Sir--As father of a boy with autism aged 15 years, and as President of the Autism Autoimmunity Project, USA, I was interested by your editorial.1 I was at the autism-vaccine hearings on April 6, 2000, in Washington, DC, USA, chaired by US Congressman Dan Burton. These hearings were vital for those of us who have autistic children and want more immunology research to be done, such as that of Wakefield,2 O'Leary (unpublished), and Singh,3 and their colleagues.
Existing research that denies an association between autism and the MMR vaccine is either biased--because it originates from public- health authorities--or uses flawed epidemiology, such as in the study by Taylor and colleagues.4 When asked at the hearings whether he could provide for independent scrutiny the data that backed up his study, Taylor said he would have to check with his superiors. Wakefield, Singh, and O'Leary agreed to provide their data and had no need to check with their superiors. Quite a difference in response.
In April, 1999, I attended an autism biomedical conference in Atlantic City (NJ, USA), and heard Jacqueline Bertrand of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) talk about the increase of occurrence of autism in Brick Township, New Jersey. I later asked her whether any of the children were not vaccinated. She said no--Brick Township was a highly vaccinated population. I asked her whether CDC had done any immune panel blood tests or planned to do so. Again, she said no. The CDC said they did not know what caused the increase in occurrence of autism in Brick, but that the MMR vaccine was not a factor. Where is the logic and where is the science to support this assertion?
My son, Eric, was tested with an immune panel blood test and had raised measles titres. Also, Eric had inflammation of the colon. Many parents report the same results with their autistic children. There are no independent, long-term, safety studies involving any of the vaccines given in such variety during childhood (MMR vaccine included) to assure us that nothing is wrong. Are our children now acting as unwitting participants for a safety study?
Evidence for an autism pandemic is clear, especially in highly-vaccinated countries. In California, USA, there was a 273% increase in the number of autistic children in 1987-98. For Brick, CDC had documented that one in 149 children are autistic. In east Surrey, UK, one in 69 children aged 3 years are autistic. Eric goes to a special school for autistic children, which, in 1992, had 20 pupils; now there are over 100. To say this increase in numbers of autistic children is a result of better diagnosis shows insensitivity towards parents who know their own children and the education authorities entrusted with their education and long-term care.
We need exhaustive research funded now. Do we want to wait until one in five children are diagnosed with autism? Can our communities afford the increase in human suffering and the dire economic consequences? To ignore the findings that Wakefield, Singh, and O'Leary presented at the hearings will only worsen our dilemma.
Autism Autoimmunity Project, Lake Hiawatha, NJ 07034, USA
1 Editorial. Measles, MMR, and autism: the confusion continues. Lancet 2000; 355: 1379.
2 Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, et al. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet 1998; 351: 637-41.
3 Singh VK, Lin SX, Yang VC. Serological association of measles virus and human herpesvirus-6 with brain autoantibodies. Clin Immunol Immunopathol 1998; 89: 105-08 [PubMed].
4 Taylor B, Miller E, Farrington CP, Cetropoulos MP, Favour-Mayaud JL, Waight P. Autism
and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological evidence for a causal
association. Lancet 1999; 353: 2026-29.