Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses

[Note: The full text of this meta-review of data from major studies is available free at the publisher’s site. Authors effectively dismiss theory that vaccines cause autism – suggest research be focused on “more promising leads.”]

Although child vaccination rates remain high, some parental concern persists that vaccines might cause autism. Three specific hypotheses have been proposed:

(1) The combination measles-mumps-rubella vaccine causes autism by damaging the intestinal lining, which allows the entrance of encephalopathic proteins;

(2) Thimerosal, an ethylmercury-containing preservative in some vaccines, is toxic to the central nervous system; and

(3) The simultaneous administration of multiple vaccines overwhelms or weakens the immune system.

We will discuss the genesis of each of these theories and review the relevant epidemiological evidence.

Source: Clinical Infectious Diseases, Jan 7, 2009. [E-pub ahead of print] PMID: 19128068, by Gerber JS, Offit PA. Division of Infectious Diseases, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [E-mail:
offit@email.chop.edu]

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