MMR still doesn't cause autism

3 Sep

In shocking news, yet another study shows that the MMR doesn’t cause autism. The study (which is here for your edification Dear Reader).

attempted to replicate 1998 research by a team led by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, then of Britain’s Royal Free Hospital, in the Lancet medical journal that suggested the vaccine was linked to autism and gastrointestinal problems.

And how did that work out for them?

….they could not find any link and hope their study will encourage parents to vaccinate their children to combat a rash of measles outbreaks.

The ‘official’ study conclusion is:

This study provides strong evidence against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or MMR exposure. Autism with GI disturbances is associated with elevated rates of regression in language or other skills and may represent an endophenotype distinct from other ASD.

Interestingly, the lead author is one Mady Hornig whom you might remember from the infamous Rain Mouse debacle. Seems like she’s turned over a new leaf. Gone are the lurid descriptions of skull chewing and in instead are pleas to vaccinate children from a killer disease. Credit where its due Ms Hornig, well done.

“We found no relationship between the timing of MMR vaccine and the onset of either GI complaints or autism,” Dr. Mady Hornig, also of Columbia, said in a statement.

Another interesting aspect is that the methodology the team used means they utilised three different labs. One of which was the O’Leary lab. This time, they did a good job. Shame they screwed up so bad the first time. Maybe if they hadn’t, things would’ve been over a long time ago. Is it just me or does this paper feel like a few people trying to claw back some scientific credibility?

Anyway, the study also found:

But the study did find evidence that children with autism have persistent bowel troubles that should be addressed.

They still didn’t say whether these bowel troubles (which they found weren’t associated with the MMR) were occurring at a higher rate in autistic kids. Maybe someone will address that one day.

Oh and Rick Rollens was there too, teeth and buttocks clenched no doubt as he congratulated the scientists. He said:

No longer can mainstream medicine ignore parents’ claims of clinically significant GI distress.

Had they ever? I’ve never seen a study that shows that. He also said:

“This study by itself does not exonerate the role of all vaccines”

What a genius. He spotted the phrase ‘Measles Virus Vaccine’ in the study title and worked out the rest all by himself! Nothing gets past our Rick!

So, MMR doesn’t cause autism. No news and of course won’t convince the flat earthers but still – another welcome addition to the ever growing canon of evidence against MMR causation.

Further Reading Elsewhere
Mike at Action For Autism
Kristina at AutismVox
Anthony at Black Triangle
Orac at Respectful Insolence
Steve at One Dad’s Opinion
Phil at Bad Astronomy

36 Responses to “MMR still doesn't cause autism”

  1. Sullivan September 3, 2008 at 23:59 #

    It will be interesting to see the Thoughtful House response to this one. I’m sure they (and likely others) are working on it as we speak.

    I wonder if the good people at Generation Rescue will bring this study up in their meetings with government officials? Likely most of the interested government people knew before the embargo was lifted (which by my watch is in one hour)

  2. A Proud Father September 4, 2008 at 00:32 #

    Thoughtful House and their kind will spin this every which way they can (believe me, unfortunately, I know them quite well). And this will not change the opinion of the already “enlightened”. But hopefully it will help others who are on the fence make up their mind. Between this study, and Offit’s book, and the French study, this will be a good week for *all* of our children.

  3. Broken Link September 4, 2008 at 00:45 #

    Thanks for this Kev. I’ve just skimmed the paper, but the statements are pretty definitive, particularly since they originate with one of prominent “mercury moms”. One has the impression that she has seen the light, and moved on from an initial, plausible hypothesis that many of us entertained at one time. I’m going to send my personal congratulations to her. It’s not easy to state so strongly that you were mistaken.

  4. Bink September 4, 2008 at 00:48 #

    I heard an expert on sensory integration issues, a few years ago, suggest that these bowel problems were caused by stress. That made sense to me. I know I get nauseated, and get the runs, when I am under tremendous stress. Imagine the life of an autistic child.

    Of course, there’s no money to be made in that arena, so the DAN/Thoughtful House dokterz would ignore that theory.

  5. kristina September 4, 2008 at 01:27 #

    who will join “the dark side” next? ……..

  6. Ms. Clark September 4, 2008 at 02:41 #

    Was there ever any indication that Mady Hornig (“Mady” to her friend Lyn Redwood) ever thought measles was a cause of autism?

    I’ll be interested in what Mady Hornig has to say when she says she doesn’t believe thimerosal can cause autism.

