Tag Archives: autism

IOM: Vaccines safe and unrelated to autism

The print media devoted major coverage to the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report showing that the benefits of vaccines far exceed their risks. In addition, the IOM assures professionals, researchers, policy makers, and, most importantly, parents, that vaccines are NOT associated with and DO NOT cause autism or autism spectrum disorders ASD). Continue reading

Early screening test detects autism in children as young as one year

An early screening test for autism, designed to detect signs of the condition in babies as young as 1 year old, has just been released. USA Today reports that the test “could revolutionize the care of autistic children, experts say, by getting them diagnosed and treated years earlier than usual.” Continue reading

Investigator Planned to Make Vast Profit From Autism/MMR Vaccine Scare

Andrew Wakefield, the lead author on the 1998 study that reported a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and a new condition of regressive autism and bowel disease called autistic enterocolitis (AE), was planning to market a prestudy diagnostic testing kit with expected yearly sales of 28 million pounds (43 million US dollars), a new paper published online in the BMJ reports. Continue reading

MRI scans of the brain may help scientists better understand autism

Bloomberg News reports that a MRI-based “method may help speed up detection and add to knowledge of” autism’s “biological base,” according to a paper in Autism Research.

“‘We, for the first time, are able to begin to really see what is going on in the brain in children who have autism,’ said Janet Lainhart, an associate professor at the University of Utah, in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News. ‘That is usually the beginning of major advances in recognition, treatment, and prevention.'”

Indeed, “previous studies using different types of scans have been able to identify people with autism” but, said co-author Nicholas Lange of Harvard, “no one has looked at it [the brain] the way we have and no one has gotten these type of results,” the CNN “The Chart” blog reported.

“By scanning the brain for 10 minutes using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to measure six physical differences of microscopic fibers in the brains of 30 males with confirmed high-functioning autism and 30 males without autism.

The images of the brains helped researchers correctly identify those with autism with 94 percent accuracy.”

Marguerite Colston, vice president of constituent relations for the Bethesda, Maryland-based Autism Society, an advocacy group that raises awareness about the disorder, said the organization hopes studies like this will ultimately lead to earlier diagnosis of autism for all children.

Currently, the average age of autism diagnosis in the U.S. is 4 years old. The group is striving to cut the age of diagnosis in half, she said.

Researchers plan to further study and develop the test. Additional studies are also needed to see if the test will work in those who are younger and in those whose autism symptoms are more severe, the researchers said.

Maybe this type of research will not only help with the diagnosis and early treatment of autism (and related disorders), but also help us find the real cause or causes (which clearly are not vaccines).

“Vaccines cause autism” theory now suspected to be fraud

In a recent blogs I’ve told you, “Autism and Childhood Vaccinations: The Myth is Finally Debunked” and “U.K. bans doctor who linked autism to MMR vaccine.” But, even I was shocked when, while watching ABC World News last night, I saw a report suggesting, that the vaccine-autism link now appears to have been a deliberate fraud. Not only have untold children have been harmed because of this alleged fraud — but autism research has actually been set back. My hope is that criminal charges will soon follow. Here are the details:

ABC World News reported reported that many parents “know that vaccines protection their children from serious illness. But many still fear that the vaccines might cause autism because of all of the reports through the years.” Now, there is “new outrage over the doctor who first reported a link.”

USA Today reports, “An infamous 1998 study that ignited a worldwide scare over vaccines and autism — and led millions of parents to delay or decline potentially lifesaving shots for their children — was ‘an elaborate fraud,’ according to a scathing three-part investigation in the British medical journal BMJ.”

In 2009, “British medical authorities … found the study’s lead author, Andrew Wakefield, guilty of serious professional misconduct, stripping him of his ability to practice medicine in England.”

The BMJ now “reports that Wakefield, who was paid more than $675,000 by a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine makers, was not just unethical — he falsified data in the study, which suggested that children developed autism after getting a shot against measles, mumps and rubella.”

“The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems,” the AP reports. “Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.”

The LA Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that “none of the details of the medical histories of any of the patients could be matched to those cited in The Lancet article.”

What’s more, “all had been altered to make Wakefield’s claims more convincing. Ten of the authors subsequently asked that the paper be retracted.” In 2009, The Lancet withdrew Wakefield’s 1998 paper.

CNN points out that Wakefield’s “now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella.”

In the US alone, “more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.”

