JW: How much money do you charge for one of your undercover investigations?
CM: Well per contact slide, and if itâ€™s to do with the Penicillin Binding test, the (indistinct) test plus that we do for, and the Baird Parker and secondary cultures we, we, about thirty five pound to forty seven (indistinct) â€¦
JW: So itâ€™s quite lucrative since as I understand it some twenty articles have appeared where youâ€™ve undertaken extensive research?
CM: I wish it was lucrativeâ€¦.. Our accounts donâ€™t show that unfortunately.
JW: So are you not surprised when subsequently hospitals undertake their own tests and they find no traces of MRSA? How can they all be wrong, indeed the Governmentâ€™s own Inspector of Microbiology be wrong, and, and you be the only one right?
CM: Well no Iâ€™m not. Why should they as itâ€™s not in their interest to show negative results and high level of infected materials.
JW: Professor Duerden youâ€™re, youâ€™re, youâ€™re listening to this. Whatâ€™s your response to what you hear?
Professor Brian Duerden: If youâ€™re to identify an organism Staphylococcus Aureus itâ€™s not enough just to grow it on an initial detection slide. You then have to go through a series of tests to identify it. The slides themselves are not sufficiently selective to just grow MRSA and I think that is where part of the problem is.
JW: And what about the point made by Chris Malyszewicz that of course hospitals, itâ€™s in their interests not to find MRSA. No wonder they say they donâ€™t; they donâ€™t want to.
BD: Well I, I would, I would challenge that (indistinct), very much. Weâ€™re talking here about people who are not only qualified but dedicated scientists who have a job to do. Itâ€™s not a case of â€˜in our interestsâ€™. If, if there is contamination there then it would be found.
JW: So what, I mean what would you like to happen to Mr Malyszewicz and his research? Would you like it to stop or him go back to the drawing board or what?
BD: I think if, if this sort of work is to continue it must be done to the sort of quality standards that we would expect of any laboratory serving the NHS.
JW: I mean if I can just pick up again with you Chris Malyszewicz, what, what about the results of the tests that the Health Protection Agency carried out on the, on those isolates that you sent them, where youâ€™d found evidence of MRSA? I mean they found MRSA on only two out of those ten examples and the MRSA on those two was a very rare Australian strain, unlike anything thatâ€™s ever been found in the United Kingdom. Do you by any chance work for any Australian companies? Could there be cross contamination?
Chris Malyszewicz: I donâ€™t work for an Australian company, no. Weâ€™ve only done one ever run for Sydney, which was prior to that anyway and those isolates were (indistinct) prior to any other work being sent to Colindale.
JW: But if your results are wrong, as so many experts say they are, donâ€™t you accept you have caused the tax payer an awful lot of unnecessary expense and youâ€™ve caused a great many people a great deal of worry and concern?
CM: No. I, thatâ€™s another thing I disagree. I have offered to do contact slide work in conjunction with any microbiologist and that was over a year and a half ago in any hospital that (indistinct) nominated that we know MRSA is a problem. And in fact I, I would guarantee that there would be positive results after a, a hundred slide survey.
JW: Chris Malyszewicz of Chemsol Consultancy, Professor Brian Duerden, the Governmentâ€™s Inspector of Microbiology, and doctor and Guardian columnist, Ben Goldacre.
Well we asked some of the tabloids whoâ€™ve used Mr Malyszewicz over the past couple of years to carry out their undercover investigations why they did and whether they would continue.
The Sunday Mirror declined to comment but The Sun said, â€œWe stand by all our MRSA investigations done by Mr Malyszewicz. If our headlines have embarrassed the Department of Health in to taking action against MRSA then we are very pleasedâ€.
And the London Evening Standard told us, â€œAlong with other newspapers and broadcasters we have in the past used this company to carry out tests as part of our reports. We were not aware of any official advice that undermined our investigationsâ€.
Well Doctor Goldacre has vowed that heâ€™ll go on writing about this in his weekly newspaper column until the, the tabloids desist from using Mr Malyszewicz. From their response it looks like heâ€™ll be putting pen to paper for quite some time.