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GPs braced for fresh MMR scare

GPs have been warned to brace themselves for a fresh MMR scare after reports that a University of Cambridge study found an unexplained rise in the rate of autism.

The university furiously denied claims in The Observer that two of the authors of the study believed MMR could be contributing to the rise 'in small numbers of children'.

But in a further blow to doctors' hopes of maintaining gradual improvement in MMR uptake, London GP Dr Richard Halvorsen is reportedly preparing a book expected to rekindle the controversy.

The front-page Observer article claimed seven academics at Cambridge had found a 'surprisingly high' prevalence of autism, although it admitted the study leader did not believe MMR was involved.

In a statement the University of Cambridge branded the story 'irresponsible', claimed the unpublished study had been taken 'out of context' and denied its researchers had given the quotes attributed to them.

But GPs expressed concerns that the story could spark a panic that could discourage a new generation of parents from getting their children vaccinated. Dr James Gillgrass, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex LMCs, warned: 'Something like that could damage the work that has been done.'

Professor David Salisbury, national director for vaccinations, said: 'We cannot comment on unpublished research. But all the existing evidence is clear – no published study has ever shown a link between autism and MMR and it's nonsense to suggest otherwise.'

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