Autism Reality

Autism, Vaccines & the Spread of Mumps – Eastern Canada

The belief that some vaccines, or mercury based vaccine preservatives, cause or contribute to today’s increasing autism rates, now estimated at 1 in 150, persists despite an almost total lack of support in the scientific community for any causal connection. The fear generated by that belief is itself believed to have contributed to higher rates of vaccine refusals with resulting increases in diseases such as measles and mumps. In Atlantic Canada we are currently suffering an outbreak of mumps, with the particular strain of mumps having orginated in the UK where immunization rates dropped from fear that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine caused autism.

Health: ALERT: INFECTIONS

Mumps outbreak spreads

CAROLINE ALPHONSO

May 11, 2007

Nova Scotia’s mumps outbreak has spread to Ontario, infecting five people so far and putting public-health officials in the province on alert for even more cases in the weeks to come.

The latest outbreak indicates that many who were vaccinated years ago are now susceptible to catching the disease. Public-health officials are now debating whether they need to administer a booster shot.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care confirmed yesterday that the cases, two of which are in Toronto, are linked to the outbreak in Nova Scotia, where more than 200 people have been infected by the disease. The outbreak, which began in late February, has also infected 34 people in New Brunswick and one in Prince Edward Island.

Neil Rau, an infectious disease specialist at Halton Healthcare Services in Ontario, said the current strain of mumps originated in Britain, where there was a large outbreak in 2004. Immunization rates had drop significantly in Britain because many people believed the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine caused autism. The vaccine-autism link has since been disproved, he noted.

The disease reached Iowa last year, and Dr. Rau said it has now found its way into Canada.

“It’s global travel compounded with vaccine refusal,” he said.

http://tinyurl.com/3b49fz

May 13, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, autism rates, Autism Society New Brunswick, measles, MMR, mumps, Nova Scotia, rubella, thimerosal, vaccines | 2 Comments

Autism & Mercury – Wagnitz Challenges Fombonne

The mercury autism debate continues. While not a subscriber to the mercury vaccine/autism link I do not think debate and discussion should be closed on this or any other subject related to autism. Toxicologist Michael Wagnitz seems somewhat more qualified to present information on the “mercury” side of the debate than David Kirby and presents some interesting points in rebuttal of Psychiatrist Dr. Eric Fombonne.


The mercury, autism debacle: How stupid do they think we are?

Michael Wagnitz
May 7, 2007

Last weekend the Sixth International Meeting for Autism Research took place in Seattle. The meeting claimed to draw the top 900 autism researchers and scientists from around the world. One of the key participants was Dr. Eric Fombonne of Montreal Children’s Hospital at McGill University. Dr. Fombonne, a psychiatrist, presented his research on mercury. His work involved testing the blood and hair of 147 children. Roughly half of his subjects were diagnosed with autism and half were considered neurologically typical controls. He found no difference in mercury levels in the patients hair or blood.

The first question one might ask is why a psychiatrist is considered qualified to do toxicological work. Most parents are concerned about the mercury exposure that their children received as newborns and infants from mandatory vaccines. The vaccine schedule in Canada, where Dr. Fombonnes study was done, and the United States were quite different in the 1990’s. Dr. Fombonne,s patients were not tested after vaccination. If he had talked to any reputable toxicologist, they would have told him that the ethylmercury from vaccines clears the blood in about seven days. Ethylmercury, a short-chain alkyl mercury compound, is rapidly distributed to the brain, kidneys and other tissue. The hair tested would need to be from a first haircut to show this mercury exposure. Even if this was the case, research has shown that autistic kids do not excrete mercury efficiently. The hair would not contain any measurable amounts of mercury. It’s to bad that McGill University does not have any toxicologists who could have explained to Dr. Fombonne that his work was a waste of time and money.

If one was really interested in determining the body burden of mercury they would perform the urinary porphyrin profile analysis (UPPA). Porphyrins are precursors to heme, the oxygen carrying component of blood. Mercury inhibits the conversion of specific porphyrins to heme. This test is backed by decades of published research. Recently it was shown in two published, peer-reviewed studies, that mercury inhibited porphyrins were significantly higher in autistic patients when compared to age matched controls (1)(2). The other way to test for mercury in the body is by using a provoking agent and measuring mercury in the urine.

The organizers of this meeting did not reveal that when Dr. Fombonne isn’t conducting epidemiological studies or doing heavy metal analysis, he is appearing on behalf of vaccine manufacturers defending the safety of mercury. Dr. Fombonne refers to the amount of mercury in vaccines as “trace”. Again, if he were a toxicologist or chemist, he would realize that the concentration of mercury in a multi-dose vaccine vial is 250 times higher than what the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies as hazardous waste.

