Researchers Reject Famous MMR-Autism Study
Experts Say Likely to Close the Door on MMR Vaccine Controversy
WebMD News Archive
Conflict of Interest Casts Doubt on Findings continued...
"We regret that aspects of funding for parallel and related
work and the existence of ongoing litigation that had been known during
clinical evaluation of the children reported in 1998 Lancet paper were not
disclosed to editors," writes Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet,
in an editorial that accompanies the retraction.
Horton says that if the editorial board and editors had known
then what they know now, it would have affected their decision to publish the
Retraction Likely to Close the Door on MMR Controversy
The 1998 study did not prove an association between MMR and
autism, but concluded that, "further investigations are needed to examine
this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine."
Since the Wakefield study was published, several major studies
-- including a report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine -- have examined the
issue and found no proof of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
"The positive side, if there is a positive side to that
publication, is that it caused the public health community both here and in the
U.K. to focus very closely on the issue of vaccine safety," says David
Neumann, PhD, executive director of the National Partnership for
"Since that publication in 1998, there have been any number
of studies here and overseas that have looked at the relationship between
vaccines and autism and autism spectrum disorders," Neumann tells WebMD,
"and the epidemiological studies have consistently shown no linkage between
vaccine use and the development of neurological changes."
Samuel Katz, MD, who helped develop the measles vaccine
currently in use, says he'd be surprised if the retraction didn't shut the door
on the MMR-autism controversy.
"I can't imagine that it doesn't totally exonerate
MMR," says Katz, who is also professor of pediatric infectious diseases at
Neumann agrees, but takes a more pragmatic approach.
"There is segment of population here in the U.S. that is
skeptical about using vaccines, and the Wakefield articles and others of that
type have reinforced their impressions," says Neumann. "Yet though that
the paper has now been discounted, and the authors have retracted their
findings, the public health community will constantly be challenged by those
findings over the coming years by people who fail to understand the science or
appreciate the issues with that report."
But Neumann says the bottom line is that autism is a serious
disease and deserves further research to understand what it is and how to treat
it. In light of recent events, he says, ''to continually invest in research
trying to find an association between vaccine use and autism isn't probably a
good use of those resources."