The authors (from Dublin, Ireland and London, England) conclude that the virus may act as an immunologic trigger. It was found in the intestinal biopsies of 75 out of 91 children with the variant form of bowel disease (ileocolonic lymphonodular hyperplasia), but in only 5 out of 70 healthy children.
It was found that more boys than girls were affected.
The study does not report whether the children were vaccinated with the triple mumps measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
An accompanying editorial advises against jumping to any hasty conclusions about MMR causing either the bowel disease or the developmental disorder, or it being responsible for all cases of autism and/or IBD.
The editorial concludes that there is evidence that developmental disorders are associated with some disturbance in the interaction between the brain and the gut, and that the study findings warrant attention.
|Proportion with measles virus:|
Bowel disorder: 82%
| Journal of Clinical Pathology - Molecular Pathology |
However, the authors say that several critical questions need to be answered before any potential link with MMR can be proved. These include whether the measles virus was the same strain as that used in the vaccine.
In a statement issued today, Professor John O'Leary, molecular pathologist at Coombe Women's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, and lead author of the study, comments, "I stand by the findings of our research, which raises many questions about whether measles virus has a role in bowel inflammation in developmental disorder.
"The research did not set out to investigate the role of MMR in the development of either bowel disease or developmental disorder, and no conclusions about such a role could, or should be, drawn from our findings."
The editors of Molecular Pathology, Professor John Crocker and Dr David Burnett, add, "This paper was submitted by a scientist of international reputation, and accepted for publication after peer review.
"It was recognized by the referees and the editors as a potentially important observation which raised many questions about the possible role of measles in the etiology of a syndrome in children.
"The paper did not set out to investigate the role of MMR in developmental disorders or bowel disease, and no role for MMR is suggested in it."
"But we did accept that some readers might jump to the conclusion that this paper does in some way link MMR to behavioral disorders," they said.
"We therefore commissioned a commentary by a member of our editorial board.
"That commentary reinforces our view that this research is an important piece of work that draws conclusions entirely consistent with the data, but that any link with MMR is not justified, and was not intended by the study authors," they concluded.