References:

(1) Nataf R, Lam A, Lathe R, Skorupka, C. 2006. Porphyrinurea in Childhood Autistic Disorders: Implications for Environmental Toxicity. Toxicol. Appl. Pramacol. 214(2):99-108

(2) Geier M, Geier D, 2006. A prospective assessment of porphyrins in autistic disorders: a potential marker for heavy metal exposure. Neurotox Res. Aug;10(1):57-64

About the Author: Michael Wagnitz has over 20 years experience evaluating materials for toxic metals. He currently works as a chemist in the toxicology section of a public health lab evaluating biological samples for lead and mercury.

Michael Wagnitz

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=26477

May 8, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness, autism disorder, David Kirby, Eric Fombonne, Geier, mercury, Michael Wagnitz, thimerosal, vaccines | 1 Comment

Autism & Thimerosal – Geier & Geier (2007) Study Suggests A Link?

One of the great debates in autism discussions has been between those who believe that mercury based vaccine preservatives cause or contribute to incidents of autism and those who do not subscribe to that theory. The overwhelming consensus from the scientific community has been that there is no evidence to support such a link. Notwithstanding that consensus there are still a large number of parents of autistic children ( I am not one of them ) and one journalist/author (David Kirby) who believe that there is indeed a link. A few of the parents have been very vocal. Some, if internet discussions can be believed, have gone as far as harassing and threatening those who oppose their views. At least those are the allegations advanced by some “neurodiversity” commentators some of whom are equally as hostile and rude to those who disagree with their views as the extremist few among the mercury-thimerosal advocacy groups. Now, another study by Geier & Geier (2007) apparently suggests that there is a causal connection between Thimerosal and autism. Hopefully, this study will be neither rejected nor accepted based solely on prior belief. Hopefully the scientific professionals capable of properly analyzing this study will do so and offer their commentary. Hopefully hostility and hatred between the few extremists in both the mercury-vaccine and the neurodiversity groups will stand aside in favor of reason and proper scientific assessment of this study and any further evidence relevant to this issue which might arise.

The following commentary, however, appears to indicate that the old pattern of jumping to conclusions about issues in the mercury-autism debate, based on ideological pre-disposition will, unfortunately, continue to prevail and that the world autism community will be inflicted with more needless hostility between the mercury and neurodiversity groups. The author’s readiness to conclude that the study “leaves little doubt” does not suggest the kind of reasoned professional analysis that will be needed to properly interpret and assess the study.


The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues, an authoritative journal featuring original toxicological research, has published, “A Case Series of Children with Apparent Mercury Toxic Encephalopathies Manifesting with Clinical Symptoms of Regressive Autistic Disorders,” by Geier and Geier (2007).

This new study leaves little doubt there is a direct causal link between mercury exposure from Thimerosal-preserved biological products (vaccines and Rho(D) products) and mercury poisoning diagnosed as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Thimerosal (49.55% mercury by weight) is a highly toxic mercury compound used as a preservative in some OTC and prescription drugs, including most flu shots given to pregnant women, infants, children, adults, and the elderly.

On April 19, 2007, Dr. Larry L. Needham, Chief, Organic Analytical Toxicology Branch, CDC, announced to the US National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine that Thimerosal was among the “Chemicals Linked to ASD.”

Thus, Geier and Geier (2007) provide the first clinical case-series of ASD patients that confirmed this causal role for Thimerosal-preserved drugs in patients having a regressive ASD diagnosis.

The Geiers describe a case-series of eight patients who had:

— a regressive ASD diagnosis,

— elevated levels of androgens,

— excreted significant amounts of mercury after a chelation challenge,

— biochemical evidence of decreased function in their glutathione pathways,

— no known significant mercury exposures except from Thimerosal-preserved vaccines and Rho(D)-immune globulin preparations, and

— alternative causes for their regressive ASDs ruled out.

This clinical study also found a significant dose-response relationship between the severity of the ASD symptoms and the total mercury dose these children received from Thimerosal-preserved drugs.

Based on differential diagnosis, these patients were exposed to significant mercury amounts from Thimerosal-preserved biologic drugs during their fetal and neonatal development as well as between 12 and 24 months of age. Thus, these initially normally developing children suffered mercury toxic encephalopathies that manifested with clinical symptoms consistent with their regressive ASD diagnosis.

Hence, mercury poisoning should be considered as a cause for those children exhibiting the symptoms of an ASD in any differential diagnosis designed to assess underlying causes.

