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Study Shows No Connection Between Autism and Persistence of MMR Virus RNA

September 04, 2008

A study published today found that measles virus RNA was no more likely to be present in the bowel tissue of children with autism than that of typically developing children. Furthermore, GI symptom and autism onset were found to be unrelated to MMR vaccine timing. These findings refute an earlier report published in 1998 that indicated autism is associated with the measles virus vaccine. The study published today, conducted by Ian Lipkin, Mady Hornig and colleagues, involved a careful comparison of children with gastrointestinal disturbances and autism versus children with GI disturbances alone. Notably, 88% of the children with autism had experienced behavioral regression. The investigators were careful to match the groups in age and evaluations for the measles virus RNA examination was done in three separate laboratories by technicians who were unaware of the diagnosis of the child. No differences in the groups were found. The presence of measles virus RNA was no more likely in children with autism than in children without autism.

"This was a well-designed study that clearly refutes a connection between autism and the presence of the measles virus RNA," noted Geri Dawson, Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks. "This study raised some important questions, however. The investigators suggest that there may be an association between GI disturbance and language regression among children with autism. Given that many children with autism suffer from GI problems, more studies focused on understanding the cause and treatment of these problems are needed," she further noted.

Read more about the study on the Public Library of Science site.

Read news coverage from Reuters, WebMD, ABC News, and the Associated Press.