HealthDay reported that “besides harming those children who got sick after not receiving a vaccine, the alleged fraud may have even set back autism research, experts noted.”

Pediatric neurologist Max Wiznitzer, MD, of University Hospitals Case Medical Center, stated that “[autism] research monies were diverted to disprove a hypothesis that was never proven [in the first place], rather than invested in exploring issues that would be of benefit to the public and to children with the condition.”

This is a truly sad finale to a truly sad story. But, I’ll let you know about any future developments.

Autism and Childhood Vaccinations: The Myth is Finally Debunked

In a number of previous blogs, I’ve discussed vaccine myths, in an attempt to bring you information about vaccines that is reliable, trustworthy, and medically accurate. I recently found this review of the myth that vaccines cause autism and wanted to share it with you. It’s a discussion between Robert Dachs, MD, FAAFP (Ellis Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program, Schenectady, New York), Andrea Darby-Stewart, MD (Scottsdale Healthcare, Scottsdale, Arizona), and Mark Graber, MD, FACEP (University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa) and was published in the American Family Physician (2010 Sep 15;82(6):586-592).

Are childhood vaccinations associated with subsequent development of autism?

Bob: In 1998, a British gastroenterologist, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, published a report in the Lancet on eight children who developed symptoms of autism within one month of receiving the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.1 Since then, the media, advocacy groups, and celebrities have promulgated the link between childhood vaccinations (particularly the MMR vaccine) and the development of autism. But, is it true?

This month’s article clearly outlines the epidemiologic and biologic studies that should reassure physicians and parents that there is no connection between childhood vaccinations and autism.2 For the family physician, the data in this article are impressive and can be used to counter most parental concerns.

What does this article say?

Bob: This article reviews the three most commonly proposed hypotheses for vaccine-induced development of autism:

  1. the MMR vaccine damages the intestinal lining, allowing the entrance of encephalopathic proteins;
  2. thimerosal induces central nervous system toxicity; and
  3. multiple vaccinations overwhelm and weaken the immune system.

This article looks at the genesis of each theory and the data that debunk them.2

In regard to the MMR vaccine, Dr. Wakefield noted lymphoid nodular hyperplasia on endoscopy in eight children with gastrointestinal symptoms and signs of autism within one month of receiving the MMR vaccine. He then postulated that this intestinal inflammation allowed nonpermeable peptides into the bloodstream, subsequently affecting brain development.1

There are many holes in this argument.

  • First, this was a self-referred cohort without a control group.
  • Second, in Great Britain, approximately 50,000 children one to two years of age receive the MMR vaccine each month; this is a time when autism typically presents, making this likely a coincidental association.
  • Third, the MMR vaccine has not been found to cause chronic intestinal inflammation.
  • Fourth, no toxic encephalopathic proteins traveling from the intestine to the brain have ever been identified. Instead, genes that code for endogenous proteins, which influence neuronal synapse function, have been identified in children with autism.3

Mark: The most glaring flaw in the argument connecting an MMR-induced intestinal hyperplasia and subsequent autism development is assigning cause and effect to a potential association. Association should not be confused with causation.

Without a control group in the original study by Dr. Wakefield, it is imprudent to even suggest that there is an association between the MMR vaccine and intestinal lymphoid hyperplasia. Large-scale studies are often needed to demonstrate whether an association is statistically present.

Bob: The authors of this month’s article reviewed 13 such large-scale studies that demonstrate no association between the MMR vaccine and autism.2 These are separated into three types of studies:

Ecologic (studies comparing vaccination rates with autism diagnosis). In California and the United Kingdom, the diagnosis of autism increased through the 1980s and 1990s, yet MMR vaccination rates remained stable during this time.4,5 In Quebec, Canada, autism rates increased despite a decrease in MMR vaccination.6

Retrospective observational (studies comparing vaccination status with autism diagnosis using national registries). The best study was one conducted in Denmark in which 440,655 children born between 1991 and 1998 who received the MMR vaccine were compared with 97,648 children born during the same years who were not given the MMR vaccine. There were no differences in autism rates between the two groups.7

Prospective observational (a long-term vaccination project allows researchers to prospectively record adverse events associated with the MMR vaccine). In Finland, 1.8 million children were prospectively followed after MMR vaccination, and no cases of vaccine-induced autism were recorded.8

Andrea: To further refine the concept of association and causation, there are times when an association does represent a cause and effect. A good example is smoking and lung cancer rates. Clearly, smoking is associated with increased lung cancer rates, and a randomized, placebo-controlled trial is not needed to prove this. The association between smoking and lung cancer meets all of the following criteria: strength and consistency of the scientific data; existence of a temporal relationship (between smoking history and lung cancer); existence of a biologic gradient (increased exposure results in increased risk); a scientifically plausible association; and experimental interventions that work (smoking cessation decreases cancer rates).9 However, in the case of MMR vaccine–induced autism, none of these criteria are present. The data, in fact, overwhelmingly support no association.

Bob: Let’s briefly look at the second hypothesis of thimerosal-induced neurotoxicity. Thimerosal is an antibacterial agent that has been used in multidose vaccine preparations for more than 50 years. It is 50 percent ethyl mercury by weight. However, mercury poisoning has a distinctly different presentation than autism. The CDC has also demonstrated that the mercury in vaccines has not resulted in any subtle signs or symptoms of mercury poisoning.10 The authors of this month’s article review seven large-scale studies—again, ecologic, retrospective, and prospective studies—all demonstrating no association between thimerosal and autism.2

Mark: And, by the way, live vaccines like MMR do not contain thimerosal.

Bob: The third and final theory suggests that the simultaneous administration of multiple vaccines overloads the immune system, triggering autism in a susceptible host. However, because of advances in protein chemistry and DNA technology, the immunologic load has decreased from more than 3,000 immunologic components in the seven available vaccines in 1980 to less than 200 in the 14 recommended vaccines today.2

Andrea: Two more points: (1) an infant’s immune system is capable of handling the thousands of antigens it is exposed to early in life; and (2) autism is not an autoimmune disease. Therefore, this theory has no credibility.

Should we believe this study?

Bob: This month’s article clearly provides the science and statistics to dispel the theory that childhood vaccinations induce autism.2 A Cochrane review came to the same conclusion in October 2005.11

Andrea: Large-scale studies, smaller studies, retrospective studies, prospective studies, and case-control studies (you name it) all come to the same conclusion: there is no connection between vaccines and autism. The only outlier is Dr. Wakefield’s study, which suggests this possible link.1

Mark: Lo and behold, 10 of the 13 authors of Dr. Wakefield’s Lancet article have since publicly retracted the interpretation they reported.12 The editor of the Lancet has acknowledged that, had they appreciated the full context of Dr. Wakefield’s study, “… publication would not have taken place the way that it did.”13 On further review, the Lancet also recently published an official retraction of Dr. Wakefield’s study (http://press.thelancet.com/wakefieldretraction.pdf).

What should the family physician do?

Bob: Get this month’s article. It’s an easy read. Keep it handy for when parents are apprehensive about immunizing their child.

Andrea: A national survey conducted in 2003 to 2004 indicated that more than one fourth of all U.S. parents were either unsure of vaccine safety or refused or delayed vaccination of their children because of safety concerns. However, the most important take-home point from that survey was that the parents who changed their minds and immunized their children did so because of information and assurance provided by their health care professional.14 Indeed, we do make a difference!

Mark: Understand the consequences if we just give in to fear and myths. In 2008, only three fourths of preschool children in the United Kingdom received two doses of the MMR vaccine. The result: measles infection rates have reached more than 1,000 cases per year, the highest since monitoring began in 1995.15

Main Points

There are no epidemiologic or biologic studies that support a connection between childhood vaccinations and autism.

EBM Points

An association does not confer causation.

Multiple criteria should be examined when considering if an association implies causation, including strength, consistency, specificity, temporality, dose-response relationship, plausibility, coherence, experimental evidence, and analogy.9

REFERENCES:

  1. Wakefield  AJ, Murch  SH, Anthony  A, et al.  Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children [retraction published in Lancet. 2010;375(9713):445].  Lancet.  1998;35(9103):637–641.
  2. Gerber  JS, Offit  PA.  Vaccines and autism: a tale of shifting hypotheses.  Clin Infect Dis.  2009;48(4):456–461.
  3. Sutcliffe  JS.  Genetics: insights into the pathogenesis of autism.  Science.  2008;321(5886):208–209.
  4. Dales  L, Hammer  SJ, Smith  NJ.  Time trends in autism and in MMR immunization coverage in California.  JAMA.  2001;285(9):1183–1185.
  5. Kaye  JA, del Mar Melero-Montes  M, Jick  H.  Mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine and the incidence of autism recorded by general practitioners: a time trend analysis.  BMJ.  2001;322(7284):460–463.
  6. Fombonne  E, Zakarian  R, Bennett  A, Meng  L, McLean-Heywood  D.  Pervasive developmental disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: prevalence and links with immunizations.  Pediatrics.  2006;118(1):e139–e150.
  7. Madsen  KM, Hviid  A, Vestergaard  M, et al.  A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism.  N Engl J Med.  2002;347(19):1477–1482.
  8. Peltola  H, Patja  A, Leinikki  P, Valle  M, Davidkin  I, Paunio  M.  No evidence for measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine–associated inflammatory bowel disease or autism in a 14-year prospective study.  Lancet.  1998;351(9112):1327–1328.
  9. Simon S. Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. Causation. http://www.childrens-mercy.org/stats/ask/causation.asp. Accessed January 8, 2010.
  10. Thompson  WW, Price  C, Goodson  B, et al.; Vaccine Safety Datalink Team.  Early thimerosal exposure and neuropsychological outcomes at 7 to 10 years.  N Engl J Med.  2007;357(13):1281–1292.
  11. Demicheli  V, Jefferson  T, Rivetti  A, Price  D.  Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children.  Cochrane Database Syst Rev.  2005;(4):CD004407.
  12. Murch  SH, Anthony  A, Cassen  DH, et al.  Retraction of an interpretation.  Lancet.  2004;363(9411):750.
  13. Horton  R.  The lessons of MMR.  Lancet.  2004;363(9411):747–749.
  14. Gust  DA, Darling  N, Kennedy  A, Schwartz  B.  Parents with doubts about vaccines and reasons why.  Pediatrics.  2008;122(4):718–725.
  15. Health Protection Agency. Measles figures soar. http://www.hpa.org.uk/webw/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1227774034336?p=1204186170287. Accessed December 6, 2009.

For more information on EBM terms, see the EBM Toolkit here.

More Evidence That Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism

Children exposed to high, low levels of thimerosal had similar odds for the disorder as children with no exposure to thimerosal, a new study has found. This should be absolutely no surprise for two reasons: (1) since thimerosal has been removed from virtually all vaccines, there has been an INCREASE (not a decrease) in autism, and (2) no study has found any evidence of an association between thimerosal and autism. Here are the details from this newest study from HealthDay News:

Infants exposed to the highest levels of thimerosal, a mercury-laden preservative that used to be found in many vaccines, were no more likely to develop autism than infants exposed to only a little thimerosal, new research finds.

The study offers more reassurance to parents who worry that vaccination raises their children’s risk for autism, the researchers said.

“Prenatal and early life exposure to ethylmercury from thimerosal in vaccines or immunoglobulin products does not increase a child’s risk of developing autism,” concluded senior study author Dr. Frank DeStefano, director of the immunization safety office at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was released in the journal Pediatrics.

Thimerosal has been used as a preservative in vaccines since the 1930s, according to background information in the article.

Concerns about the chemical began to crop up in 1999, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that because of the increased number of thimerosal-containing vaccines added to the infant vaccination schedule, infants may be exposed to too much mercury. Thimerosal used to be found in hepatitis B, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) and DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccines, among others.

During the ensuing years, the FDA worked with manufacturers to eliminate thimerosal from vaccines, according to the agency’s Web site. Today, thimerosal has been removed or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated seasonal flu vaccine, according to the FDA. Parents who are concerned about thimerosal can ask for a preservative-free version, DeStefano said.

And thimerosal wasn’t the only proposed autism-vaccine link. A 1998 paper in The Lancet suggested the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine might trigger autism. The journal later retracted the paper, and numerous studies have refuted any link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

In February of 2009, a U.S. federal court ruled that there was no scientific evidence linking vaccines to autism.

In the new study, researchers examined medical records and conducted interviews with the mothers of 256 children with an autism spectrum disorder and 752 children matched by birth year who did not have autism. The children were all members of three health care management organizations in California and Massachusetts.

Researchers also gathered information about the manufacture and lot number of the vaccines that the children received, to determine how much thimerosal they were likely exposed to.

Children in the highest 10 percent of thimerosal exposure, either prenatally or between infancy and 20 months, were no more likely to have autism, an autism spectrum disorder or autism spectrum disorder with regression than children in the lowest 10 percent of exposure.

“This study adds to a large body of evidence indicating that early thimerosal exposure through vaccination does not cause autism,” said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for a leading advocacy group, Autism Speaks. Dawson was not involved with the research.