Today, any parent or other healthcare provider can easily confirm whether, or not, a non-chelated autistic child is mercury poisoned by having urinary porphyrin profile analysis (UPPA) testing run at LabCorp (Test#120980) or Laboratoire Philippe Auguste (Urine Porphyrin Profile).

For additional information on UPPA testing for mercury poisoning, please visit the “UPPA” page on CoMeD’s web site, http://www.Mercury-freeDrugs.org.

Dr. King
http://www.dr-king.com

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=69427

May 1, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, CDC, David Kirby, Dr. King, Dr. Larry Needham, Geier, mercury, neurodiversity, thimerosal, vaccines | 5 Comments

Evidence of Harm – The Sequel


In recent years theories that autism increases have been caused by either the MMR vaccine itself or thimerosal, the mercury based vaccine preservative, once more widely used, has dominated much public discussion of autism – despite an almost total lack of support for the vaccine causes autism theories amongst the world scientific community. But the controversy generated by the Wakefield study and the David Kirby/Robert Kennedy Jr anti-mercury campaigns has had an impact – on famlies already stressed by the realities of their children’s autism and on a decline, at least temporarily, in the numbers of persons getting their children vaccinated against serious, dangerous diseases. Evidence of harm? You bet. Not the kind Kirby and Company rant about on the Huffington post though.

http://www.news-medical.net/?id=22732


Study reveals impact of the MMR controversy on parents of children with autism
Medical Studies/Trials

Published: Thursday, 29-Mar-2007

Researchers have found that the MMR controversy caused parents of children with autism feelings of stress, guilt and frustration. Their study is published in Archives of Disease Childhood.

In the course of 10 focus group discussions across the UK between 2003 and 2005 involving 38 parents of children with autism, scientists from the Medical Research Council (MRC) discovered the effects of the uncertainty caused by the MMR controversy on these parents. Their aim was to assess how the parents had been affected and identify their specific needs to inform how these might be met in future debates around immunisation.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues published an article in which they claimed to have found a link between the MMR vaccine and the onset of autistic spectrum disorder, although most of his co-authors subsequently disassociated themselves from the suggestion that there was a link between the vaccine and autism.

The controversy that followed affected parents’ decision-making with regards to MMR vaccination. The Health Protection Agency’s figures show immunisation rates across the UK population fell from 92% before the controversy, to 80% by 2003/04 (http://www.hpa.org.uk/infections/topics_az/vaccination/cover.htm). Vaccination rates have since started to increase again as parental confidence in the vaccine has begun to recover. However, until now no research had looked at the impact of the MMR controversy on the parents of children with autism.

Dr Shona Hilton and her colleagues at the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow found that many parents of children with autism have come under great stress and pressure as a result of the scare.

Dr Hilton found that some have experienced agonising uncertainty as to whether the MMR vaccine may have provoked their child’s or children’s autism. Many have wondered whether they are to blame for their child’s condition or felt they had “let their children down” by deciding to vaccinate. Even those who felt that their child’s autism was not linked to the MMR vaccine, either because of family history or because they had avoided vaccination, had suffered as a result of the ambiguous advice they felt that they had received.

The discussions also showed that most parents found it extremely difficult to make subsequent decisions about further vaccination for their children with autism and later children. Many parents felt let down by health professionals and health visitors as well as GPs. This appeared to be a result of the lack of clarity and consistency in what they were told. It may also have been a result of the perceived lack of empathy with and understanding of the realities of caring for a child with autism.

Dr. Hilton said: “It is clear from a review of the literature that there has been a lack of follow-up of the impact of this health scare on those likely to be most directly affected – those living day in and day out with children with autism. These parents in particular have been under a huge amount of stress about the possible impact of their decision to vaccinate or not. Often, those they turned to for guidance and advice, their health visitors and GPs, were not able to provide them with the support they needed.

Dr Hilton added “we are planning to conduct further research into whether health professionals feel that they are well-enough equipped to deal with parents during such health controversies, and how they can be better-supported. We hope to be able to develop new information materials and to identify other support that health professionals need in the difficult task they face of communicating with parents at the height of any future health controversies.”

http://www.mrc.ac.uk

March 30, 2007 Posted by | Andrew Wakefield, autism disorder, David Kirby, evidence of harm, MMR, Robert Kennedy Jr., thimerosal, vaccinations | Leave a comment

