The controversey over a possible relationship between the mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine (MRR) and autism continues. It is important to those who believe a relationship exists that the increase in the incidence of autism occurred at the same time as the use of the MMR vaccine became widespread. There are also individual case reports of the signs of autism appearing shortly after the children received their MMRs. Other evidence that is used to support the relationship is the presence of the measles virus in the small intestine of children with autism who have intestinal problems, but not in children with normal development who also have intestinal problems.
Many in the medical community consider this evidence to be very weak. They question the existence of any relationship. A recent Danish population study supports the no-relationship group.
The researchers reviewed the records of 537,303 children born in Denmark from January, 1991, through December, 1998. Eighty-two percent (440,655) of them received the MMR vaccine. In the entire study group, there were 316 children diagnosed with autism and 422 with other autistic-spectrum disorders, i.e. they had some of the symptoms of autism, but not all.
The analysis found no relationship between the MMR immunization and the development of autism. The risk of developing autism or other autistic-spectrum disorders was the same for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated children. There was no relationship between the age at which children received the MMR vaccine and the onset of the symptoms of autism.
This is the largest study to date looking at this possible relationship. The children were from a large area--all of Denmark--and the follow-up was good. Parents wavering on giving their children the MMR should find this information reassuring.
New England Journal of Medicine, 11/07/02.
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