Managing Editor's Note: The following is a statement from the doctors at Thoughtful House.
A study published yesterday in the Public Library of Science One (PLOS1), an on-line journal, failed to find evidence of measles virus in the intestinal tissue of 24 children with autistic regression and gastrointestinal symptoms. The findings contrast with those published in 2002 in which researchers from Ireland and the UK found measles in 75 of 91 biopsies from autistic children with GI inflammation, and in only 5 of 70 samples from non-autistic children . The children with autism in the 2002 study developed gastrointestinal symptoms and autistic regression after the MMR vaccine.
In the study published yesterday, conducted by three independent laboratories, only 5 of the 25 children developed these symptoms after the MMR vaccine and therefore, only these five are comparable to the 2002 study. This new study confirmed that results from the laboratory of Professor John O’Leary (one of the collaborators on the new study, and senior author of the 2002 study) were correct, and identical to the results obtained by the laboratories of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University.
In that this new study affirms the reliability of Professor O’Leary’s laboratory and therefore of his previous findings, a major impact upon the current hearings in vaccine court is likely, wherein the government’s defense relies largely on the claim that Professor O’Leary’s finding of measles in the intestinal biopsy of Michelle Cedillo (a child with severe autism and epilepsy) was unreliable. The historical reliability of the measles assay used in Professor O’Leary’s laboratory is now confirmed.
The authors of the PLOS1 study make the erroneous claim that epidemiological studies have not supported an MMR-autism link, when in fact the CDC’s own study published in 2004 shows a significant association between autism and younger age at the time of MMR vaccination.
We are pleased to see that this new study provides further confirmation that children with autism suffer from gastrointestinal problems that deserve to be addressed as a priority.
Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Executive Director of Thoughtful House Center for Children, whose work has focused on intestinal disease, and on the possible role of MMR vaccine in regressive autism in children with GI symptoms, welcomed these new findings. Dr. Wakefield was a co-author of the 2002 paper that, unlike yesterday’s study, examined children in the majority of whom there was a clear temporal link between MMR exposure and regression. Dr. Wakefield comments, “The search for the ‘footprints’ of measles virus in the intestine is merited, based upon the previous findings and the intestinal disease that is commonly found in these children. This new study rules out only one possibility – that the measles virus must remain for the long term in the intestine. We need to consider that the MMR vaccine can cause autism as a hit-and-run injury, but not necessarily leave the measles virus behind.”
While we welcome this study as a piece in the ever-growing body of evidence that illuminates the complexity of autism and the possible factors that cause it, it is clear that yesterday’s study does not establish that the MMR vaccine is not associated with autism. This work examines one small part of a very complex equation, and in fact by affirming Professor O’Leary’s laboratory and assay methods, it inadvertently endorses the validity of his 2002 findings of vaccine-strain measles virus in the gut tissue of a group of children with autism.