Rockland County's former commissioner of health, Dr. Oscar Alleyne, claims that by using DNA testing he was able to discount mohels as the source of two neonatal herpes infections (in male haredi babies who were circumcised with metzitzah b'peh [MBP], the direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis suction done by haredi mohels after cutting off the foreskin) in Rockland County in 2014. He said that epidemiological evidence points to a different source for these herpes infections. But even though he has made this claim in various forms for more than a year, Alleyne won't release the data he says backs it up.
The Forward has a report on a claim made by Dr. Oscar Alleyne, the former Rockland County, New York Commissioner of Health:
… said that by using DNA testing he was able to discount mohels as the source of two neonatal herpes infections (in male haredi babies who were circumcised with metzitzah b'peh [MBP], the direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis suction done by haredi mohels after cutting off the foreskin) in Rockland County in 2014. He said that epidemiological evidence points to a different source for the infections.
Alleyne, however, refused to share that source or his data. His work has not been peer-reviewed or accepted by a medical journal for publication, so his claims cannot be independently verified.
He said that he hoped to publish his study in a medical journal in the coming months.
Jonathan Zenilman, chief of the infectious diseases division at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, said it was hard to comment on Alleyne’s findings without seeing the data. But Zenilman said that previous claims by defenders of MBP that a health worker or parent transmitted the disease via skin-to-skin contact is highly unlikely. He also said that DNA sequencing analysis is “not as straightforward as it’s made out to seem.”
Even if Alleyne could provide convincing data to suggest an alternative source of infections, Zenilman said it did not change his assessment that MBP “is a risky practice in general and [that] epidemiological data support that.”
Zenilman added that it was unusual for an official to withhold results ahead of publication if they are of public health importance.…
First of all, a competent reporter would have asked Dr. Alleyne if he had submitted his work to a peer-reviewed medical or public health journal, the date he had done so and what the scheduled date of publication is.
Alleyne has been making his supposedly DNA-based claim for many months already. (In some forms, he's been making it for more than a year.)
Yet no data has been released and other departments of health around the state and outside it are simply asked to take Alleyne's word for it.
As Dr. Zenilman notes, it is unusual for an official to withhold this type of information ahead of peer-reviewed publication if the information is important to protect public health.
So why would Alleyne withhold it? After all, withholding valid evidence endangers babies while on the other hand making a false or poorly supported claim about the purported evidence also endangers babies. So if the evidence is good and true, if the science is well done, why not release the information now? Why wasn't it released last month or early this year?
Until those questions are answered clearly and honestly, Alleyne's claim should be viewed for what it likely is – untrue.