MMR Vaccine Does Not Cause Autism (not that you didn’t know that already)

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.

Go here to read the new study.

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    • http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com Emily

      It’s always interesting to watch a real scientific story unfold.

    • Chuck

      “We found no differences between case and control groups in the presence of MV RNA in ileum and cecum.”

      The control group was also having GI disturbances and it was not specified if the MV was the cause.

    • Regan

      Wow. Just wow.
      It will be interesting to see what spin is put on this, esp. given the authors.

    • http://www.ioniczone.com air purifiers

      Who funded this research? Drug companies. Who makes and profits from vaccines? Drug companies. Is that not a conflict of interest? Is this not the same as the tobacco scientists saying smoking doesn’t cause cancer? Do any of you honestly trust anything from a tainted (conflict of interest) source?

      At least they acknowledged the gut-autism connection. When kids can’t eliminate toxins (like those found in vaccines), the brain can be damaged. (by neurotoxins even in trace amounts such as mercury). I’m not a rocket scientist but I’d say this whole debate has already been decided in the minds of both sides. Those with a financial state will continue to spin. Those with young kids will continue to err on the side of caution (avoid vaccines). That’s the way I see it anyway. Mike

    • Regan

      Mike said,
      Those with a financial state (sic) will continue to spin.

      You do realize how ironic that particular statement is, given your particular enterprise?

      (I would say that the spin has officially begun.)

    • Regan

      The control group was also having GI disturbances and it was not specified if the MV was the cause.

      Emily can undoubtedly interpret and explain the best, but I see this as covered in the full text under the section,
      “Timing of MMR, GI episodes and AUT
      (…) X2 analyses indicated no role for MMR in either the pathogenesis of AUT or GI dysfunction (Table 4) Number and frequency of AUT/GI subjects receiving MMR before or after GI onset and with index GI episode before or after ASD.. (…)”

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      The fact that Hornig is an author of this study says more than a little.

    • http://www.survivngmotherhood-mom26children.blogspot.com Jeanette

      All I have to say is….DUH!!!!

    • http://storkdok-nos.blogspot.com/ Storkdok

      I was wondering when this was going to be published. My son is a patient of Dr. Timothy Buie, and we have discussed this with him. Nice to see good science getting published on this subject.

    • Ed

      No surprise here.

      BTW, Kristina, do you think autism originates within the brain or outside the brain?

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      It’s a neurological condition so the brain is certainly part of it.

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      Mady Hornig as quoted in today’s ABC News:

      “We find no evidence to support a link between a measles vaccine, intestinal difficulties and autism.”

      [am really wishing the comments box in the sidebar was working---hopefully it will be up again tomorrow!]

    • Ed

      Kristina,

      You are right in that it is a leading question. Hope is outside the blood brain barrier.

    • Chuck

      Some of the glaring problems I am seeing in the limited population studied:

      1) Average age of ASD diagnosis 13.5 months (that isn’t even two years old ON AVERAGE)

      2) The control group had a larger percent of subjects with GI problems prior to MMR

      3) A larger population of ASD individuals had GI problems before ASD diagnosis

      4) 20% of the ASD population had GI problems before being diagnosed and before MMR

      5) 64% of ASD population had GI problems before they were diagnosed with ASD (at 13.5 months average)

      Given that it is such a small sample size (a point that was also hammered against Wakefield) it may not be a good representation of either the general population (control group) or the ASD population.

    • http://www.cchs.org/blog Jeff P

      Let’s just accept this as no longer a controversy and start focusing on what really causes it. In the meantime, we must accept those different from us and learn to live together.

    • http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com Emily

      Jeff, sounds so simple, so straightforward, so obvious, doesn’t it? Good words.

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      @Jeff P,
      You can say that again—

      Conclusion from the actual study:

      This study provides strong evidence against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or MMR exposure. Autism with GI disturbances is associated with elevated rates of regression in language or other skills and may represent an endophenotype distinct from other ASD.

    • Paula

      I was born in 1959. I’m autistic. The first vaccine for measles was in 1964, the first for mumps was in 1967. I had mumps in 1968 and had to stay inside for three weeks. The first vaccine for rubella was in 1970. The earliest versions of the MMR were introduced in the 1970s.

    • http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk Sullivan

      Chuck is misinterpreting “onset” with “diagnosis”.

      I.e. the onset of autism, likely the age of regression, is not the same as when the child was diagnosed.

      Many of his other complaints are actually points in favor of rejecting the autism/MMR hypothesis. E.g. the fact that GI symptoms had onset before MMR.

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    • http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk Sullivan

      The regression and onset of autism and GI issues are taken from interviews, not from the dates of the diagnoses.

    • Chuck

      “Many of his other complaints are actually points in favor of rejecting the autism/MMR hypothesis. E.g. the fact that GI symptoms had onset before MMR.”

