MMR vaccination and autism: is there a link?

Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2002 Jul;1(2):115-20. doi: 10.1517/14740338.1.2.115.


In 1998, a report was published describing 12 patients with inflammatory bowel conditions and regressive developmental disorders consisting primarily of autism. The authors hypothesised that MMR vaccine may have been responsible for the bowel dysfunction which subsequently resulted in the neurodevelopmental disorders. The suggestion that measles vaccine may cause autism through a persistent bowel infection generated much interest since it provided a possible biological mechanism for a causal association. Epidemiological studies, however, have not found an association between MMR vaccination and autism. Autism has a strong genetic component and its associated neurological defects probably occur during embryonic development. It seems unlikely that a vaccination that is given after birth could cause autism. In a minority of cases, autism may have onset after 1 year of age (regressive autism) but the one epidemiological study that included such cases did not find an association with MMR vaccination. Currently, the weight of the available epidemiological and related evidence does not support a causal link between MMR vaccine and autism.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder* / chemically induced
  • Autistic Disorder* / etiology
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / chemically induced
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / complications
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine / adverse effects*


  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine