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Vaccine-Autism Study Is Withdrawn

A look at some recent developments in vaccine research.

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, has withdrawn a study that scared many parents and angered many experts. The study, published twelve years ago, suggested a link between autism and the vaccine against mumps, measles and rubella.

A British doctor led that study. Andrew Wakefield studied twelve children. He said eight of them showed signs of autism shortly after receiving the vaccine. Autism disorders involve problems with social and communication skills and repeated behaviors.

Other studies since then have failed to show such a link. In January, Britain's General Medical Council found that the Wakefield report was dishonest and misleading.

In other vaccine news, scientists in Britain say they have found a simple, low-cost way to store vaccines at high temperatures. Currently, most vaccines must be kept between two and eight degrees Celsius. This is a big problem in poor countries.

Scientists at Oxford University tested a new method developed by Nova Bio-Pharma Technologies. Oxford's technology transfer company is working with the inventors to market the idea.

The study involved two viruses being used in experimental vaccines. The researchers say they were able to store the vaccines for four months at forty-five degrees Celsius with no loss of quality. They say the vaccines could be kept at thirty-seven degrees for a year or more with only small losses in the amount of vaccine.

The vaccine is mixed with two kinds of sugars, then left to dry into a thin film on a membrane, a simple filter. Adding water returns the vaccine to a liquid.

The results appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Each year, many vaccines must be destroyed because they became too warm or too cold. American researchers have been testing the best ways to store vaccines in refrigerators. Here are some suggestions from the team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology:

Never store vaccines on the door. Opening and closing it changes the temperature too much. Vaccines should also be kept away from the walls of the refrigerator and out of the "crisper" drawers usually found at the bottom. The crispers can get too cold, and the temperature of the walls can change.

Tests also showed that standard-sized refrigerators without a freezer outperformed smaller ones like those popular with college students.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by June Simms. I'm Barbara Klein.