FRESH evidence emerged last night to suggest that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism.
The parents of Welsh schoolboy Oliver Loch have discovered that his blood and digestive organs are infected with the same strain of measles used in the triple vaccine. And they fear his condition will get worse if the disease has spread to his brain.
Oliver, six, was diagnosed with autism and a severe bowel disorder when he was two, soon after having the MMR jab to protect him against measles, mumps and rubella. Last night his mother Julie, who lives near Newport, said she believed there was no other way he could have been infected by measles except through the jab he was given as a toddler.
"We more or less knew this was the case because to my knowledge Oliver has never been exposed to this strain of measles except through the vaccine," said Mrs Loch.
The discovery of the virus consistent with a strain of measles used in the MMR vaccine was made after specialist tests. Now Oliver's condition is certain to cause concern among other parents being asked to give their children the triple jab.
Mrs Loch has always maintained that her son's illness was caused by an adverse reaction to the MMR vaccine, possibly as a result of a compromised immune system.
"Over the past three years or so I have been in correspondence with countless medics and politicians who have refused to accept that my son may be vaccine-damaged," she said.
"It is accepted that something happened during his second year of life that irreversibly damaged both his brain and bowel, but not one person has been able to offer an alternative explanation, despite my persistence."
Mrs Loch and her husband Peter now face the agonising decision of putting Oliver through more tests to determine whether the strain of measles has also infected his brain.
His condition is deteriorating and he is experiencing other neurological problems, including epilepsy.
Mrs Loch said, "Time is ticking away and we're getting scared for Oliver. If measles is in his brain it could be doing untold damage."
The results of the tests will be used in a forthcoming High Court case against MMR manufacturers Glaxo-SmithKline, Aventis Pasteur MSD and Merck & Co, in which the Loch family is involved.
The discovery of measles in Oliver's body also appears to lend evidence to a link between MMR, autism and bowel disease that was first raised by Dr Andrew Wakefield in 1998 and has been blamed for the slump in the number of children being given the MMR jab.
Mrs Loch said, "I'm not anti-vaccines - I believe it is safe for the majority - but clearly there is a substantial group of children who have experienced adverse effects and research now needs to be done to find out why they reacted to the vaccine and what can be done to help them."
Worried parents in Britain are already paying for single-vaccine jabs privately or allowing their children to run the risk of catching the diseases rather than allow them to be given MMR on the NHS. They are increasingly turning their backs on MMR despite doctors' warnings that Wales is heading for a potentially lethal out-break of measles.
Health officials have set a 95pc target rate for the take-up of MMR to ensure that an outbreak cannot happen but the average take-up in Wales has fallen to 82.5pc. In some areas a quarter of children go unprotected.
The chairman of the British Medical Association's Welsh GP committee, Dr Andrew Dearden, said a measles outbreak in Wales was almost inevitable. "If the number of vaccinated babies drops below 80pc measles can escape into the community and epidemics break out," he said.
Last night the Government said its advice on MMR was that it was safe and there was no proven link between the vaccine and autism. Its advice to parents was unchanged: they should allow their children to have the jab.