MMR jabs 'not to blame for autism'
NEW research into rates of autism in adults has dispelled any links between the condition and the MMR jab.
The study found that one in 100 adults had a form of autism – similar to the rate seen in children. But no difference was found across age groups, as would be expected if the condition was linked to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which was only introduced 20 years ago.
The research – the world's first study into the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders in adults – follows previous work also disproving any links between MMR and autism. However, despite this, many parents have refused to give their children the jab after an earlier study – now discredited – suggested it may cause autism.
The new report, from the NHS Information Centre, looked at a range of autistic spectrum disorders, including autism and Asperger's syndrome.
People who have a form of autism may suffer a range of problems, including trouble interacting with other people and difficulty communicating their feelings.
Data was collected from more than 4,000 households in England, with people asked a series of questions aimed at assessing their psychiatric health.
The study found no evidence that rates of autism are rising and failed to support a link between the MMR vaccine and the condition.
If there was a link with MMR, people aged in their early 20s or younger would be expected to have higher rates of autism because they have had the jab, the report said. The study – the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 – found rates of autism were higher among men (1.8 per cent) than among women (0.2 per cent), which reflects the situation in children.
The report also found higher rates of autism among single people, among men with no university degree and among men who rent their homes rather than those in other types of housing.
Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said: "This landmark report is the first major study into the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among adults to be carried out anywhere in the world.
"While the sample size was small and any conclusions need to be tempered with caution, the report suggests that, despite popular perceptions, rates of autism are not increasing, with prevalence among adults in line with that among children. It also suggests that, among adults, rates of autism remain broadly constant across age groups.
"The findings do not support suggestions of a link between the MMR vaccine and the development of this condition."
In Scotland, uptake of MMR has increased gradually in recent years following a drop in children getting the jab.
Scotland's public health minister, Shona Robison, said: "We have always believed the best way for parents to protect their children against measles, mumps and rubella is through the MMR vaccine.
"The combined MMR has been used internationally for 30 years and uptake in Scotland is around 95 per cent. There is already a wealth of evidence that the MMR does not cause autism and this latest study adds to the weight of that evidence."
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