The recent outbreak of measles in Swansea has led to a £20 billion vaccination campaign being rolled out across the UK. The media is publishing articles criticising the work of Andrew Wakefield which led to a fall in uptake of the MMR 10 years ago.
Andrew Wakefield’s research reflected the concerns of parents who reported regression in the development of their children after vaccination. He noted the presence of the live measles virus in the gut tissue of some of these children presenting with developmental delay.

In an effort to restore public faith in the MMR his work has since been discredited. Andrew Wakefield has fought back at suggestions that he was responsible for the recent measles outbreak in Swansea where MMR uptake dropped substantially ten years ago. He has suggested it was the withdrawal of the single measles vaccines shortly after his work was discussed in public that left parents with no choice but to not vaccinate at all. Parents wanted the single vaccines but they were no longer available. Andrew Wakefield is offering to
debate his work in public with any willing professionals.

MMR and autism.

Whether or not vaccination can play a part in the development of autism does not seem to be open for debate. This leaves many parents of regressed autistic children feeing unheard. Surely parents are the best source of information on their children’s development? They live with and observe their children day-in,
day-out.However, for every parent who will tell you their child’s development regressed after vaccination there are others who say ‘my child has autism and didn’t receive the MMR’. There are many people who find the idea that the MMR on it’s own could cause autism laughable. It is glaringly obvious there is more to autism than vaccinations. There is more to autism than one simple trigger. Perhaps that is the point that has been lost in this whole affair. We owe it to parents (and parents to be) to research environmental factors that can
contribute to the developing or worsening of autism when a child has a genetic predisposition to it.

When you witness autistic symptoms appear or worsen after an environmental exposure of some kind and you also see symptoms subside when certain factors are avoided then the environmental influence on autism seems very real. In research terms this might be seen as nothing more than anecdotal, but to the families involved it is very real and very significant.

Genetics and influences in-utero are important factors to consider as well as finding out which environmental factors influence genetic expression. There is no simple answer and no easy solution when it comes to autism. However, an open and informed debate about possible environmental influences would be welcomed by many families.

In truth, the MMR debate is a tiny part of a much bigger picture. A new approach to autism is underway by doctors and professionals breaking away from the mainstream approach. Parents and professionals are recognising that there are biochemical abnormalities present in children on the autistic spectrum. These
include immune abnormalities, gut dysfunction and nutrient deficiencies.

A prime example is reduced sulphation in those on the spectrum discovered by Rosemary Waring at the University of Birmingham many years ago. Finding ways to influence these biochemical issues can affect the health and sometimes the behaviour of children with autism. This presents a novel way of looking at autism and gives us the tools to improve the health of those on the spectrum. For the sake of the families affected by autism isn’t it best to keep an open mind?