She urged parents to have their children vaccinated.

“We encourage parents to have their children vaccinated and to establish a trusting relationship with their child’s pediatrician so they can discuss any concerns they have,” Dawson said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on thimerosal here.

U.K. bans doctor who linked autism to MMR vaccine

In past blogs, I’ve exposed what I consider to be the unethical and unscrupulous actions of Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his so-called autism research. Here are just a few:

Wakefield’s now disproven 1998 study supposedly linked the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) to autism. Unfortunately, this led to a dramatic drop in vaccinations and a jump in measles cases around the world — causing who knows how many unnecessary childhood deaths.

Since then, at least 25 studies have found no link between the vaccine and autism.

And now, not only have the scientific methods of Wakefield been shown to be highly suspect, but so have his many financial conflicts. You can read more about these in a New York Times report.

Now, Britain’s top medical group has ruled that Wakefield can no longer practice in the U.K. Here are the details from an AP report:

The General Medical Council also found Dr. Andrew Wakefield guilty of “serious professional misconduct” as it struck him from the country’s medical register. The council was investigating HOW Wakefield and colleagues carried out their research, NOT the science behind it (the latter being long ago discredited).

When the research was published a dozen years ago, parents around the world abandoned the measles vaccine in droves, leading to a resurgence of the disease. Vaccination rates have never recovered and there are outbreaks of measles in the U.K. and the U.S. every year as a result.

In 1998, Wakefield and colleagues published a study alleging a link between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Most of the study’s authors renounced its conclusions and it was retracted then by the journal, the Lancet, this last February.

Many other studies have been conducted since then and none have found a connection between autism and the vaccines. Wakefield moved to the U.S. several years ago and the ruling does not affect his right to practice medicine there or in other countries.

In 2005, Wakefield founded a nonprofit autism center in Austin, Texas, but quit earlier this year.

In January, Britain’s medical council ruled that Wakefield and two other doctors acted unethically and showed a “callous disregard” for the children in their study. The medical body said Wakefield took blood samples from children at his son’s birthday party, paying them 5 pounds (today worth $7.20) each and later joked about the incident.

In a statement then, Wakefield said the medical council’s investigation was an effort to “discredit and silence” him to “shield the government from exposure on the (measles) vaccine scandal.”

In Monday’s ruling, the medical council said Wakefield abused his position as a doctor and “brought the medical profession into disrepute.”

But, worse than this, who knows how many childhood deaths now rest at his doorstep?

Alternative autism treatment , OSR#1, called into question by the FDA

The Chicago Tribune reports that a letter sent on June 17 by the FDA to retired Kentucky chemist Boyd Haley “details five violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act related to his product, OSR#1.”

According to the agency, the purported autism treatment “is NOT a harmless dietary supplement, as claimed, but a toxic unapproved drug that lacks adequate warnings about potential side effects, including hair loss and abnormalities of the pancreas.”

Environmental health expert Ellen Silbergeld believes the product “represents a clear example of endangerment of public health,” especially because it has “no record of any therapeutic aspect” and is being marketed to children.

An FDA spokeswoman confirmed that the agency had yet to receive any communication from Haley since the letter was sent.

Parents who are considering this untested and potentially unsafe therapy should carefully review any potential risks with their child’s physician before using it.

In autism a diet free of cereal grains and dairy products does not help

Autism (and the autism spectrum disorders) are so very frustrating for parents just because there are so few therapies that have been shown to be helpful. Therefore, parents are left to try this or that and see what helps. Dietary manipulation is one that is frequently tried and yet has not been well studied.

Now, USA Today reports that, according to a study presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, “a popular autism diet free of cereal grains and dairy products did NOT improve symptoms in children.”

USA Today adds, “Fourteen children with autism, ages 2½ to 5½, completed the 18-week study. None had celiac disease, in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from gluten, or milk allergies.”

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that a team from the University of Rochester Medical Center placed the 14 children “on strictly controlled gluten- and casein-free diets (called the GFCF diet).

After at least four weeks, the children were randomized to receive either milk, wheat, both or neither. The food substances were disguised in the child’s favorite foods, and neither the parents nor investigators rating the children’s behaviors knew whether they were receiving gluten or casein.”

On its website, ABC News reported that after evaluating “the children for changes in attention, sleep, stool patterns, and characteristic autistic behavior,” researchers found no “significant changes in any of these symptoms for any of the groups.”

