The short answer is no and no. No vaccine-strain virus persistent in the gut; and no unique intestinal damage in autism.
The longer answer:
In addition to the retracted 1998 paper, Wakefield was a co-author on a 2002 paper. which has not been retracted, but whose findings have been shown to be not valid.
The paper is:
Uhlmann V, Martin CM, Sheils O, Pilkington L, Silva I, Killalea A, Murch SB, Walker-Smith J, Thomson M, Wakefield AJ, O'Leary JJ. Potential viral pathogenic mechanism for new variant inflammatory bowel disease. Mol Pathol. 2002 Apr;55(2):84-90.
Astonishingly, the paper and an accompanying editorial were the subject of a BBC World News episode of Panaroma on Sunday February 3 2002, "MMR: Every Parent's Choice" (the link is to a transcript of the show).
How about the Uhlmann paper? Is it true that there is evidence of damage to some children's intestinal tracts from vaccines, specifically the measles vaccine? To say that it is true, two things would have to be true: evidence of damage, and evidence of vaccine-strain measles virus (VSMV) in the damaged areas.
I will discuss the second issue first. Was there ever evidence of "vaccine-strain measles virus (VSMV) in the damaged areas"? The answer is almost certainly no. Stephen Bustin, who is arguably the world's expert on the technique used to find viral particles in tissue, says no. The technique is polymerase chain reaction (PCR); Professor Bustin has published several articles on the shortcomings of the Wakefield research group (including Uhlmann):
- RT-qPCR and molecular diagnostics: no evidence for measles virus in the GI tract of autistic children (2008)
- Why There Is no Link Between Measles Virus and Autism (2013)
In 2008, Hornig et al. set out to replicate Wakefield and Uhlmann's finding, in:
Hornig M, Briese T, Buie T, Bauman ML, Lauwers G, Siemetzki U, Hummel K, Rota PA, Bellini WJ, O'Leary JJ, Sheils O, Alden E, Pickering L, Lipkin WI. Lack of association between measles virus vaccine and autism with enteropathy: a case-control study. PLoS One. 2008 Sep 4;3(9):e3140. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003140.
This study provides strong evidence against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or MMR exposure. Autism with GI disturbances is associated with elevated rates of regression in language or other skills and may represent an endophenotype distinct from other ASD.
These are just a few of many papers that show that children with autism do not have vaccine-strain measles virus in their GI systems or circulating in their blood.
Turning back to the first issue: do autistic people have changes in the histology of their gastrointestinal tracts that is unique to autism ? (Histology = "the study of the microscopic structure of tissues.")
In 2007, a literature review was published (emphasis added)
MacDonald TT, Domizio P. Autistic enterocolitis; is it a histopathological entity? Histopathology. 2007 Feb;50(3):371-9; discussion 380-4.
AIMS: To review the literature on the histopathological diagnosis of the condition termed 'autistic enterocolitis'.
METHODS AND RESULTS: We have reviewed all published works where mucosal biopsy specimens from autistic children have been examined histopathologically. Abstracts were excluded. Our review of the published works, nearly all from a single centre, identifies major inconsistencies between studies, lack of appropriate controls and misinterpretation of normal findings as pathology. Ileal lymphoid hyperplasia may be more prevalent in children with regressive autism but is also seen in children with food allergies and severe constipation, the latter being an extremely common finding in autistic children
CONCLUSION:The histopathological diagnosis of autistic enterocolitis should be treated with caution until a proper study with appropriate methodology and controls is undertaken.
What about the children in Wakefield's retracted 1998 paper? As Brian Deer reported in the British Medical Journal (April 2010), the 12 children in the 1998 paper really had histological profiles within the normal range.
With swollen glands in the terminal ileum (widely regarded as a benign or normal finding in children), this “colitis”—which was even cited in the retracted paper’s title—was Wakefield’s new disease. And yet the colitis was apparently invisible to the Royal Free’s pathology service.
In fact the service identified findings suggestive of possible inflammatory bowel disease in only one of the 12 children. “The mild patchy generalised increase in inflammatory cells with lymphoid aggregates and follicles is not very specific but could be in keeping with low grade quiescent inflammatory bowel disease,” it reported for child 2. But this inflammation resolved after two months’ enteral feeding with a product now marketed as Modulen. A repeat ileocolonoscopy found no abnormality, and a food intolerance was diagnosed.
In short, autistic folk do not have changes in the histology of their gastrointestinal tracts that is unique to autism, nor are there GI changes caused by vaccination against measles, or any other immunization.
Brian Deer's Investigative Reporting on the MMR Scare and Wakefield's Conduct
- The Lancet Scandal (Times of London Sunday Edition 2004)
- MMR: What They Didn't Tell You (BBC Channel 4 Documentary, 2004)
- Solved--The Riddle of MMR (Times of London Sunday Edition 2009)
- Wakefield's 'Autistic Enterocolitis' Under the Microscope (British Medical Journal April 2010)
- Secrets of the MMR Scare (British Medical Journal, January 2011)
- Pathology reports solve "new bowel disease" riddle (British Medical Journal, November 2011)
Additional Commentary on Horning paper:
- MMR still doesn’t cause autism
- New MMR study makes the NAA angry
- The final nail in the coffin of the MMR vaccine-autism hypothesis
- MMR and Autism – No connection
- Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism
- Experts comment on Hornig et al.’s MMR paper
- The exoneration of John O’Leary
- U.S. study clears measles vaccine of autism link
- Vaccination doesn’t cause autism volume what-are-we-up-to-now?
- NOW is it over?
- Before the MMR science, the press conference
- MMR Vaccine Does Not Cause Autism (not that you didn’t know that already)
- Antivax: new evidence shows (again) no link to autism
- New study finds no vaccine-autism link
- Yet another really bad day for antivaccinationists: No link between MMR and autism–again
- Study Says No MMR-Autism Link; NAA Says “Flawed”