THERE was a highly significant link between the MMR jab and autism compared with another triple jab given to children, US researchers said yesterday.

UK groups campaigning for single vaccines said the study justified their concerns about the mumps, measles and rubella jab and called for a public inquiry into its use.

But the study was dismissed by the Health Protection Agency and the Department of Health, which both said it was seriously flawed.

The research, published online in the medical journal International Pediatrics, was conducted by Dr Mark Geier and David Geier.

The study looked at reports of suspected neurological problems after the MMR jab and the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) combined vaccine.

Between 1994 and 2000, almost 25 million first doses of MMR and about 63 million doses of DTP were given to children.

Among those given MMR, there were 133 reports of suspected neurological problems such as autism, mental retardation or brain damage.

The relative risk was five times higher in those given MMR compared with DTP.

The authors concluded that MMR was associated with a marked increase in neurological disorders compared with the DTP vaccine.

They said the MMR programme should carry on but using dead instead of live forms of the viruses.