Mar 06 2008

New Scientist Article on Autism

Although I am on vacation this week, I am still maintaining my blogging schedule. However, today I am going to write a very short entry. I just want to alert my readers to an interesting article that appeared yesterday in the online science magazine – the New Scientist. The article discusses two related topics – the recent decision by the US government to award damages to a child with autism, and the possible connection between some forms of autism and mitochondrial disorders.

The article does a good job of covering the important issues. Of note, I was interviewed for this article, based upon my previous blog entry on the topic.

23 responses so far

23 thoughts on “New Scientist Article on Autism”

  1. Amon1492 says:

    I believe it was very poor judgment on the part of the US Govt. attorneys to settle with this couple. The health situation of their child is unfortunate clearly. However, I am in complete agreement with the article – the settlement does nothing but inflame the autism/vaccine allegations. Worse yet, sets a dangerous precedent. Our limited tax dollars being put to less than good use as always.

    These vaccine-autism-relation-allegations are a witch-hunt in my opinion. Some parents burdened with autistic children are seeking a scapegoat or target on which to place blame. Thus they have latched on to the vaccines as a culprit.

    Even if scientists prove definitively vaccines are not the cause of autism, these same individuals which switch their attention to some other target to continue their crusade.

    Generally, it appears all too much like a litigious mindset seeking compensation with very little or no basis.

  2. jonny_eh says:

    IANAL, but I don’t think the settlement sets a dangerous precedent, at least not in a legal sense. For a legal precedent, you need a legal ruling.

    In terms of the battle for the hearts and minds of the average person, yes, it was very bad for people’s health. Lawyers don’t care about that though. They probably just figured the settlement was cheaper than going to court and winning.

  3. pec says:

    “Severe inflammatory reactions are a rare but established side effect of vaccines, and they can damage the brain in many different ways, some of which produce symptoms similar to those seen in autism. ”

    So it’s very possible that on rare occasions vaccines cause autism. It has been established that inflammatory reactions can occur, and it is known that these reactions can cause brain damage, and that brain damage can cause autism.

    Instead of working so hard at denying that vaccines can cause autism, why not try to find out why they sometimes cause a severe inflammatory reaction?

  4. Roy Niles says:

    It can, therefor it will is not the same as it will, therefor it can.

  5. daedalus2u says:

    The notion that this child’s mitochondrial defect was caused by vaccines is complete nonsense. The child has a point mutation in mitochondrial DNA. Every mitochondria in the child has the same mutation. This mutation occured in the child when that mitochondrial DNA was present as a singlel copy, and that copy was multiplied until the child now has quadrillions of copies (a trillion cells and a thousand copies per cell).

    pec, all vaccines cause inflammation. When the immune system reacts to an antigen it causes inflammation. You can’t have an immune system response without inflammation. You can’t have a vaccine without inflammation.

  6. pec says:

    The article said that some children get a SEVERE inflammatory reaction, which can cause brain damage.

    “It can, therefor it will is not the same as it will, therefor it can.”

    Well duh. No one is saying vaccines ALWAYS cause autism. We would all be autistic then.

    If vaccines sometimes cause brain damage, then it would be nice to have a way to test children for susceptibility.

    Instead of saying well tough, it isn’t our fault your child is autistic, because our vaccines cannot possibly under any conditions cause it, why not think about the possibility that there may be a small grain of truth in some of these parents’ complaints.

    And maybe it was a good idea to remove the mercury from vaccines intended for children. And maybe this happened because of the autism activists.

  7. Roy Niles says:

    Pec: This is what you said: “It has been established that inflammatory reactions can occur, and it is known that these reactions can cause brain damage, and that brain damage can cause autism.”

    Can, can, can. If as you contend you were trying to say or prove nothing more than we already knew, the duh is on the other foot, and the foot is in your mouth.

    I know, I know, just because you said it doesn’t prove you meant it.
    Or hey, you may be dumb, but not that dumb.

  8. Roy Niles says:

    Oh, and does a possibility become more imminent each time you add one of those three maybes?

  9. Steven R says:

    I think we need to separate the claims here. That is the claim that vaccines cause an inflammatory immune response(which they do) and the claim that vaccines cause autism, brain damage, and over all bad, naughty stuff.

    One of the major claims of the anti vaccine people is that Thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury, causes autism. So far, this claim has been shown to be false. While I agree with you on erroring on the side of caution, I only feel that should be the case when there is reasonable cause to do so. The problem here is that Thimerosal is no long used here in the US, and that people are still harping on something that has been shown by current evidence, to be untrue.

    On the claim that some one may have an adverse immune response from receiving a vaccine, that is another case. To my knowledge, when a sever reaction occurs, it is often due to an autoimmune disorder and/or over active immune response. In other words, the body begins fighting its self after if has detected the intruders(in this case, the agent the vaccine uses to provoke an immune response).

    I do not believe it is the same to group those two things together. Other wise its sort of like saying “peanuts are toxic to people because some people are allergic to them”.

    Besides, the anti-peanutters have it all wrong, Im not givving up my Reese’s

  10. Amon1492 says:

    This topic was all over NPR news this morning in Chicago. Naturally despite reporting on the facts of the case, the reporter put a distraught mother’s opinion in the piece. The mother’s stance was that vaccines directly caused her child’s autism because she saw a noticeable difference in his behavior mentally and physically afterwards. The report did not mention whether the child had any known genetic abnormalities or diseases prior to the vaccine.

    This kind of reporting only leads to more people (especially the uninitiated) questioning the value of vaccinations. Those abstaining from vaccinations potentially become health hazards for the entire society.

    Does anyone have information on how, when or why vaccines became the presumed leading cause of autism in children?