Lead author Susan Hyman, MD, admitted, however, that “it was possible that children with significant gastrointestinal disease would reap some benefits from the diet.

As an aside, it is highly unlikely that such a diet is harmful, so it still may be worth a try. It’s just that parents need to be told that if they don’t notice any changes, it may be easier and more prudent to utilize an easier-to-make and easier-to-provide nutrition plan.

Low immunization rates linked to epidemic spread of whooping cough

Barb, my wife, reported to me that friends who are expecting a baby very soon, have informed those who may be visiting or caring for the baby, including grandparents, be immunized against whooping cough (pertussis). Barb asked me, “Is that reasonable?”

“Absolutely,” I replied. I believe it is the parents’ responsibility to provide a bubble of protection around their newborn. The hospital requires nurses and doctors who care for babies to have a variety of immunizations. And, it’s past time for parents to do the same (for themselves and care providers).

We doctors certainly do the same thing each flu season. Since babies cannot get the flu shot until they are 6 months old, the only protection they have is for their care givers to be immunized. The same with whooping cough.

Anyway, now we have another pertussis scare due to unimmunized children. The Los Angeles Times reports, “Public health officials say California’s lackluster immunization rates could be a factor in the epidemic spread of whooping cough.” Unfortunately, more than one small baby has died in this epidemic. The horrible thing is that these deaths were preventable.

At present, “California is one of only 11 states that does not require middle school students to receive a booster shot against whooping cough.”

As a result, “just 43.7% of California adolescents had the vaccine for whooping cough, known as Tdap, in 2008, according to the CDC.”

What’s more, the “state is the only one in the nation to report such a dramatic surge in pertussis.”

Notably, “efforts to require the whooping cough shot in adolescents have stalled in the California Legislature in recent years because of the budget crisis.”

Meanwhile, “public health officials” continue to “worry that some parents may decline vaccination because they believe that vaccines cause autism.”

Of course, readers of this blog understand that there is absolutely NO evidence of any association between any immunization and autism or autism spectrum disorders.

Should Kids take Fish Oil Supplements?

All the talk about the benefits of omega-3s has parents asking whether CHILDREN should take fish oil supplements. Omega-3s are important for neurodevelopment … and they’re now showing up in many prenatal vitamins, infant formulas, and foods. Fish oil supplements for kids are often promoted as improving visual acuity, brain function, or intelligence.

But, according to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, “there’s no proof that omega-3 supplements make kids ‘smarter’…or have any cognitive benefit in most kids.”

In fact, according to the NMCD, “… many of these claims will be removed … due to pressure from the feds.”

The NCMD recommends this to physicians and healthcare professionals who care for kids:

  • Tell parents that most kids don’t need fish oil supplements.
  • Instead, suggest that kids eat about 4 oz/week of fatty fish … such as canned light tuna, salmon burgers, etc. This provides about 250 mg/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
  • Supplements may be worth a try for kids who don’t get enough omega-3s from diet … especially those with behavioral or psychiatric disorders as preliminary evidence suggests fish oil MIGHT benefit kids with ADHD symptoms … autism … depression … or those at high risk for psychosis.
  • Reassure parents that most fish oil supplements don’t contain mercury or harmful levels of PCBs. To be safe, suggest a “USP Verified” or “ConsumerLab” product.
  • Tell parents NOT to use cod liver oil, as it has too much vitamin A.
  • Tell parents NOT to use flaxseed, as it doesn’t contain the same omega-3s as fish oil.

Court once again rejects theory that vaccines cause autism

A federal court has determined that the theory that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause autism is “scientifically unsupportable,” and that the families of children diagnosed with the condition are not entitled to compensation. Three special masters in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims determined that the three families represented in the suit didn’t prove a link between the vaccines and autism. The three released more than 600 pages of findings after reviewing these test cases.

Hopefully, this court ruling will put to rest the persisting delusion that some have that vaccines are associated with autism. Whether it’s the MMR vaccine or the vaccine preservative, thiomersol, there is no compelling reason to believe that either are causing the increasing numbers of kids with autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The New York Times reported, “In a further blow to the antivaccine movement, three judges ruled Friday in three separate cases that thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury, does not cause autism.”

The rulings “are the second step in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding begun in 2002 in the United States Court of Federal Claims,” which “combines the cases of 5,000 families with autistic children seeking compensation from the federal vaccine injury fund.”

