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The MMR Vaccine and Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Children


Link found between measles virus and gut abnormalities in children with developmental disorder


Measles virus may link a new form of inflammatory bowel disease and developmental disorder, suggests a study in Molecular Pathology, to be published in the spring. The authors conclude that the virus may act as an immunological trigger. It was found in the guts of 75 children out of 91 with the variant form of bowel disease, but in only five out of 70 healthy children. More boys than girls were affected.

The study does not look at whether the children were vaccinated with the triple mumps measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine. And an accompanying editorial advises against jumping to any hasty conclusions about MMR causing either the bowel disease or the developmental disorder, or its being responsible for all cases of autism and/or inflammatory bowel disease.

The editorial concludes that there is evidence that developmental disorders are associated with some disturbance in the interaction between the brain and the gut, and that the study findings warrant attention. But the authors say that several critical questions need to be answered before any potential link with MMR can be proved, including whether the measles virus was the same strain as that used in the vaccine.

In a statement issued today, Professor John O'Leary, molecular pathologist at Coombe Women's Hospital, Dublin, and lead author of the study, comments:

"I stand by the findings of our research, which raises many questions about whether measles virus has a role in bowel inflammation in developmental disorder. But the research did not set out to investigate the role of MMR in the development of either bowel disease or developmental disorder, and no conclusions about such a role could, or should be, drawn from our findings."

The editors of Molecular Pathology, Professor John Crocker and Dr David Burnett, add: "This paper was submitted by a scientist of international reputation, and accepted for publication after peer review. It was recognised by the referees and the editors as a potentially important observation which raised many questions about the possible role of measles in the aetiology of a syndrome in children. The paper did not set out to investigate the role of MMR in developmental disorders or bowel disease, and no role for MMR is suggested in it.

But we did accept that some readers might jump to the conclusion that this paper does in some way link MMR to behavioural disorders. We therefore commissioned a commentary by a member of our editorial board. That commentary reinforces our view that this research is an important piece of work that draws conclusions entirely consistent with the data, but that any link with MMR is not justified, and was not intended by the study authors."


Potential viral pathogenic mechanism for new variant inflammatory bowel disease by V Uhlmann, C M Martin, O Sheils, L Pilkington, I Silva, A Killalea, S B Murch, A J Wakefield, JJ O'Leary and an accompanying editorial by Alan Morris and David Aldulaimi will officially appear in the April issue of Molecular Pathology.

They have been pre-published in full on the web because part of the findings were broadcast in advance of publication during an edition of Panorama devoted to MMR on Sunday February 3 2002.

[View/download Paper] or mmribd

[View/download Editorial] or mmribdeditorial


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