Journal Retracts Autism Study
02.02.10 Medical publication pulls original vaccine-autism findings after ethics panel rebukes study's lead author for dishonesty in his research.
The medical publication The Lancet has fully retracted a flawed study linking measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism and bowel disease, CNN reports.
The British-based journal acted after Britain's General Medical Council ruled last week that researcher Andrew Wakefield had been dishonest and unethical in gathering data for his 1998 study.
Wakefield's study prompted many parents in the U.S. and Britain to abandon the vaccine, leading to a resurgence of measles. Crib Notes previously reported on various studies in recent years that have discredited the original study's findings and found no proof that the MMR vaccine is connected to autism or tummy troubles.
Despite repeated statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that vaccines have no link to autism, the anti-immunization movement grew at a rapid pace among wary parents.
Lancet editor Richard Horton today told The Guardian newspaper that the panel's ruling left no doubt the 1998 study had to be pulled. "It was utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false," Horton told The Guardian. "I feel I was deceived."
Wakefield and two colleagues are under review and face losing their license to practice medicine in Britain.
Despite all of this evidence, autism spectrum disorder cases are still on the rise—it now affects 1 in 100 children; and there are an estimated 673,000 kids with autism in the U.S. now. Over the past decade, autism has made a steady climb from obscure syndrome to what seems like a pervasive developmental disorder.
Researchers agree that autism is largely genetic, but evidence also points to "triggers" in the prenatal environment that may help experts decode the disorder. But there is some hope for parents: Experts who specialize in autism say some warning signs in affected children are apparent before age 1. They say early intervention can help them recognize clues to the syndrome in high-risk babies as young as 3 months or 4 months old.
If you're worried, check out our list of autism warning signs. And of course, communicate with your pediatrician about your concerns. She's there to help!
Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.