BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in:  Health
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 12:10 GMT
Cash for autism research
Autism
People with autism can be withdrawn
Ministers are to invest an extra 2.5m into research into autism.

Health Minister Jacqui Smith told a conference on autism at the King's Fund in London that the funds are being given to the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The MRC made a series recommendations on the way future research should be carried out in a report into autism published last year.

A top priority was for more active involvement of lay people such as people with autism, parents and charities.

The new research will also focus on large population studies to examine the effect of genetics and environmental factors.

Scientists will also examine the long-term effects of autism and other related disorders.

However, the cash will not be used to examine the highly disputed link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

Life-long problem

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to other people.

The number of people diagnosed with autism has increased sharply in recent years.

But the MRC has warned that this may in part be due to raised awareness of the condition.

It is thought that many factors may play a role in causing autism. At present, it is thought that genetics may be the most significant factor.

Ms Smith said: "Autism is one of the least understood but most frightening and difficult of conditions.

"We are very keen to ensure that the fruits of both ongoing and new research are spread quickly to policy makers, practitioners, researchers and lay people."

Long way to go

Professor Sir George Radda, MRC chief executive, welcomed the extra funding.

He said: "The MRC Review of Autism Research published in December identified some successes in research into autism but there is still a long way to go to better understand these disorders.

"The MRC is currently spending some 5 million on research into autism. The extra money will allow us to fund even more research proposals.

"Our report identified current gaps in knowledge about autism and we hope that our findings will stimulate the research community to develop proposals that address the key issues."

Judith Barnard, of the National Autistic Society, said: "The NAS believes that this money should be available as ring-fenced funding for several years to come as there is a vast amount of work needed to understand this complex spectrum condition which affects many more people than previously thought.

"In particular, the area of physiology and infections was seen to be the weakest in terms of what was known about it, and the work that had been undertaken on it.

"It is increasingly clear, however, that physiological, pathological and immunological factors play an important role in this condition.

"Autism spectrum disorders are strongly genetic but not wholly so. This means that environmental factors are also involved, but these remain a mystery and urgent research is needed to look at potential candidates."

See also:

26 Jun 01 | Health
Autism 'may have quadrupled'
25 Apr 01 | Health
Possible autism test for newborns
04 Apr 01 | A-B
Autism
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories