Re: Further studies needed
Date: 3 May 2002
SIR - As an immunopathologist, and a concerned grandfather, I have been
following with considerable interest the MMR controversy (Features, Apr.
30). The public are increasingly assured that there are no grounds for
concern about the triple vaccine because numerous studies have apparently
shown no evidence of an association between MMR vaccination and the
increased incidence of autism and inflammatory bowel disease in young
What is not made clear, however, is that virtually all of these findings
are based purely on epidemiological studies. The Government is putting £2.5
million into new research, but focusing first on a major epidemiological
study - "top of the action list" as you report - instead of the serious
immunopathological work that is needed.
As far as I am aware, no serious immunopathological study has been
undertaken to establish whether a pathogenic factor can be identified in
that small minority of children who react adversely to the MMR jab. It is
possible that a small proportion of children, owing to some defect in their
immune responsiveness, react adversely to the overloading of their immune
systems by the presentation of three viruses simultaneously.
Such a situation might lead to the formation of a pathogenic complex, which
colleagues and I showed in the late 1980s and early 1990s could be found at
abnormally high levels in the circulations of adults with inflammatory
It should be recognised that those same antibodies (immunoglobulins) that
are produced in large amounts against infective agents as a result of
vaccination can sometimes undergo structural changes resulting in the
induction of deleterious reactions, among which the occurrence of
inflammatory bowel disease is a possibility as is, perhaps, autism.
It is to be hoped that these serious immunopathological studies will be
undertaken as soon as possible on those children who have reacted adversely
to MMR vaccination. The findings should not only resolve the present
impasse, but might also point to a means of predicting which children are
likely to react adversely to the triple MMR vaccine.
Prof Denis Stanworth, Malvern, Worcs