New evidence 'shows MMR link to autism'
New evidence suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism emerged yesterday.
Scientists reported finding a strong association between the vaccine and an immune system reaction which is thought to play a role in autism.
The team led by Dr Vijendra Singh analysed blood samples from 125 autistic children and 92 children who did not have the disorder.
In 75 of the autistic children they found antibodies showing there had been an abnormal reaction to the measles component of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
Nine out of ten of those children were also positive for antibodies thought to be involved in autism.
These antibodies attack the brain by targeting the basic building blocks of myelin, the insulating sheath that covers nerve fibres. This stops the nerves developing properly and may affect brain functions.
None of the non-autistic children showed the unusual anti-measles response.
Dr Singh has suggested that an abnormal immune response may be the root cause of many cases of autism.
However, the Government's Chief Medical Officer and the British Medical Association, both insist there is a wealth of scientific evidence that the triple jab is the safest way to protect children.
Last night both the BMA and the Department of Health said they could not comment on the latest study before experts had looked at the full research paper.
But the news will fuel controversy about MMR, which has led to a drop in the number of children receiving the vaccine and an increased clamour for single jabs.
Dr Singh's team, who worked at Utah State University in the U.S., report their findings in the latest issue of the Journal of Biomedical Science.
They say: 'Stemming from this evidence, we suggest that an inappropriate antibody response to MMR, specifically the measles component thereof, might be related to pathogenesis of autism.'
Dr Singh, an acknowledged expert in his field with more than 20 years experience of immunology research, has previously published work indicating a link between MMR and autism.
Another theory, which has also not been proven, is that MMR somehow 'overloads' a vulnerable child's immune system.
The National Autistic Society said the new study offered a 'plausible' explanation of how some children with autism came to be suffering the disorder.
David Potter, its head of information and policy, said: 'Although the Society has yet to see the full paper it welcomes such studies into the underlying pathophysiology in these children.
'The NAS would be keen to see further independent research to replicate these findings, which might provide a way forward in understanding and treating the condition.'
The pressure group Jabs, which believes parents are right to be worried about MMR, said the new research strengthened its case.
Spokesman Jonathan Harris said: 'The evidence is building up tremendously. I really feel there's a very, very strong case now for suspending MMR while further investigations are carried out.
'We have said all along that it affects only a certain subset of children, causing a new type of autism in children whose immune systems have not really been tested fully.'
He stressed that Jabs was not anti-MMR but wanted parents to be allowed to choose single rather than multiple vaccines.
'At the moment parents only have the choice of MMR or nothing,' he said. 'We think that's irresponsible of the Department of Health.'
Concern over MMR has been blamed for an increase in measles cases in the first three months of this year.
Figures from the Public Health Laboratory Service showed 126 cases in England and Wales compared to only 32 in the last quarter of 2001.
There have also been dips in the number of children receiving MMR.
The figure for 16-month-old children dropped from 76.2per cent to 70.1per cent between December and March, although it rose to 72per cent in April.
The PHLS said the drop was probably due to 'intense adverse publicity' about MMR over Christmas and New Year.
Public health experts have warned that low uptake of MMR could increase the risk of measles outbreaks.
But parents trying to obtain single jabs have discovered that clinics are finding it more difficult to get supplies, as manufacturers cease production.
Critics say the move is linked to a Government campaign to force parents to use MMR, but the companies deny this.
Earlier this year British expert Dr Andrew Wakefield and molecular pathologist Professor John O'Leary established a possible link between the measles virus, autism and a related bowel disorder.
They found fragments of the measles virus from the MMR jab in the guts of autistic children who also suffer a rare form of bowel disease.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-132515/New-evidence-shows-MMR-link-autism.html#ixzz2tEDOA5F9
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