A new study in PLoS One by scientists at Columbia University and from the CDC has found no link between the measles vaccine and autism. Researchers replicated the 1998 Lancet study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield; this study claimed that there was such a link and led to widespread fear that the vaccine could cause autism and, too, parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.
The researchers looked for evidence of genetic material from the measles virus in intestinal tissue samples taken from 25 autistic children who also had gastrointestinal problems; these results were compared to samples from 13 children of the same age who had GI problems but did not have autism. From a report on Forbes.com:
The samples were analyzed in three laboratories that were not told which came from the children with autism. One of the labs had been involved in the original study suggesting a link between measles virus and autism.
“We found no difference in children who had GI complaints and no autism and children who had autism but no GI complaints,” Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University told reporters in a telephone briefing.
The team also collected data about the children’s health and immunization histories from parents and physicians to see if vaccinations preceded either their autism or bowel trouble.
“We found no relationship between the timing of MMR vaccine and the onset of either GI complaints or autism,” Dr. Mady Hornig, also of Columbia, said in a statement.
Researchers did find evidence that autistic children have “persistent bowel problems” that need to be addressed.
Mady Hornig is the author of a 2003 paper that showed that a certain breed of mice, who were especially susceptible to autoimmune diseases, developed symptoms of autism after they were injected with thimerosal. This study has often been cited by advocates of a vaccine-autism link (such as Safe Minds) as evidence for the theory that vaccines or something in vaccines causes autism.