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The hypothesis that measles virus (MV) is implicated in the pathogenesis of Crohn’s disease (CD) was initiated by Wakefield et al1 in the early 1990s. Several other reports soon followed, which suggested the presence of MV in CD samples using electron microscopy, immunohistochemical analysis, in situ hybridisation and nested PCR.2–4 Controversy in response to this claim resulted in falling measles vaccination rates, mainly in the UK. Immediate concerns were raised regarding several aspects of these studies, including reagent specificity.5 In addition, several groups were unable to replicate their findings using a range of PCR techniques.6–9
In 1998 and 2002, the initial investigators again raised concerns over MV persistence in bowel tissue, this time in children with autism.10 These allegations further damaged confidence in MV vaccination programmes. As the primer pairs that had been used to implicate MV in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD; Kawashima)4 and autism (Uhlmann)10 were not included in the negative studies,6–9 it could still be argued that the negative results arose due to the use of incorrect or suboptimal primers. We therefore used the Kawashima and Uhlmann primers in an attempt …
Ethical approval: The study protocol and consent forms were approved by the ethics review committees of Ste-Justine and Royal Victoria Hospitals (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). Informed consent was obtained from all patients or their parents or guardians.
Competing interests: BJW has served on a number of Canadian and US government advisory committees addressing the issues of vaccine use and safety between 1994 and 2006. He has provided expert testimony for both the US and Quebec vaccine injury compensation programs. Dr Ward has also provided advice and teaching to Canadian government and industry groups in the area of vaccine immunology. He has conducted and participated in several studies of measles vaccine safety sponsored by Canadian and US government funding agencies. He has also conducted a small number of phase I and phase II industry-sponsored clinical trials of non-licensed vaccines for smaller biotechnology companies. He has conducted a single, company-sponsored, immunological study of a licensed, acellular pertussis vaccine. None of the other authors have conflicts of interest to declare.
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