Press Release For Immediate Release: September 4, 2008
Autism Researchers Comment on New Study and Welcome the
Affirmation of Previous Measles Findings
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 children1.
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
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 2.
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
Contact info: Thoughtful House Center for Children firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Uhlmann V., Martin C, Shiels, Wakefield AJ, O.Leary JJ. Possible viral
pathogenesis of a novel paediatric inflammatory bowel disease. Molecular
Pathology 2002;55:84-90 2 DeStefano F, Bhasin TK, Thompson WW, Yeargin-Allsopp
M, Boyle C. Age at first measles-mumps-- rubella vaccination in children with
autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in
metropolitan Atlanta. Pediatrics 2004, 113:259–266.