A number of important points arise from your article on a new study into an MMR/autism connection (News, September 5). It should be noted that only five children involved in this research met the criteria of the original hypothesis (normal development, MMR vaccination, bowel disease, leading to autism). Too small a sample, one would have thought, particularly in view of the criticism levelled at Dr Andrew Wakefield's team for publishing research in 1998 based on only 12 children. (In fact, an addendum to that original study revealed the assessment of a further 40 patients, 39 of whom had the novel form of bowel disease as described.) Your article also failed to reveal that one of the five children was found to have measles virus in the gut, thereby inadvertently validating the O'Leary findings of 2002 which looked at bowel biopsies of 91 children whose autism and bowel disease followed MMR vaccination.
The fact is, this study does not really address whether MMR causes autism, let alone rule it out, as the authors erroneously claim. It does, however, confirm the presence of distressing and painful bowel disease in many autistic children. One author has specifically pleaded that autistic children be urgently given treatment for the intolerable pain of their bowel disease. A plea that has been made repeatedly by parents over many years only to fall on the deaf ears of a compassionless medical hierarchy.
Bill Welsh, President, Autism Treatment Trust, Edinburgh.