LONDON - Finnish researchers who studied millions of children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella said Friday there was no evidence the vaccination could cause autism or bowel disease, as an earlier study suggested.
Prof. Heikki Peltola and a team of scientists at Helsinki University Hospital traced children who received the vaccination in Finland between 1982 and 1996. They found nothing to support controversial British research which suggested a link between the MMR jab and the illnesses.
"Over a decade's efforts to detect all severe adverse events associated with MMR vaccine could find no data supporting the hypothesis that it would cause pervasive developmental disorder (autism) or inflammatory bowel disease," Peltola said in a letter to the Lancet medical journal.
The British study, by Dr Andrew Wakefield and a team of researchers at the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine in London, aroused fears about the safety of the combined treatment.
Although Wakefield stressed that his work did not prove a link and called for further research, his report in the Lancet in March, led to increased demand for vaccines to be administered separately.
To quell the furor Britain's Medical Research Council, an independent charity, convened a meeting of experts who decided there was no cause for worry or reason to change vaccination policy.
Peltola said 31 children studied had developed diarrhea and vomiting within 15 days of receiving the combined jab and a one-year-old boy was ill for six weeks, but none of the youngsters had autism or any similar disorders.
Some of the Finnish children developed similar symptoms -- fever, rash and seizures -- to those in the London study but none was seriously ill.
Wakefield and his team studied 12 children who developed normally but then lost skills such as language. All of the children had intestinal problems and nine were diagnosed as autistic. In eight of the children the changes occurred soon after they received the MMR jab.
Autism usually develops before the age of 30 months. Sufferers lose their intellectual function and become withdrawn and self-absorbed and often are unable to communicate.
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