Study Finds Vaccine Not Linked to Autism

New research attempts to end the debate on vaccine-autism link.

ByABC News
September 3, 2008, 7:08 PM

Sept. 3, 2008— -- Weeks before 9-year-old Arthur Anderson showed signs of autism, he suffered from chronic stomach problems. His parents believe both were linked to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR vaccine.

"I know that Arthur was normal at 5," Arthur's mother, Sorsha Anderson, said. "By 7, he was a completely different child. He could not make eye contact at all."

The hypothesis that autism is linked to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine has been around for the last 10 years. It suggests that the MMR vaccine, which is a tiny bit of a live virus, can cause inflammation in the intestines, resulting in toxins leaking into the bloodstream and damaging the developing brain.

"I saw it with my own son," Anderson said. "He was sick during the shots. He remained sick. He began having GI problems. He began losing language... and then he was diagnosed with autism. I think they are all related."

But, a study reported today in the Public Library of Science, a peer-reviewed journal, says the theory is not true. Columbia University researchers found no trace of the virus in the vast majority of the autistic children studied.

"We find no evidence to support a link between a measles vaccine, intestinal difficulties and autism," said Dr. Mady Hornig, associate professor of epidemiology and director of Translational Research, at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health Center for Infection and Immunity.

In fact, it turned out that most of the children had the intestinal problems and signs of autism even before they received the measles vaccine.

Dr. Marie McCormick of the Harvard School of Public Health said these results are definitive and significant.

"This is the nail in the coffin," she said. "The final bit of research we were looking for to finally discredit this link between the measles vaccine and autism" is proven.

But there have been dozens of studies over the years debunking a link between vaccines and autism and the controversy has still continued.

The National Autism Association released a statement today calling the study "flawed" and saying that it "fell far short of what the public needs to prove safety of the MMR vaccine."