  11. daedalus2u says:

    Amon1492, the reason vaccination has became such a popular (certainly not leading) cause among those ignorant of physiology is due to marketing by quacks selling “cures” and “treatments” and lawyers trying to cash in on suing the deep pockets of the Pharmaceutical industry. There is no data that actually supports it.

    The association in time of vaccination with noticing of autism symptoms is actually excellent evidence that thimerosal and mercury plays no role in it. In cases of real mercury poisoning, there is usually a prolonged symptom-free period between exposure to mercury and the first appearance of symptoms. The tragic case of a female heavy metals researcher exposed to a lethal dose of dimethyl mercury had no symptoms for 5 months following exposure. She had a lethal body burden of mercury for 5 months with no symptoms. She had an exposure many thousands of times higher than in vaccines.

  12. Potter1000 says:

    Pec, what’s your angle, man? You are clearly FOR something. You clearly have some preferences for some kinds of treatment or prevention modalities. What are they? Straight up, man. You can’t just say “I don’t know, I’m just open-minded.” Are you against vaccinations? Do you think that vaccine producers don’t care about the safety of their vaccines? Do you believe in science-based medicine? Do you think that we should make sound decisions based on assessment of risk, comparing doing things to other things and to not doing things at all? Do you believe that doctors and scientists and pharmaceutical companies don’t want vaccines to be 100 percent safe for everyone? Do you think that could ever be possible? Do you believe in magic?

    I’m glad you keep coming back, but I never really know exactly what your point is, or if you ever find any of Dr. Novella’s (or others’) comments at all convincing. You’re obviously a smart guy who cares about medical and scientific and philisophical issues, but I’ve yet to see convincing arguments in your posts.

    Can you name one thing that YOU would recommend for any treatment or prevention of any problem? And what would be the evidence to support your recommendation? Because when it comes down to it, we either have to do something or nothing, right?

    I’m not saying your posts on this particular topic are ridiculous, I’m responding more to a history of your comments. I just can’t quite get a handle on what you’re trying to say, if you have a particular ideology, or if you’ve just decided to be a skeptic of skeptics, or something else.

    You get me riled up, man. Nothing wrong with that.

  13. Roy Niles says:

    Pec always starts from an “either or” presumption. Like, if something can’t be 100% true, it’s false, and if it can’t be proven 100% false, it’s true. If you work out the math using probability theory, he’s necessarily wrong 99% of the time – therefor by his logic, he’s always right.

  14. eiskrystal says:

    These people that have fought in the law case and won, I think this is a good thing. However would it not be a good idea to contact them and hear their views about autism (and specifically how their childs problems are not actually related to autism).

    I have seen lots of to-ing and fro-ing about it, but what side do the parents fall into? or AS USUAL…


  15. Steve Page says:

    Eiskrystal, there’s a point somewhere that you might have missed, and that is that anecdotal evidence is not scientific. Furthermore, you seem to have ignored the mountains of evidence that there is no causal link between vaccinations and autism, so what exactly would be the point of asking the parents? Are you suggesting that Jenny McCarthy’s “Mommy instinct” has greater validity than swathes of research?

  16. daedalus2u says:

    The child was diagnosed with neuropathy. Neuropathy is not a normal symptom of autism. Neuropathy can make one withdrawn (the autism-like symptoms this child had). Any type of brain damage can do that. Neuropathy is a type of brain damage. People with autism have the behaviors of being withdrawn without any brain damage at all.

    It is well known that vaccinations can cause neuropathy in susceptible individuals. People with mitochondrial disorders are susceptible individuals. (whether this child actually has a mitochondrial disorder and of what type remains unclear).

    This case has nothing to do with the larger issue of what causes autism.

  17. Daedalus

    Neuropathy is not a type of brain damage. Neuropathy is nerve damage.

  18. Jack says:

    I’ve wondered for a while whether it’s the increasing volume of immunizations little kids get that could be causing some of the problems.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great believer in ‘shots’, and my kid has gotten everything possible … but since age 2 has had an over-active immune system that doesn’t just shoot the figurative burglar invading the body’s house, instead his immune system blasts away at all the furniture and the cat too: viral infections result in a dangerous drop in platelets, which the over-active immune system mis-identifies as bad guys.

    Any thoughts on this? When I was a kid in the ancient times, we got polio and measles shots, but not much else. Now, it’s a veritable supermarket. Just wondering … Thanks.

  19. HCN says:

    Jack, when you and I were younger there were also large institutions designed to house and sometimes educate children disabled by the diseases. In every state there were specialty schools for the blind, the deaf and the “mentally feeble”. They were very much in demand after the 1960s rubella epidemic. Where are those institutions now?

    Nevertheless, you would be wise to check this paper out:

    Also, when you were a kid you would have gotten a DPT shot before the measles shot (if you were born after 1957 you may not have had an effective measles vaccine unless you received the MMR, because an early 1960s version of the measles vaccine was not effective).

  20. aj says:

    Vaccines contain many neuro-toxins, plus unstable dna
    No amount is safe
    And there are still vaccines with mercury in them check the CDC

    2 + 2 =4

  21. aj,

    The phrase “no amount is safe” is never true. Toxicity is always about dose.

    What I wrote is that all vaccines in the routine childhood schedule no longer have thimerosal. There are still some other vaccines that do, however, like the flu vaccine, but even there thimerosal-free vaccines are available.

    But – the core claim of the thimerosal-autism proponents is that as the cumulative doses of thimerosal increased so did autism. Therefore, as the dose decreased we should have expected a decrease in the incidence of autism. Yet, when the doses of thimerosal plummeted after 2001 the autism rates continued to rise without a blip. This strongly falsifies the thimerosal-autism hypothesis.

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