SCIENTISTS at two government centres have cast fresh doubt on the research at the centre of the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccination scare.
Their failure to reproduce the research results in identical experiments is said to be the last piece in the jigsaw of evidence that refutes claims made by Andrew Wakefield, the gastroenterologist.
Wakefield’s theory that the MMR jab was linked to autism caused widespread anxiety and led many parents to refuse to immunise their children.
The research follows findings released in Japan last week which showed that diagnoses of autism continued to soar after a problem halted the use of the triple vaccine there.
Wakefield has claimed since 1997 that the ultimate culprit for some forms of autism is the live measles virus in MMR. He speculates that this causes a persistent infection leading to gut and brain damage.
Scientists at the Health Protection Agency and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control took blood samples from 100 autistic children and compared them with blood from another 100 children without the disorder.
They used three different molecular testing methods and probed for evidence of genes in the virus.
One laboratory is understood to have found minute traces of measles in only one child with autism and in two children without it. The other laboratory found nothing.
“This is hopefully the last nail in the coffin of a discredited hypothesis,” said Professor Thomas MacDonald, dean of research at Barts and the London School of Medicine & Dentistry, who was not involved in the study. “What it shows is that the measles virus doesn’t cause autism.”
The new tests contrast with Wakefield’s research. Along with Professor John O’Leary, a Dublin pathologist, he has reported finding persistent measles virus in 96% of samples from autistic children at the Royal Free hospital, north London.