[Vaccines and autism: a myth to debunk?].
ABSTRACT Thanks to vaccinations the incidence of many seriously debilitating or lifethreatening diseases and the resulting infant mortality or disability have been drastically reduced. In populations, who are no more aware of the risk of these infections, the attitude of suspicion and fear towards the vaccinations is expanding and in some cases reaches a worldwide media coverage as was the case for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). In 1998, a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, and co-authors, published in "Lancet" a study in which he suggested the existence of "a new variant of autism" associated with intestinal inflammation. He proposed the administration of the MMR vaccine as a possible. cause of the inflammatory process. The hypothesis suggested by Wakefield led to a drastic drop in vaccination coverage in the UK and to the failure to achieve adequate levels of immunization in many countries, with a consequent increase in the incidence of measles and its complications. Wakefield work stimulated a broad discussion in the scientific community and many studies conducted over the next few years contradicted the research results of the English physician. In 2004, journalist Brian Deer conducted an accurate investigation that revealed how the Wakefield research presented many not regular aspects and was performed with predominantly economic objectives. In 2010, Wakefield was expelled from the General Medical Council, while the "Lancet" retracted the paper. The scientific research conducted in recent years confirm the inconsistency of the relationship between MMR vaccine and autism. The possible association with other factors, such as autoimmune processes, hyperactivation of mast cells in the hypothalamus, use of paracetamol in genetically predisposed children are currently investigated.