    The last I heard she was supposed to replicate the Rain Mouse study and then cure the mice with gold-salts. They called it the the “Go For the Gold” study. I did not make that up. It was supposed to be done to honor of Liz Birt.

  7. isles September 4, 2008 at 02:47 #

    a rash of measles outbreaks

    That’s better than a murder of crows or a bloat of hippopotami!

    Is it just me or does this paper feel like a few people trying to claw back some scientific credibility?

    It’s not just you.

    Bink – you may be on to something with the stress/GI link. I have had stress cause similar disturbances myself.

    Kristina – We could set up a dead pool, except it’d be a reality pool…nah, doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

  8. Wait 'til the militia get a hold of her September 4, 2008 at 02:49 #

    Mady just got crossed off of their Christmas Card list. Will she be honored with an ageofautism extremism post?

  9. Ms. Clark September 4, 2008 at 03:22 #

    Day 4 of the Snyder hearing:

    A Well, I only know what Dr. Wakefield told me
    over the phone, which was —
    Q Dr. Oldstone?

    A Sorry, Dr. Oldstone.

    Q You said Dr. Wakefield.

    A Oh, right. Dr. Oldstone, sorry. I only
    know what he told me over the phone. I took notes during the meeting, during the telephone conversation. And essentially he was approached by a politician, a California politician, Mr. Rollens I believe, who was associated with the MIND Institute, and at the behest of Andrew Wakefield, they wanted to encourage Dr. Oldstone to work with Drs. O’Leary and Wakefield to
    assess the hypothesis of the persistence of measles virus in individuals with autistic spectrum disorder.

    Q So was the testing funded by the MIND Institute?

    A Yes. What Dr. Oldstone said was probably what all researchers say: if you want me to do
    something, can you fund me to do this. And what he asked specifically was for funding for a postdoctoral fellow to work in his lab for a period of time to prepare samples and send them to Dr. O’Leary’s laboratory in a coded, blended fashion.

    Q Did Dr. Oldstone try to publish the results?

    A Well, actually the story wasn’t finished,
    because after the first round of testing, Dr. Oldstone
    and Dr. O’Leary, neither of them was happy. And so
    according to Dr. Oldstone, there was an agreement again between the two them that they should do it again, that Dr. O’Leary was going to try to make the assays work better. And so another set of samples was prepared by the postdoctoral fellow. Again, they were sent to Dr. O’Leary’s laboratory. And again, the results were jointly unblinded by Dr. O’Leary and Dr. Oldstone, and once again, the samples were found to be only about 80 percent accurately diagnosed. And again, there was about 50-50 false positive and false negative.
    If this wasn’t troubling enough, Dr.Oldstone did something that was I think quite careful.
    He took some of the samples that had been called false positive or false negative in the first go-around, the same identical samples, these were not new samples, but the same identical samples were given new code numbers and sent back. So the same identical samples were sent back, and in several instances, samples that had been false positive now became false negative and others that had been false negative now became false positive. And at that point, Dr. Oldstone said that
    he was no longer interested in collaborating and suggested that the results should be published.

    Q And was Dr. Oldstone successful in that effort?

    A He was not. He made a fundamental error I think of trust in not having a pregranting agreement,which is fairly standard actually, where the investigator has the right to publish the results even if the sponsor doesn’t like them. He did not have that agreement with the MIND Institute and he was unable to publish these results.

  10. Ms. Clark September 4, 2008 at 03:32 #

    Dr. Ward being cross examined on Day 4 of Snyder. Page 990 of the Synder transcript.


    Dr. Ward: If Dr. Oldstone had been allowed to publish the data, we would have that evidence.

    Tom Powers (lawyer for the parents): Or perhaps if Dr. Oldstone was here to testify and was willing to bring materials here with him to support his testimony, that might provide an answer. But that hasn’t happened at this point, has it?

    Dr. Ward: Perhaps petitioning the MIND Institute to permit him to publish the data would be a scientifically valid way of getting this into the public domain.

  11. Anne September 4, 2008 at 07:28 #

    I thought it was interesting that this study also looked at the sequence of MMR administration, onset of GI symptoms, and onset of autism, and the results were inconsistent with the hypothesis that the MMR causes GI inflammation, resulting in autism. No measles in the gut, and no support for the MMR – “autistic enterocolitis” – autism scenario.

    So now we can all stop worrying, right? Except for the folks in the autism omnibus Theory 1 cases.

  12. Kev September 4, 2008 at 08:08 #

    _”So now we can all stop worrying, right? Except for the folks in the autism omnibus Theory 1 cases.”_


    I’d like to know if the various autism/antivax groups are preparing to look after the families from this group who have literally mortgaged their lives to be test cases for the rich and influential. I’m going to guess not.