Immunologist Responds to Wagnitz Mercury-Autism Link Argument

The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) carried an opinion piece recently by Michael Wagnitz, a chemist with years of experience in trace analysis, who argued that the brains of some deceased autistic persons showed evidence of neuroinflammation which he attributed to mercury poisoning from the vaccine preservative thimerosal. On that basis Mr. Wagnitz argued that thimerosal poisoning is a cause of autism. The Capital Times has now published a passionate response to the Wagnitz argument by Cheryl A. Robinson, R.N., M.S., immunization program manager, public health, Madison and Dane county.

http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/letters/index.php?ntid=121460&ntpid=2

Ms. Robinson takes particular aim at Wagnitz’s dismissal of epidemiological evidence refuting a thimerosal-autism link:

The real disservice to your readers was Michael Wagnitz’s dismissal of a vast body of epidemiological evidence. These studies compared large groups of children who received thimerosal-containing vaccine to large numbers of children who did not get these vaccines. The occurrence of autism in each group was the same. While no one believes that mercury is healthy for children or adults, there is simply no evidence demonstrating that thimerosal in vaccine causes or is linked to autism.

Developmental problems are most often noticed when children reach the age of 1 or 2 years – a time when children also receive a large number of immunizations. I understand how easy it is for families to link the two events.“

Ms. Robinson also notes that vaccines in the US are now thimerosal free, with the exception of influenza vaccine for which a thimerosal free version can be requested. She accuses Wagnitz of the kind of alarmism which drives some parents to avoid immunization an unwise decision which poses a genuine threat to public health.

Personally I have not been a subscriber to the mercury-autism link theory and do not think parents should avoid immunizing their children but I thought Mr. Wagnitz argument about neuro-inflammation interesting. Further scientific study and evidence may yet reveal some connection. We certainly should not stop looking at the best available evidence even if it contradicts our own views. I find discussions such as are taking place in the opinion pages of the Madison Capital Times helpful in understanding these issues and the developing state of scientific knowledge surrounding them.

March 4, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, Capital Times, Madison, mercury, neuroinflammation, Robinson, thimerosal, vaccines, Wagnitz | Leave a comment

Too Soon to Write Off a Possible Mercury (Thimerosal) Autism Link ?

I have personally never been a believer in possible alleged mercury (thimerosal) autism link. Primarily because I accept the overwhelming consensus in the world scientific community that there is no link. Second, because I don’t believe in the conspiracy angle of those who postulate a mercury autism link. Third, for personal reasons, my son displayed unusual behavior, which we have documented in a large photograph collection, since birth. None the less I think that Michael Wagnitz has made a very interesting argument for the mercury vaccine connection. Mr. Wagnitz is a chemist with 20 years experience working trace metal analysis who argues that recent findings of clinical studies examining brain tissue, blood, urine and human cells make a strong case for thimerosal as the agent causing the neuroinflammation which has been found in the brains of deceased autistic persons. The following article in the Madison Wisconsin Capital Times is worth a read. It will be interesting to read critiques of Mr. Wagnitz’ theory but for now at least maybe it is worth waiting for more study before writing off the mercury-autism link.

Michael Wagnitz: Research supports mercury-autism link

By Michael Wagnitz

It was reported repeatedly in 2006 that the link between mercury-containing vaccines and autism has been disproven. Yet if one looks at the most recent research coming from some of our major universities, one may draw the opposite conclusion.

What we have learned in the last couple of years is that the underlying medical condition of autism is neuroinflammatory disease. In a study conducted at John Hopkins University, brain tissue from deceased autistic patients was examined. The tissue showed an active neuroinflammatory process and marked activation of microglia cells. Neuroinflammatory disease is synonymous with an activation of microglia cells.

A study done at the University of Washington showed that baby primates exposed to injected thimerosal (50 percent mercury), at a rate equal to the 1990s childhood vaccine schedule, retained twice as much inorganic mercury in their brains as primates exposed to equal amounts of ingested methylmercury. We know from autometallographic determination that inorganic mercury present in the brain, following the dealkylation of organic mercury, is the toxic agent responsible for changes in the microglial population and leads to neuroinflammation.

Recently it was shown that in more than 250 examined patients, atypical urinary porphyrins were almost three times higher in autistic patients than controls. Porphyrins are precursors to heme, the oxygen-carrying component of blood. Mercury inhibits the conversion of porphyrins to heme. When the patients were treated to remove mercury, urinary porphyrins returned to normal levels.

In a study done at the University of Arkansas, autistic children were found to have significantly lower levels of the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is the major antioxidant needed for the elimination of mercury at the cellular level. This may explain why some children are more severely affected by thimerosal in vaccines than others.

While all the government-conducted epidemiological (statistical) studies show no link between thimerosal and autism, the clinical studies examining brain tissue, blood, urine and human cells show a completely different picture.

