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A British doctor who linked childhood vaccines to autism, "changed and misreported results in his research," to make his case, the London Times reports. Since then, several studies have disputed this purported link.
In 1998, a study led by researcher Andrew Wakefield, M.D., published in the medical journal The Lancet that eight children out of 12 who received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccinations developed autism symptoms within days of being inoculated.
However, the London Times investigation says medical records of the children shows all but one had these symptoms before the shots, and that journal reports of inflammatory bowel disease linked to the shots were untrue. Also, Wakefield was an expert witness two years before the link study by a lawyer planning to sue vaccine manufacturers on behalf of parents who believed MMR shots caused their children's problems. The families cited in the '98 Lancet article participated in Wakefield's study in response to an ad from that lawyer's group, not for routine screening, the London paper reports.
All of the researchers who took part in the study deny any misconduct, the Times reports. Wakefield denied the issues raised by the newspaper and declined to comment further.
As Fit Pregnancy has reported in the past, autism is largely genetic, but evidence also points to "triggers" in the prenatal environment. Health experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics say that very early detection is key in dealing with autism. Researchers who specialize in early intervention can recognize clues to the syndrome in high-risk babies as young as 3 or 4 months. And remember to share any worries you may have about your child's development with his or her doctor. Communication is key!
Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.