New MUHC study adds more evidence to clear measles mumps rubella vaccine as a risk factor for autism

MMR vaccine cleared as a risk factor for autism

A new MUHC study provides conclusive evidence that the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine is not associated with the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The study, published in the scientific journal Pediatrics, reveals fundamental errors in previous molecular studies that falsely implicated the MMR vaccine as a risk factor for autism. This study arose from a cross-disciplinary collaboration between Dr Brian Ward, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the MUHC, and Dr Eric Fombonne, Director of Pediatric Psychiatry at the Montreal Children's Hospital of the MUHC

"The hypothesis linking the MMR vaccine to autism was initially supported by molecular studies that found the measles virus persisting in certain biological tissues of children with autism who had received the MMR vaccination," says Dr. Eric Fombonne. Yasmin D'Souza, a graduate student in Dr. Ward's laboratory, used a carefully-structured approach to uncover errors in the techniques that had been used in these earlier studies which led to the false identification of the measles virus.

"The reluctance of parents to inoculate their children due to widespread fear of the MMR vaccine generated by these early studies has resulted in measles outbreaks, likely contributing to the deaths of several infants in the United Kingdom," says Dr. Brian Ward. "We hope that our investigation of these earlier studies will finally clear the MMR vaccine of its link to autism and give parents confidence in their choice to accept vaccination their children against this potentially fatal disease."

The biological evidence from this new MUHC study correlates with the epidemiological evidence from another previous MUHC study that also proves that the MMR vaccine has no link to autism. The previous study, led by Dr. Fombonne, was published in the July 5 issue of Pediatrics. All well-conducted epidemiological studies have found no association between the MMR vaccine and autism at the population level. The MUHC team's new data now demonstrate that the putative MMR-ASD link can no longer be argued even at the level of the individual child with autism.

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Funding for this study was provided by the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada and the Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec.

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and health-care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, a university health center affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 500 researchers, nearly 1000 graduate and post-doctoral students and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge. For further details visit: www.muhc.ca/research.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University -- the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge. www.muhc.ca


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
-- Marie Curie