Michael Wagnitz is a Madison resident with more than 20 years of experience as a chemist working with trace metal analysis.

Published: February 27, 2007

http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/column/index.php?ntid=120748&ntpid=1

February 27, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, John Hopkins University, mercury, neuroinflammation, thimerosal, Wagnitz | 1 Comment

Combating Autism Act Spurs Autism Research

The following article from the Psychiatric Times gives a good, digestible, overview of some of the autism studies currently being conducted even as the Combating Autism Act spurs more research.


New Act by Congress Gives Boost to Autism Research
By Arline Kaplan

February 2007, Vol. XXIV, No. 2

The passage and signing in December of the Combating Autism Act (S. 843), which authorizes $945 million over 5 years for research, screening, intervention, and education on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and developmental disabilities, has been hailed by the advocacy group Cure Autism Now (CAN) as a “federal declaration of war on the epidemic of autism,” a disorder that affects 1 in 166 children. 1 Yet, some battles are already under way at NIMH’s Intramural Research Program, with patient recruitment proceeding for 3 major autism studies.

In a press statement, Jonathan Shestack, father of an autistic child and cofounder of CAN, a large private funding organization for autism research, said S. 843 (now Public Law 109-416) “creates a congressionally mandated road map for a federal assault on autism, including requirements for strategic planning, budget transparency, congressional oversight, and a substantial role for parents of children with autism in the federal decision-making process.”

Key provisions of the law, subject to the availability of appropriations, call for the following:

* Expanded research on ASD, including basic and clinical research in such fields as pathology, developmental neurobiology, genetics, pharmacology, nutrition, immunology, neurobehavioral development, and toxicology.
* The CDC to increase and update its efforts to monitor autism incidence and prevalence around the country and to support the establishment of regional Centers of Excellence in the epidemiology of ASDs and other developmental disabilities.
* Development of a curriculum for continuing education to assist in recognizing the need for valid and reliable screening tools and in using those tools.
* Early screening of individuals at higher risk for ASD and other developmental disabilities.
* Congressional oversight of the Autism Centers of Excellence.
* Expansion and reauthorization of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, composed of relevant government officials, experts, families of those with ASD, and at least one individual who has ASD.

Autism trials

The NIMH studies on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md, are the first products of a new, integrated focus on autism. One study, “Clinical and Immunological Investigations of Sub-types of Autism,” seeks to learn more about autism and its subtypes. “It is actually two studies in one,” said Susan Swedo, MD, chief of NIMH’s Pediatrics and Developmental Neuropsychiatry Branch.

The first is a study of regressive versus nonregressive autism to determine whether there is an immune or other systemic trigger of children’s neurologic regression, she said. It involves 50 children with idiopathic autism and regression, 50 children with idiopathic autism and no history of regression, 25 children with Rett syndrome, and 50 healthy children. The age range of all 4 groups is between 12 months and 48 months at first visit.

The second component to the study, Swedo said, is part of the Autism Phenome Project, a pilot investigation being conducted in collaboration with David Amaral, PhD, Beneto Foundation Professor and director of research at the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California, Davis. Between the 2 sites, the pilot phase of the phenome study involves 50 to 100 children with autism, 50 children with developmental delays, and 50 to 100 children without disorders. The purpose is to identify clinically meaningful subtypes of autism, which could lead to better understanding of the etiology and pathophysiology of the disorder.

Increasingly, researchers are considering that autism may be multiple disorders. The regressive subtype is well characterized, Swedo said, although there is some debate about how common it is. The reports vary from indicating that as few as 10% to as many as 40% of children with autism have a pattern of regression.

With regressive autism, Swedo explained, you have a history of the child developing typically until age 12 to 18 months with appropriate development of language and social skills and then the child loses words and social skills and begins to look indistinguishable from children who have had autistic symptoms from birth or early on.“Some investigators have found that the regressive subtype actually has a worse prognosis,” she said.

To explain the regression, Swedo said that the research team’s working hypothesis is that there are environmental triggers or perhaps genetic aberrations that are expressed at this particular point in the child’s development. One possibility based on Swedo’s work with obsessive-compulsive disorder and the pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections subgroup is that regressive autism develops following a viral or bacterial infection that triggers an autoimmune response and neuropsychiatric symptoms.

The phenome study includes questions related to a child’s exposure to environmental toxins and household products; neuroimaging (structural MRI); and biomarkers; as well as very careful behavioral, neurologic (eg, via electroencephalograms administered while the child sleeps in the hospital overnight), and physical assessments. “The children will be monitored every 6 months to a year until they are age 5, and then intermittently after that time” to examine the validity of their diagnosis and how their symptom course evolves over time, Swedo added.

