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US experts back MMR doctor's findings

Telegraph.co.uk News, 23/06/2002

Dr Arthur Krigsman, from New York University School of Medicine, has observed serious intestinal inflammation in autistic children identical to that described by the controversial British doctor and his colleagues in a research paper four years ago.

Pathologists at Trinity College, Dublin, have since identified measles virus in bowel tissue samples from 75 of these children and, as reported in The Telegraph last week, now claim to have evidence that the virus comes from MMR.

At a hearing of the Government Reform Committee of the United States Congress on the safety of MMR and other vaccines, he said that - like the British children - his patients had all inexplicably deteriorated, losing language and other skills, at around 12 to 18 months of age.

All the children had a definite diagnosis of autism and had come to him because they had symptoms of serious digestive problems, such as pain, constipation and diarrhoea, for which no explanation could be found.

The intestines of the children were "not normal", he added. One 13-year-old autistic boy, who had become so violent that his parents had wanted to institutionalise him, had the "worst case" of inflammation of the colon the doctor had ever seen through a fibre-optic scope.

Dr Krigsman, an experienced consultant paediatric gastroenterologist and an assistant professor at the university, told the committee that he did not know whether his patients' illnesses were linked to MMR. However, he now plans to have the biopsies he took during the examinations tested independently to check for evidence of measles virus infection.

Dr Krigsman's research was among presentations described as "significant findings" by Dan Burton, an Indiana congressman chairing the Congressional committee.

Doctors in Britain and America are recognising more autistic children than ever. The US National Institute of Health estimates that one American child in 250 is affected, compared with one in 10,000 a decade ago. A recent survey by the National Autistic Society in England suggested that one in 86 primary school pupils may have the condition.

Health officials in both countries insist, however, that there is no evidence to link this apparent increase with the use of MMR or any other vaccine, and say there is no reason for parents to worry. In Britain, the Department of Health has rejected calls to allow single measles vaccines on the NHS as an alternative, claiming that numerous statistical studies have concluded that MMR is safe.

The Congressional committee heard evidence from other specialists suggesting that MMR and the mercury-based preservative, Thimerosal, may both harm susceptible children, possibly by altering their immune system. Thimerosal is not used in MMR, but is contained in other childhood jabs such as DTP - the diphtheria, tetanus and whooping-cough vaccine.

Dr Jeff Bradstreet, the medical director of the International Child Development Resource Centre in Florida, disclosed that tests on his eight-year-old autistic son Matthew - who received vaccines containing mercury and the MMR jab - have found particles of measles virus in the fluid that bathes his brain and spine as well as in his intestines.

Two other boys with autism who, like Matthew, have recently started to suffer seizures, also have measles virus in their cerebrospinal fluid.

While the significance of this is not yet clear, Dr Bradstreet said he was broadening his research in this area.

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