  13. Sullivan September 4, 2008 at 08:33 #

    Kirby’s questions at the press conference reminded me of the PSC’s approach–making questions into testimony.

    Kirby made a lot of comments (unsupported) about Cedillo and, of course, Hannah Poling in very long “questions”.

    Lot’s of discussion of how the Respondent’s case depended heavily on the idea that O’Leary’s laboratory was contaminated (I forget how Mr. Kirby phrased that), and how this study “completely exonerates” O’Leary.

    This way, this study supposedly helps the Cedillo case. Amazing spin. The idea that the MMR could cause autism is resoundly shot down and this study is supposed to help?!?

    Mr. Kirby sticks to the idea that there could be even smaller sub-sub-sub groups that could have MMR causing autism, but aren’t detected in this study. E.g. instead of studying autism with regression with GI issues, they should study specifically children with autism with regression and GI issues following MMR.

    1) this misses the whole point of the present study


    2) this is part of the shrinking hypothesis. MMR didn’t cause an epidemic. It didn’t cause autism in kids with GI issues and regression. Make the study group even more narrow.

    I wonder if he has enough for a blog piece.

  14. Bunny September 4, 2008 at 14:25 #

    I do wonder if there’s been a good study on anxiety leading to bowel problems in autistic individuals. It’s well-established that IBS is caused (exacerbated?) by stress, and even constipation (which my ASD child has) can be caused by anxiety/stress (in the case of my son, not wanting to poop, holding it in, creating constipation). My son was constipated well before he had the MMR, that’s for sure.

  15. Loftmatt September 5, 2008 at 04:57 #

    Bink, Isles, Bunny

    I think you are on an interesting path about stress and autism. There are some researchers who believe that abnormal stress response activation and resulting abnormalities in neural electrical excitation is at the core of many if not most gastrointestinal disorders, particularly IBS. A particularly good article is: A great textbook is A Clinical Guide to the Treatment of the Human Stress Response. I also recommend Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers as more of a starter on the human stress response. These go into great detail about how chronic stress causes abnormal activation of the sympathetic nervous system and HPA Axis which negatively impact bowel function, which is a low biological priority when a person is responding to a threat – which is the brain’s interpretation of chronic stress.

    Crossing over to autism, there are a variety of researchers who view autism as a disorder that involves abnormalities in stress response activation (Baron / Grodon – Stress and Coping in Autism) as well as numerous one who have written about autism as driven by abnormalities in neural excitatory function – Belmonte, Corchesne, Rubenstein, Merzenich, Dhossche, etc…

    If you tie the theories of these researchers together, you can start to make hypotheses about how bowel dysfunction in autism may result from abnormal susceptibility to stress response activation in autistic individuals, and how that might relate to patterns of excitatory neural function. Loftmatt.

  16. Loftmatt September 5, 2008 at 19:18 #

    Autism Diva did a nice piece on stress and gastrointestinal issues and autism last year. I have not been able to find a journal article that directly addresses the question posed.

  17. David Clark September 20, 2008 at 04:55 #

    You live in nation that one in eighty children are now autistic and all you can do to figure out where it is coming from is attack Wakefield who is trying to figure it all out.

    The study is easy, you study the group of children that didn’t take the vaccine and see if they have the same rate of autism as the ones that did get the vaccine.

    But your government won’t do that study because it already knows the answer – that the MMR jab is the cause of the rise in Austim.

    Do you really trust your government? Do you really trust the drug companies??

  18. Kev September 20, 2008 at 07:21 #

    You live in nation that one in eighty children are now autistic and all you can do to figure out where it is coming from is attack Wakefield who is trying to figure it all out.

    The number is 1 in 100 and that’s just in one study so far. 1 in 80 I don’t think has been reported. Far from trying to figure anything out, Wakefield is grimly hanging on to a dead hypothesis.

    The study is easy, you study the group of children that didn’t take the vaccine and see if they have the same rate of autism as the ones that did get the vaccine.

    In fact, its not that easy at all. If you head to a follow up post I made and scroll to the bottom of the entry and listen to the last audio file, you will here one of the scientists on _this_ study describing how very, very difficult that study would be.

    that the MMR jab is the cause of the rise in Austim.

    Sorry David, you’re simply wrong. As this study shows and study after study before it shows, the MMR does not cause autism.

    Do you really trust your government? Do you really trust the drug companies??