Minocycline study

In another small-scale intramural study, Treatment of Childhood Regressive Autism With Minocycline: An Anti-Inflammatory Agent Active Within the CNS, NIMH researchers are examining the use of the antibiotic minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin, Myrac) in children aged 3 to 12 years with regressive autism.

“We are using minocycline, a tetracycline derivative, not for its effectiveness as an antibiotic but rather for its ability to modulate the immune system,” Swedo said. “It has fairly specific effects on NF-kappa B and therefore inhibits the initiation of the cascade that leads to inflammation. Published data from the Johns Hopkins group [2,3] demonstrate that brains of individuals with autism have evidence of chronic neuroinflammation. We hope that by stopping that process, the children will be able to recover some of their skills. We are conducting an open-label trial in 10 children and are accepting referrals. If the results are encouraging, we will do a placebo-controlled trial in a larger cohort of subjects.”

Asked about other pharmacologic approaches being investigated at NIMH, Swedo responded, “We have a few in [the] pipeline, but it is premature to talk about them. Eric Hollander, MD, has been doing some work with oxytocin, reported at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s annual meeting.”

Hollander, chairman of psychiatry at the Mt Sinai School of Medicine in New York and director of the Seaver and New York Autism Center of Exellence, and Jennifer Bartz, PhD, found that pitocin (synthetic oxytocin), administered intravenously or nasally, may have significant positive effects in adults with autism. Oxytocin, a hormone that is best known for activity during birth and lactation, is also a brain neurotransmitter involved in social recognition and bonding.

Chelation therapy

The third NIMH study, “Mercury Chelation to Treat Autism,” seeks to address whether chelation therapy can be helpful for autism. The chelation study is a placebo-controlled trial that involves use of meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA, succimer), an orally adminstered chelating agent that binds to all metals including mercury and lead but also to some beneficial metals, such as zinc and iron, according to Swedo. DMSA is commonly used to treat autism, with some surveys estimating that 1 in 12 children with autism has undergone chelation, although it has never been tested in a controlled study and there is no proof that it helps children with the disorder. Support for its use is based on single-case reports of benefits of chelation with DMSA.

Children aged 4 to 10 years in whom autism, Asperger disorder, or pervasive child developmental disorders have been diagnosed; who weigh at least 33 lb; who have detectable, but not toxic, levels of mercury or lead in the blood; and who have not previously received chelation therapy may be eligible for this study.

“The chelation study is based on the hypothesis that mercury toxicity is responsible for at least some cases of autism,” Swedo said. She explained that extensive controversy surrounds the issue of mercury toxicity in autism. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted a comprehensive study of the question of whether thimerosal, an ethylmercury-based compound used previously in the United States as a vaccine preservative for routine childhood immunizations, contributed to the apparent increase in the prevalence of ASDs. 4 The IOM panel concluded that there was no evidence for an association, but the report has been dismissed by some parents who report “toxic mercury levels” among their affected children and who have observed benefits of open-label DMSA administration.

To answer the question in a controlled fashion, the NIMH will enroll about 120 children in the chelation study, with half randomized to placebo and half to DMSA. The trial will last for 6 months, and researchers are enrolling participants now. “We would love to receive referrals,” Swedo said, adding that psychiatrists can find out more by going to http://www.clinicaltrials.gov or by contacting Lorraine Lougee, LCSW, research coordinator. Lougee’s e-mail address is LougeeL@intra.nimh.nih.gov.

Incidence and prevalence

Because of recurrent questions about whether autism is increasing, Swedo was asked about incidence and prevalence. “We have absolutely no data on incidence,” she said. “We can say the disorder appears to be more prevalent now than it has been reported in the past. However, there was a major change in diagnostic criteria and case-finding methods, so it is unclear [whether] it represents a true change in rates of affected individuals. . . . The CDC is conducting several studies currently to address that question.”

There is increasing agreement on what true autism is, using the Autism Diagnostic Observational Schedule, a semistructured observational scale developed to assess social interaction, communication, and play in persons suspected of having autism, and the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Swedo said.

“Those 2 give you nice, reliable cutoffs where you can say a child has autism, is on the autism spectrum, or is developing typically. Including children on the autism spectrum will increase apparent prevalence rates,” Swedo said. “The figure of 1 in 166 children having autism was recently confirmed in a CDC study that reviewed school records and confirmed the diagnosis from medical records. But the study included all children with an ASD as having ‘autism’—this included not only severely affected individuals with full-blown autism but also those with a pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified and those with Asperger disorder, a condition [that] is not as impairing.”

