A NORTH-EAST researcher who has long suspected a link between the MMR triple vaccine and autism has said he still thinks there is “a possibility”

that his team will find evidence of a connection.

Paul Shattock, scientific consultant to the Espa Autism Research Unit, in Sunderland, has spent the past decade analysing thousands of urine samples from people with autism.

He believes that the prime suspect for the steady increase in autism cases in the UK is exposure to organophosphates contained in modern pesticides.

But Mr Shattock, who recently received an OBE after founding the Education and Services for People with Autism (Espa) charity, still suspects there may be a link between a small minority of autism cases and the MMR triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, despite the recent controversy surrounding Dr Andrew Wakefield.

Last week, the General Medical Council (GMC) found Dr Wakefield had acted unethically in the course of his research into MMR and autism.

This week, The Lancet medical journal formally retracted Dr Wakefield’s article, which it published in 1998, sparking widespread fears about the triple vaccine and a fall in immunisation that has been blamed for an increase in measles cases.

The medical and scientific establishment has also stressed that the MMR jab is safe.

“We are not saying that there definitely is a link, we are just saying we should find out,” said Mr Shattock, who founded Espa after his son was diagnosed with autism.

He dismissed the GMC verdict on Dr Wakefield as a political decision, pointing out that no one had actually made a complaint.

Mr Shattock’s suspicion of a link between MMR and autism for a minority of cases was roused in 2002 when he noticed that about one in ten parents donating urine samples to his research team said they believed the MMR jab may have triggered autism.

Eight years and thousands of urine samples later, the former pharmacy lecturer says that about six to seven per cent of parents who submit samples still claim their child’s condition was triggered by the triple vaccine.

Mr Shattock stressed that his researchers were much more interested in organophophates than finding evidence of a link with MMR, but said there was a possibility they might find evidence implicating the triple jab.

The Sunderland research unit recently acquired a sophisticated mass spectrometry machine which can identify minute chemical traces in bodily fluids.