The fund pays “families of children hurt by vaccines,” but it “has never accepted that vaccines cause autism.”

The Los Angeles Times reported, “The cases that three judges, called special masters, chose to rule on as test cases were considered among the strongest, so the outlook appears grim for others making the same claim.”

Special Master Denise K. Vowell wrote that “petitioners propose effects from mercury in [vaccines] that do not resemble mercury’s known effects in the brain, either behaviorally or at the cellular level.”

Although Special Master George Hastings was sympathetic with one of the families and believed they brought their claim in good faith, he found “the opinions provided by the petitioners’ experts in this case, advising the … family that there is a causal connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and Jordan’s autism, have been quite wrong.”

“The cases had been divided into three theories about a vaccine-autism relationship for the court to consider,” the AP reported. The court previously “rejected a theory that thimerasol can cause autism when combined with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine,” and “a theory that certain vaccines alone cause autism.”

Although, Friday’s “ruling doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the dispute … with appeals to other courts available,” hopefully this will allow physicians, researchers, parents, and child activists to work together to find the real cause(s) of autism, and quit chasing our tails over a theory that no longer holds water or credibility.

You can read some of my blogs on autism here:

Though unproven, 1 in 4 parents believes vaccines cause autism

The New York Times, in Vital Signs, reports that one in four parents “think some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, and nearly one in eight have refused at least one recommended vaccine,” according to a study published online March 1 in the journal Pediatrics.

The USA covered the story with this article:

Most parents continue to follow the advice of their children’s doctors, according to a study based on a survey of 1,552 parents. Extensive research has found no connection between autism and vaccines.

“Nine out of 10 parents believe that vaccination is a good way to prevent diseases for their children,” said lead author Dr. Gary Freed of the University of Michigan. “Luckily their concerns don’t outweigh their decision to get vaccines so their children can be protected from life-threatening illnesses.”

In 2008, unvaccinated school-age children contributed to measles outbreaks in California, Illinois, Washington, Arizona and New York, said Dr. Melinda Wharton of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirteen percent of the 140 who got sick that year were hospitalized.

“It’s fortunate that everybody recovered,” Wharton said, noting that measles can be deadly. “If we don’t vaccinate, these diseases will come back.”

Fear of a vaccine-autism connection stems from a flawed and speculative 1998 study that recently was retracted by a British medical journal. The retraction came after a council that regulates Britain’s doctors ruled the study’s author acted dishonestly and unethically.

The new study is based on a University of Michigan survey of parents a year ago, long before the retraction of the 1998 study. However, much has been written about research that has failed to find a link between vaccines and autism. Mainstream advocacy groups like Autism Speaks strongly encourage parents to vaccinate their children.

“Now that it’s been shown to be an outright fraud, maybe it will convince more parents that this should not be a concern,” said Freed, whose study appears in the April issue of Pediatrics, released Monday.

Some doctors are taking a tough stand, asking vaccine-refusing parents to find other doctors and calling such parents “selfish.”

A statement from a group practice near Philadelphia outlines its doctors’ adamant support for government recommended vaccines and their belief that “vaccines do not cause autism or other developmental disabilities.”

“Furthermore, by not vaccinating your child you are taking selfish advantage of thousands of other who do vaccinate their children … We feel such an attitude to be self-centered and unacceptable,” the statement says, urging those who “absolutely refuse” vaccines to find another physician.

“We call it the manifesto,” said Dr. Bradley Dyer of All Star Pediatrics in Lionville, Pa.

Dozens of doctors have asked to distribute the statement, Dyer said, and only a handful of parents have taken their children elsewhere.

“Parents have said, ‘Thank you for saying that. We feel much better about it,'” Dyer said.

The new study is based on an online survey of parents with children 17 and younger. It used a sample from a randomly selected pool of nationally representative participants. Households were given Internet access if they didn’t already have it to make sure families of all incomes were included. Vaccines weren’t mentioned in the survey invitation and vaccine questions were among others on unrelated topics.

Twenty-five% of the parents said they agreed “some vaccines cause autism in healthy children.” Among mothers, 29% agreed with that statement; among fathers, it was 17%.

Nearly 12% of the parents said they’d refused a vaccine for their children that a doctor recommended. Of those, 56% said they’d refused the relatively new vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. Others refused vaccines against meningococcal disease (32%), chickenpox (32%) and measles-mumps-rubella (18%).

Parents who refused the HPV vaccine, recommended for girls since 2006, cited various reasons.