“In order to determine the true prevalence of autism and to know whether there is an ‘epidemic’ as some have asserted,” Swedo continued, “we need to have better data about the current prevalence of autism and related disorders and then compare those data with comparable data from previous studies. The CDC is conducting surveillance studies at a number of US sites, and the NIH is sponsoring longitudinal investigations here and abroad to address those questions.”

References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How common are autism spectrum disorders (ASD)? Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/asd_common.htm. Accessed January 5, 2007.
2. Pardo CA, Vargas DL, Zimmerman AW. Immunity, neuroglia and neuroinflammation in autism. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2005;17:485-495.
3. Vargas DL, Nascimbene C, Krishnan C, et al. Neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism [published correction appears in Ann Neurol. 2005;57:304]. Ann Neurol. 2005;57:67-81.
4. Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Institute of Medicine. Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism (2004). Available at: http://www.nap.edu/books/030909237X/html/1.html. Accessed January 5, 2007.

http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleId=197002523&pgno=1

February 27, 2007 Posted by | Asperger Disorder, autism disorder, chelation, Combating Autism Act, diagnosis, mercury, minocycline, neuroinflammation, oxytocin, PDD-NOS, prevalence, Psychiatric Times, thimerosal | Leave a comment

The Autism Vaccine Link – A Dangerous Urban Myth

The vaccine-autism debate has been raging for years despite a lack of scientific evidence to support the belief in a link between thimerosal, the mercury based preservative once widely used in vaccines, and increased rates of autism. In New Brunswick a couple of years ago I received some very heated responses when I posted on an autism discussion newsgroup a British Medical Journal article which called into question the existence of any vaccine autism link. But the belief continues on in the media fueled by Robert Kennedy Jr. and David Kirby. Arthur Caplan is a bioethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania and he has written an excellent opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer/Centre Daily.Com in which he describes the vaccine causes autism link as an urban myth and also describes the horrible consequences that have ensued from this urban legend. Many parents fearing the autism link refuse to vaccinate their children against deadly diseases putting them and all of us at risk of an outbreak of these diseases.



“Fact: No link of vaccine, autism

Arthur Caplan

is the Emanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, where he co-directs the Ethics and Vaccines Project

What must it be like to spend a huge amount of time every waking day trying to change public health practice – only to find out that you were wrong?

That is precisely what has happened to the proponents of the theory that mercury in vaccines – contained in the preservative thimerosal, which once was used (and is used no longer) in vaccines – is responsible for a nearly 20-year explosion in autism and other neurological disorders among American children.

This urban legend has had very real – and terrible – consequences. It has led, and continues to lead, many parents to avoid getting their kids and themselves vaccinated against life-threatening diseases. The failure to vaccinate has caused many preventable deaths and avoidable hospitalizations from measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, flu, hepatitis and meningitis. And fear of vaccines puts each one of us at risk that we, our children or grandchildren will become part of a deadly outbreak triggered by someone whose parents avoided getting their child vaccinated for fear of autism.

Recent research on many fronts in medicine and science has nailed the coffin shut on the mercury-in-vaccines-

causes-autism hypothesis. The connection is just not there. Perhaps the key fact, which has garnered little attention, is that thimerosal has been removed from vaccines in this and other countries for many years, with no obvious impact on the incidence of autism. The most recent data point toward a correlation with nothing at all to do with vaccines: the increasing age at which people (particularly men) have children seems to be associated with an increase in autism and other neurological problems.

Still, some of the most fervent anti-vaccine critics cannot let go. They continue to tell devastated parents of children with autism that vaccines are to blame. Others are still out on the lecture circuit peddling books and articles that bash vaccines and invoke mercury as a problem. Still others pepper the Internet with the false message that vaccines and autism do go hand in hand – it is just that the government, or the pharmaceutical companies, or organized medicine, or all of them, are keeping the truth from us all.

Less than two years ago, Robert Kennedy Jr. published an article in Salon.com alleging that the government knew of and covered up the autism-vaccines connection. Thimerosal was, Kennedy told large audiences and many media reporters, to blame.

Kennedy was hardly alone in fingering vaccines as the cause of the epidemic of autism affecting American children. David Kirby’s 2005 best-selling book, Evidence of Harm, and many other articles, newsletters and advocacy blogs fanned the flames. Some continue to do so.

