A well-known 1998 study that found a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, already disowned by its publisher, The Lancet, was fraudulent as well as flawed, according to the British Medical Journal BMJ.
According to the new findings, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, author of the original study, altered or misrepresented subjects' medical histories in order to support his hypothesis of a link between the lifesaving vaccine and the devastating neural disorder. "Clear evidence of falsification of data," says the new paper, "should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare."
Wakefield denies the claims and says he has been the victim of a conspiracy to thwart investigations into vaccine safety. Last year he was stripped of his license to practice medicine in Britain.
The news is unlikely to end the controversy, however. Support for the idea of a causal connection between early childhood vaccinations and autism has become widespread over the past decade as more and more children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and parents seek explanations.