      No, actually what the data may suggest is population bias to patients with genetic GI problems. There have also been studies that suggest that up to 20% of the children diagnosed early (13.5 months) are incorrect. Maybe the doctor’s sampling criteria is a better way to find the 20% that are misdiagnosed.

      I have seen other blog about the fact that GI problems are no different in the general population and ASD population, making the statement “Researchers did find evidence that autistic children have “persistent bowel problems” that need to be addressed.” highly questionable as well.

      “We found no relationship between the timing of MMR vaccine and the onset of either GI complaints or autism,”. What they also found was a set of children with GI problems who qualified for their study.

      With such a small sample size, the study tells us little, just like Wakefield.

    • Chuck

      “The regression and onset of autism and GI issues are taken from interviews, not from the dates of the diagnoses.”

      Then there is also recall bias built into the study as well.

    • passionlessDrone

      Hi Everyone –

      Good stuff to see someone who posited a positive relationship to ‘the preservative’ come out with a negative relationship. There is at least one person out there reporting what they find.

      I am especially pleased that the notion of persistent bowell problems in autism is acknowledged; it really burns me up to keep on finding parents who have been told by their pediatricians that bowell issues are unrelated to their autism.

      Ed – I’m intrigued by your focus on the integrity of the BBB in regards to autism. I’ve seen one study on abnormal levels of a related molecule (PECAM) that could point towards an issue, as well as an apparent problems with gut endothilial cells. Do you have any references directly pointing to BBB issues in autism? passionlessDrone@yahoo.com to avoid cluttering up this post about measles if you’d prefer.

      - pD

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    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      And recall bias etc. could also be applied to the original study by Wakefield?

    • Chuck

      “And recall bias etc. could also be applied to the original study by Wakefield?”

      Agreed. The same microscope that was applied to Wakefield should be applied to all studies, including this one.

    • http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk Sullivan

      “Then there is also recall bias built into the study as well.”

      That depends on how they are linked to medical records, eh? Especially with bowel sympotoms, which had to be major and chronic (over 3 months in duration), this isn’t something that is really open to much recall bias.

      This study tells us one thing–it’s time to move on from the MMR hypothesis.

    • Chuck

      “something that is really open to much recall bias.

      No, that is more of a population bias for those picked for the study.

      The one thing the study tells us is that 25 people were studied.

    • Patrick

      So does that mean that Mady Hornig didn’t publish anything other than the fact that some rats get cannibalistic in her last study Chuck?

    • Chuck

      I don’t know Patrick. I haven’t reviewed her last study. It isn’t a topic of conversation in this thread. I will have to take your word on the fact that some rats get cannibalistic according to her last study until I review the study.

    • Chuck

      Patrick,

      Wouldn’t cannibalistic rats be a GOOD thing?

    • http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk Sullivan

      The one thing the study tells us is that 25 people were studied.

      If that’s all you can take away from this study, well, your time isn’t well spent reading papers like this.

      There was enough in this study to convince Rick Rollens that the MMR/Autism connection isn’t valid. That is a tough sell.

    • Chuck

      Who wasted more time Sullivan, me reading the study or Dr. Mady Hornig in doing a study that wasn’t necessary, as the title of this thread implies?

    • Ed

      Passionless,

      I am intrigued by the integrity of both the blood brain barrier and the blood gut barrier. The GFCF diet is based on a lack of integrity of the blood gut barrier. What can happen to the blood gut barrier can also happen to the blood brain barrier.
      This is why I was intrigued by reports of measles virus in the gut flora and in the spinal fluid. Neither is possible without a problem with the integrity of the two barriers.
      Blood gut and blood brain issues would explain much about autism. Such issues should be treatable as they do not sit behind the blood brain barrier.

    • lola

      For me, this study only highlights what weak science supports either side of the autism vaccine issue. One study with 33 subjects, whose feces were examined for MMR one time+ case closed? Only in the movies.
      This study, like the study it is attempting to refute are both flawed and only prove that small studies like this do nothing but create useless chatter.
      The study out in Jama in February, which showed new information on the blood brain barrier and the immune function, need to receive more of our focus and continued study. http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/extract/299/6/619

      In a perfect world, those interested in these studies would take some time to personally do a little due diligence. How big is the study is a good question. Then look at the data. How was it analyzed/ how cleaned up was the data. What kind of data was “kicked out” as noise or unrelated.

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    • CD

      What about the role of food, preservatives and all the chemicals added. I live in Europe and would like to know if the rate of autism here has increased as drastically in the US? I’ve asked several doctors here in the Czech Republic about it and they said there hasn’t been an increase here. Is that a fact do you know? Perhaps Europeans eat healthier diets. Less processed foods. When I go into a grocery store in America I see people filling their carts with ready made meals that are full of chemicals. If they are feeding this to their children could this be why?

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