Sarah Boseley, Health Editor; They Guardian, Tuesday 5 February 2008
There is no evidence to link the MMR vaccination to autism in children, according to a substantial new study published today. In the biggest review conducted to date, scientists from Guy’s Hospital in London, Manchester University and the Health Protection Agency, analyzed the blood from 250 children and concluded that the vaccine could not be responsible.
The study, which was funded by the Department of Health and is published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, was initiated five years ago and comes a decade after a scare about the vaccination – which protects against mumps, measles and rubella – led to a big drop in the number of children given the jab.
The theory put forward by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was that the measles virus in the MMR caused bowel disorder and subsequently autism. However, the blood samples taken from all the children in today’s study did not support that analysis. The research specifically looked for trances of measles virus in the blood of 250 children who had been given the MMR vaccination, 98 of whom had an autistic spectrum disorder.
The scientists found no difference in levels of measles virus or antibodies between those who had been diagnosed with autism and those who had not. The tests also showed no signs of bowel disorders developing either. The children, aged about 10 years old, had been given the first MMR jab but not all had the booster. The researchers found that those with autism or learning difficulties tended not to have had the second jab, which they say is of concern.
Professor David Salisbury, director of immunization at the Department of Health, said: “It’s natural for parents to worry about the health and well being of their children and I hope this study will reassure them that there is no evidence linking the MMR vaccine to autism.”
Public health experts will be hoping this study can lay to rest the controversy. The Department of Health stressed the quality of the study and in a statement said it had “linked very careful assessment and diagnosis of a child’s condition, with expert analysis of blood samples.”
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