Expert says MMR autism link will
be proved this year
Kate Foster Health Correspondent
A DEFINITIVE link between MMR and autism
will be confirmed this year, the scientist who first raised the
alarm on the safety of the vaccine claimed yesterday.
As health officials across Scotland prepared for a possible
measles epidemic following the first confirmed cases of the
virus in two years, Dr Andrew Wakefield, whose original work
prompted fears that the triple jab could be responsible for
rising cases of autism in children, said two research papers to
be published in the next two months would reveal further details
of a connection between bowel disease and autism.
In a rare interview, he also issued a stark warning to members
of Scotlands expert group on immunisation, which is due to
report on the safety of MMR, that they each risk legal action if
they do not recommend single vaccines are made available to
parents on request.
Last week, an adult and two children in Fife were diagnosed with
measles, in Scotlands first cases of the disease for two years.
A further 24 suspected cases are being investigated in Scotland
and five in Teesside.
Dr Wakefield said: "Despite the re-emergence of measles in
England and Scotland, my original study is justified.
"Parents came to us with questions that we were obliged to
answer, and the studies that we have done have borne out their
concerns. Not only that the children have had bowel disease that
had gone undetected, but we have now confirmed the presence of
the measles virus within the bowel.
"We will go on publishing on this until the end of our careers.
We are putting together the pieces of the jigsaw."
He added: "There is no definitive piece of science, so we are
putting together the pieces and a picture is emerging. And it is
In a recent study, Dr Wakefield and his colleagues established
that children with bowel disease were much more likely to have
measles virus in their gut cells. They found the virus in 83 per
cent of gut samples from children with autism and bowel
disorders, but in only 7 per cent of other children.
The researchers suggested that the virus may act as an
immunological trigger, but stressed that no conclusions about
the role of MMR could be drawn from the findings.
Dr Wakefield added: "There are several papers coming out next
month and the month after which confirm a link between the
mechanism of the bowel and the brain.
"I think there will be a definitive answer on autism and MMR
this year. It would be nice to see this issue resolved. It is
not an easy one for anyone."
Dr Wakefield was asked to leave his post at Londons Royal Free
Hospital because of his controversial findings.
He is now a trustee of Visceral, the only charity in Europe
dedicated to raising funds to investigate possible links between
childhood vaccines and autism and bowel disease.
Dr Wakefield also believes that as the evidence against MMR
grows and increasing numbers boycott the vaccine, health
officials risk legal action from parents denied the single
He said: "If there is a measles epidemic and single vaccines are
not made available and that decision turns out to be wrong
because an unvaccinated child dies, there is going to be legal
liability on behalf of individual members of that committee."
The Department of Health said the latest scientific evidence
showed no link between MMR and long-term problems such as autism
and inflammatory bowel disease.