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MMR Vaccine Scandal and Bowel Problems

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 26 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Mmr Measles Mumps Rubella Vaccine

The MMR vaccine refers to measles, mumps and rubella – given as a three-in-one vaccine to children. You are probably already familiar with the controversy around the vaccine, given that it has saturated the media in recent years. However, if you are new to the issue or simply want to find out more – particularly the most recent news on the debate – then you may want to keep reading.

MMR and Bowel Disease

Back in 1998, a UK doctor and his research group at a London hospital stated that they had identified evidence to support the claim that there was a link between the MMR vaccine and bowel disease. They also claimed there was a further link to autism.

The research became very public and was widely publicised in the media. As expected, the rest of the medical field sharply analysed the findings, which led to criticism about the manner in which the research was conducted. Ultimately, the doctor's claims were strongly criticised and were not accepted by the vast majority of the medical community.

Independent Research

A number of independent groups have looked at these claims and all concluded that the triple vaccine is safe and has no link to bowel disease or autism. Yet the questions remains of how the original London doctor and his researchers concluded that there was indeed a link.

The Original Research

The link was first concluded because doctors noted abnormalities in some of the membranes that essentially 'hold' a person's organs to the wall of the abdomen. These membranes are vital to health and have arteries, nerves and important other structures that keep the intestines functioning and healthy. The abnormalities were identified in people who have a condition called Crohn's disease.

This finding led the researchers to believe that the presence of a constant viral infection in this part of the body could lead to problems. Researchers speculated that the measles virus might be the culprit, leading to the ulceration that doctors see in patients who have Crohn's disease.

So, the idea was that exposure to the measles virus infection could put a child at a higher risk of Crohn's disease later in life. This was all based on the apparent evidence that the measles virus was identified in the tissues of people who have Crohn's disease. The team ultimately went on to state that the measles virus was in bowel tissues of people with the disease.

After publishing the study results, other research groups used methods that are considered quite sensitive and sophisticated to replicate the original research results. Not one group was able to replicate the study results. After more studies were conducted around Europe, the British Medical Journal cited the theory as false and not worthy of additional investigation.

MMR and Conclusions

Reputable researchers and medical hospitals have now concluded that the MMR vaccine does not affect the numbers of people who are diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Also, no link exists between measles in itself or the measles vaccine, MMR vaccine and Crohn's disease.

Repercussions of Research

Even today, there are still parents who believe the original research to be true and cite that their child's autism results from the MMR vaccine. Others - those with Crohn's disease – are steadfast in the belief that the disease is linked to exposure to measles or to the MMR vaccine. It would seem that even science can't always be the foundation for every person's opinion when it comes to the MMR vaccine and bowel problems.

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