Children with autism are no more likely to have had gut and bowel disorders than youngsters who are not autistic, new research shows today.

Children with autism are no more likely to have had gut and bowel disorders than youngsters who are not autistic, new research shows today.

Scientists also found no link between the timing of the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab and the onset of gastrointestinal symptoms in autistic children.

Concerns about the MMR vaccine were triggered in 1998 when Dr Andrew Wakefield reported bowel disorders in a number of children with autism and suggested a possible link with the vaccination.

His claims have been dismissed by the vast majority of doctors and the new study, published in the British Medical Journal, concludes: "Our results are consistent with those of other studies in providing evidence against a substantial association between gastrointestinal illness in children and the later development of autism."

American researchers from Boston University School of Medicine looked at 96 children with autism from the UK General Practice Research Database between 1988 and 1999.

They found no increase in gastrointestinal disorders or food intolerance among children with autism compared with those without autism.

They were also unable to link the onset of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism with MMR vaccination.

The researchers say they "cannot exclude the possibility" that severe gastrointestinal disease may be associated with the development of autism in certain individuals. But the results indicate that, if this does occur, it is not likely to be common.

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