There are two different aspects to this so I'll begin with the ongoing saga of the MMR a triple vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella. 

In the past it had been postulated that the triple jab and in particular the measles part, could cause encephalitis, the speculation being that this might trigger autism, perhaps by damaging the blood brain barrier or by interfering with the myelination process (mylin being a fatty coating which insulates the nerves that conduct electrochemical impulses).

At present to the best of my knowledge,  such theories remain unproven but in 1998 another theory came to the fore after Andrew Wakefield and some of his colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital in London published a study they had done on 12 children who had been referred to them for investigation of bowel/stomach problems.

According to reports all the children had developed apparently normally until they started having  these physical problems.  It was also noted that they also started to regress socially and began having various behavioral problems leading several of the parents to believe the MMR was implicated - as the onset of symptoms had occurred shortly after the triple jab. 

On investigation these children were found to have some intestinal abnormalities including  ulceration, lumpy swellings in the lymph nodes of the intestine, patches of recurring inflammation and constipation: something identified as a new intestinal disorder.  It was also reported that such intestinal problems were linked to the measles virus which,  it was said,  was found in several of the children concerned: a finding now said to have been largely exaggerated. 

As the battle commenced it became clear that Wakefield's report, which is still the subject of much dispute and vitriol, indicated that once the physical symptoms of bowel disease were treated, the signs of ‘autism’ often abated.  Now you might have thought that that would have opened the doors to much needed further research into ASD as well as further research between bowel problems and ASD, but instead it led to one of the most confusing (and unpleasant) periods in the history of science as various  doctors and scientists stepped in to 'defend the MMR' and refute his findings: something which continues to this day.

Thus as soon as Andrew Wakefield suggested that single doses of each vaccine given at intervals would lessen the chance of overloading fragile immune systems, the UK withdrew the license for the single vaccine: a heavy-handed 'Nanny knows best' approach.  Unfortunately - but perhaps quite naturally - it backfired, leaving many families skeptical and disinclined to believe those who said it was safe.

At that point reporter Brian Deer began to investigate Andrew Wakefield and his research: an investigation that eventually culminated with Andrew Wakefield being charged with Serious Professional Misconduct (for a number of reasons which he still strenuously denies) and struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council (GMC). 

Meanwhile the debate continues but,  regardless of a whole slew of studies into the MMR and the possible measles connection all there is is more confusion; for whilst some indicate he might be right others have found no link at all - with  both sides maintaining that their stance towards the MMR is supported by the evidence. 

Even amongst professionals there is a real dichotomy of views.  These are epitomized by two British family doctors (also known as general practitioners or GP's),  Dr's  Michael Fitzpatrick and Richard Halvorsen whose views are diametrically opposed,  each to the other: as their respective books make clear. 

MMR and Autism What parents need to know examines the whole issue of the MMR  –  and the debacle surrounding it in great depth - in order, as the author says,  to reassure parents that the MMR is safe; and assuage the unnecessary guilt that some feel at having agreed to vaccination. 

In contrast The Truth about Vaccines assesses the evidence both for and against the MMR and vaccines in general, concluding that there is some cause for concern.  Both books have obviously stirred up controversy and added to the confusion surrounding the subject.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick has a personal interest in the MMR, as his son James has autism.  Like many another child he developed normally until around eighteen months at which point he was saying a few words and,  as an ever smiling youngster,  delighted his grandma by responding to her commands to point to parts of his body only to gradually lose those skills over a few months as he drifted slowly away.

Initially he and his wife came up with numerous theories for the cause of such a difference,   from a virus  to teething (both of which James had).  At which point  you would be forgiven for thinking that he is the vaccine doubter.  And yet he is actually pro-vaccine - and excludes the MMR  –  one because James was vaccinated some 4 months before those worrying signs were noted and secondly because James' brother had also had the MMR without problems.

In contrast Dr Richard Halvorsen's research was triggered by the  MMR debacle which led him to delve into the history of vaccinations in general as well as each specific jab, additive etc.

He published details of his research and findings in The Truth about Vaccines in which,  worryingly,  we find that he now has grave concerns about the quantity and frequency of vaccines given to very young babies.   Even so that has not dented his belief in the usefulness of some vaccinations but instead led him to choose a third option, setting up a childrens' immunization service, so that parents could have a choice of single and small combination vaccines for their children.    

Today we know from a study (published in April 2014 by the American Society of Paedictrics) which assessed all the available research into  Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder,  that there is a greater incidence of  constipation, diarrhea, gut disorders and stomach pain among people with ASD than normal.  Sadly in the past decade some doctors have been dismissing parents concerns about this aspect of ASD but hopefully now the tide will turn so that those affected by gastrointestinal problems are treated and not left to suffer as some undoubtedly have been.  

Meanwhile the MMR controversy continues with claim and counter claim. More of the evidence - both for and against - can be found in my forthcoming series so you be able to judge the rights and wrongs yourself. 

Adapted from The Source Code - the third book in the new series The Autism Code.

Author's Bio: 

Stella Waterhouse is a writer and therapist who has worked children and adults with a variety of learning differences since the late 1960’s.

In the mid 1980s Stella worked at a residential home for approximately 40 adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), where she became Deputy Principal.

In the 1990s Stella set out to write a short book on the role of anxiety in autism., which at that time received little attention. Her research led her to investigate the causes of ASD as well as role of sensory disorders - particularly those of an auditory or visual nature.

The original ‘short’ book evolved into a much larger project and has so far spawned two full length books including A Positive Approach to Autism - Jessica Kingsley Publishers, plus a series of short books for parents and teachers all of which are currently available as e-books.

Stella is currently completing her new series The Autism Code. For more information on Stella and her products please visit