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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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More Research Discredits Link Between Autism and Measles Vaccine

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For supporters of the MMR vaccine, the current study available in the March 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association could not have come at a better time.

The Institutes of Medicine is scheduled this week to once again review the possible connection between autism and the MMR vaccine. Once the IOM completes this review, which it began in January, it will then advise U.S. health authorities on what course of action they should take in terms of recommending the childhood vaccination.

The fear among some parents and researchers that the vaccine might trigger autism is largely due to the apparent increase in autism cases since the introduction of the MMR vaccine. But to date, there is no evidence to clearly establish a causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, MD, an expert in bowel diseases at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London, speculated that the MMR vaccine damages the bowel, causing autism.

Wakefield's theory: The MMR vaccine damages the bowel. A damaged bowel cannot properly digest essential vitamins and nutrients needed for normal development. A damaged bowel also would be unable to filter out toxic materials that could harm the brain.

Other researchers now say that they too have established that autistic children have a larger number of antibodies to measles in their brains than their peers, suggesting that the MMR vaccine may travel to the brain where it could cause further damage.

Among those researchers is Vijendra Singh, PhD, a research professor at Utah State University in Logan.

"Based upon my research, there is a good possibility that the MMR vaccine might be the culprit," Singh told WebMD in a recent interview. "I cannot conclusively say that I have found a fundamental cause. But this is good science. It should not be ignored."

The majority of experts disagree. The mainstream thought is that the increase in reported cases of autism is due to experts' recent adoption of a broader definition of the disorder rather than the introduction of the MMR vaccine.

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