    Not particularly, but what I _do_ trust is independent, replicable science. This is what has shown us the lack of any link between MMR and autism, not governments or drug companies.

  19. Joseph September 20, 2008 at 12:45 #

    The study is easy, you study the group of children that didn’t take the vaccine and see if they have the same rate of autism as the ones that did get the vaccine.

    Are you aware that Japan only had the vaccine between 1989 and 1993? What do you think happened?

  20. Dedj September 20, 2008 at 13:08 #

    “The study is easy, you study the group of children that didn’t take the vaccine and see if they have the same rate of autism as the ones that did get the vaccine.”

    Which, as has already been pointed out by multiple, relevantly qualified, highly expert and publically accessible sources, isn’t as simple as it seems.

    There may be multiple differences (beyond autism alone of course) between the healthcare environment (Professional contact and scrutiny, parental knowledge) and the social environment (acceptance of autism, access to diagnostic services, attitudes to medical services) that may mean people with autism are more likely to get vaccinated, rather than vaccinated people being more likely to ‘get’ autism.

    Until we can account for this, such a study would merely be a data-point, nothing more. So far there are very few people on the GOV side who even appear to be aware of these issues, much less have suggestions on how to address them.

  21. HCN September 20, 2008 at 19:00 #

    David Clark said “But your government won’t do that study because it already knows the answer – that the MMR jab is the cause of the rise in Austim.”

    Since the MMR has been used in the USA since 1971, I would need lots of data to show me that your statement has any validity. Was there a dramatic increase of autism in the USA starting in the 1970s?

    What real scientific evidence do you have that the MMR vaccine is worse than measles, mumps and rubella? And it has to be real actual factual science, something on the order of the list of papers here:

    Click to access p4026.pdf

  22. Regan September 21, 2008 at 02:00 #

    Autism in the absence of MMR vaccine
    Clinical bottom line

    Autism rates in Japan continued to rise after the withdrawal of MMR vaccine.
    H Honda et al. No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2005 doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01425.x

  23. Schwartz September 21, 2008 at 17:49 #


    Except that many of the children still received M, M, and R all at the same time in Japan. How many we don’t know, because they didn’t measure it.

    Read the background on that study before jumping to wide ranging conclusions.

  24. Epi Wonk September 21, 2008 at 22:57 #


    What “background” are you speaking of in your comment? I’ve read the Honda et al. paper. Are you speaking of some other “background.” If so, I’d be interested in some citations.

  25. Ringside Seat September 22, 2008 at 00:23 #

    Schwartz is repeating the usual Wakefield crap. The figures are known. WHO publish them. Japan hardly uses mumps vaccine. Mumps vaccine is not part of the recommended schedule, but is an optional shot that most parents don’t bother with. The Wakefield garbage about MMR still being in use, but split, is just another of his con jobs.

  26. Schwartz September 22, 2008 at 03:50 #


    This outlines the recommended Japanese schedule.

    I believe that Honda et al did not include data on the actual vaccination records of the subjects which is unfortunate, since apparently Japanese parents are required to keep accurate information in a book which is brought to all doctor visits.

    Ringside seat:
    You can see Mumps is on the list. And it doesn’t matter what the average numbers for the country are? What matters is what the study group in the cohort with ASD received. I didn’t notice any such analysis in the study, which means they don’t know (or I missed it).

    PS: I didn’t even notice Wakefield made the same argument. But nice try with the Ad Hom argument.

  27. Sullivan September 22, 2008 at 20:04 #

    PS: I didn’t even notice Wakefield made the same argument. But nice try with the Ad Hom argument.

    Are you claiming that accusing someone of using a similar argument as Dr. Wakefield is an “ad hominem”?

    If so, it is interesting how far Dr. Wakefield’s credibility has fallen, even amongst people I would expect to be his supporters.

  28. passionlessDrone September 23, 2008 at 02:01 #

    Hi Everyone –

    From the article:

    One-tailed tests for significance were pursued unless otherwise indicated, given the study objectives of determining whether MV sequences were more likely to be found in biopsy tissues of cases than controls, as previously reported by Wakefield and colleagues and as consistent with the MMR hypothesis [1], [9]–[10].

    I am more than a little surprized that some of the cast of regulars here isn’t interested in giving the authors a lesson in statistics. One wonders if the authors understand even the most basic rules of statistical analysis.

    – pD

  29. Schwartz September 23, 2008 at 03:28 #


    Not at all. The part about associating an argument with a person and then attacking the person would be the ad hom part.


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