Proponents of the thimerosal/mercury-causes-

autism theory have had a powerful impact on public opinion. When one of my students recently conducted a pilot study of attitudes about the new cervical-cancer vaccine, fears about autism were prominent among the reasons many respondents gave for being wary of the vaccine. Friends of mine continue to tell me of parents in Lafayette Hill, Voorhees, Greenville and Downingtown who won’t have their children vaccinated because of the risk of autism. States continue to allow parents to opt out of vaccines on “philosophical” grounds – perhaps the only arena in American public life where “secular philosophy” is given legal standing in public policy. And even some young health-care workers report that they don’t get important vaccines that would protect them, their families and their vulnerable patients against death because of worries about autism and vaccines.

Science and medicine have not bought the thimerosal/mercury-autism link. For years the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center, the National Academy of Sciences, the Food and Drug Administration, and countless other prestigious organizations and scientists have said the data do not support mercury in vaccines as the cause of autism.

Now, with the mercury long out of vaccines, what is there left to say? Why won’t the slandering of vaccines as the cause of autism stop?

There has always been a great deal of antipathy toward vaccines – in part because vaccines do have a tiny chance of causing death or other serious side-effects. Parents who have been through that hell have a hard time hearing or sending any other message other than “vaccines are bad.” And those who made careers out of peddling the vaccine-autism link – in the face of a lack of evidence – have really been motivated by a distrust of medicine, science, government and experts, a distrust that has little to do with scientific studies or expert opinions. Even government officials have never really cared enough about public health to do much to counteract the incredible damage the autism-vaccine proponents have done. That is not acceptable.

Our nation is spending a fortune on plans to cope with the prospect of a bioterror attack. State, city and federal agencies are trying to figure a plan if avian flu mutates into a form in which it can start killing people. Hospital officials are worrying over how to cut back on preventable deaths in our hospitals and nursing homes. Those in charge of keeping disease transmission in hospitals, schools and public spaces to a minimum are fretting over what steps to take. The answer to every one of these challenges involves – vaccines.

This nation’s future, its national security, the safety of its health-care institutions, and the safety of its citizens depends upon vaccination. It is way past time that message got heard by parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, hospital administrators, the media and politicians. If there has been a more harmful urban legend circulating in our society than the vaccine-autism link, it is hard to know what it might be. At a time when vaccines may be our last best hope in facing some of the greatest challenges we and our children face, this legend needs to be put to rest. Vaccination, not vaccine-bashing, is what this nation needs.

http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centredaily/news/opinion/16630652.htm

February 6, 2007 Posted by | autism, David Kirby, diptheria, flu, hepatitis, measles, meningitis, Robert Kennedy Jr., thimerosal, vaccines, whooping cough | 3 Comments

Early treatment of autism hinges on genetic discoveries

Much attention has been paid to purported environmental causes of autism. Controversy has raged over both the MMR vaccine itself and the use of thimerosal, a mercury based preservative used in vaccines as a potential cause of autism.

As prominent a figue as Robert Kennedy Jr has pushed the thimerosal theory before the US Congress and the world. There is however precious little scientific support to date for the vaccine/thimerosal theories. Recent environmental theories include Lyme Disease and television as possible causes of autism.

Notwithstanding the focus on potential environmental causes of autism it is heartening to read that research continues on genetic factors. Genetic research is an important element to the early identification and treatment of autism including development of specific treatments for individual autistic persons as discussed in a very readable article by Dr. John Bernard, president of the Children’s Research Institute, published in the Columbus Dispatch:

Identical twins have identical genes, while fraternal twins are genetically similar, but not identical. When identical twins have autism, both are affected about 60 percent of the time, whereas fraternal twins are both affected only about 5 percent of the time.

These findings strongly suggest a genetic basis for many cases of autism.

But current thinking is that autism spectrum disorders do not result from genetic factors alone. It is likely that unknown environmental factors also are involved, perhaps as a result of genetic susceptibility.

It is probable that each of the autism spectrum disorders is associated with a specific genetic abnormality. However, scientists involved in the search for specific genetic abnormalities in autism are challenged by the complex variability of individual cases.

Unless individual children can be accurately and specifically classified within the autism spectrum, the search for underlying genes is clouded. Fortunately, specific genetic abnormalities are now being discovered for some of the rare and distinctive types of autism spectrum disorders.

Discovering specific genetic abnormalities associated with autism spectrum disorders might help detect them earlier in life than currently is possible.

Children then could receive customized treatment programs at the earliest possible age, when the prospect for success is best. It is also possible that drug treatments can be designed by researchers to specifically modify the genetic abnormality involved.

http://www.dispatch.com/science/science.php?story=dispatch/2007/01/16/20070116-D5-04.html

January 17, 2007 Posted by | autism, Bernard, causes, environment, genetics, health, Kennedy, Lyme Disease, research, thimerosal, treatment, vaccines | Leave a comment