Parents who refused the MMR vaccine, the shot most feared for its spurious autism link, said they’d read or heard about problems with it or felt its risks were too great.

The findings will help doctors craft better ways to talk with parents, said Dr. Gary S. Marshall of the University of Louisville School of Medicine and author of a vaccine handbook for doctors.

“For our children’s sake, we have to think like scientists,” said Marshall, who was not involved in the new study. “We need to do a better job presenting the data so parents understand how scientists have reached this conclusion that vaccines don’t cause autism.”

U.S. study clears measles vaccine of autism link
Does the MMR vaccine cause autism? A redux
Special court rules against families who claim vaccines caused autism
Vaccine Myth #1: Vaccines Cause Autism
You can read some of my blogs on autism here:

Parents Often Miss Subtle Autism Signs

Action Points
Explain to interested parents that autism may progress more slowly and subtly than previously thought.
Note that parents often miss regressive symptoms of autism in their children.
The symptoms of autism tend to emerge in children after six months of age, with a loss of social and communications skills that is more common and more subtle than previously thought, according to a new study that questions previous assumptions about the progression of the condition.
At six months, children with autism spectrum disorder demonstrated behavior similar to other children, gazing at faces, sharing smiles, and vocalizing with similar frequency, researchers reported online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
However, autistic children displayed fewer of these behaviors as as they got older, and from six months to 18 months the loss of social communication and skills typically became clear.
While doctors typically caught early signs of autism, the declines were more subtle than previously suggested and most parents (83%) did not report regression in the social behaviors and skills.
“These findings lead us to two major conclusions,” Sally Ozonoff, PhD, of University of California Davis Health System in Sacramento, and colleagues wrote.
“First, the behavioral symptoms of autism spectrum disorder appear to emerge over time, beginning in the second half of the first year of life and continuing to develop for several years.
“Second, our most widely used and recommended practice for gathering information about symptom onset, parent-provided developmental history, does not provide a valid assessment of the slow decline in social communication that can be observed prospectively.”
Autism is thought to emerge in two ways: an early onset pattern and a regressive pattern.
A majority of autistic children are thought to experience the early onset pattern, showing clear signs of the disease in the second year of life but in some cases showing signs before the first birthday.
Those with the regressive pattern are thought to develop normally for the first year of life, then begin losing communications and social skills.
However, most previous studies have been retrospective in design, and some children don’t appear to fit either of the typical patterns, bringing into question the validity of this two-pronged model of onset.
More recently, a third category has been suggested, in which children develop normally and then seem to hit a developmental plateau, but not regress.
In an accompanying editorial, Tony Charman, PhD, of the Institute of Education in London, wrote that the design of the new study heralds a new wave of descriptive developmental studies of autism, or features of autism, in infants and toddlers.
“Previously, the only source of information we had about infancy and toddlerhood of children with autism was retrospective reports from parents at the age of diagnosis (often years after the onset),” he wrote.
“Parental report of early history and development still is an important component of the autism diagnostic evaluation. However, the retrospective parental informant biases, particularly through the lens of autism, might lead both to over- and underestimation of atypical features.”
Ozonoff and colleagues conducted a long-term prospective study that compared 25 high-risk infants later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder with 25 gender-matched, low-risk children later determined to have typical development.
The children were recruited for the study at University of California Davis and University of California Los Angeles. The high-risk children were identified based on having a sibling who had already developed autism.
The children were evaluated at 6, 12, 18, 24 and 36 months of age for frequencies of gaze to faces, social smiles, and directed vocalizations, which were were coded from video and rated by examiners.
“The results of the current prospective study suggest that the traditionally defined categories of early onset and regressive autism do not portray accurately how symptoms emerge, nor does the newer-onset category involving a developmental plateau,” the authors wrote.
They found that specific social communicative behaviors clearly decreased, rather than failing to progress, as previously thought, with losses especially dramatic between 6 and 18 months.
They concluded that this suggests onset of autism spectrum disorder, marked by loss of social communication behaviors, occurs much more often than has been recognized using parent report methods.
However, rather than the rapid and marked losses typically reported, they saw relatively subtle and gradual declines, which were often preceded by earlier parental concerns and often followed by failures to progress in other areas.
“We urge professionals to refer to intervention any infant or toddler who displays a sustained reduction in social responsivity over time,” they wrote.
“Given the gradual course of symptom emergence and the paucity of diagnostic tools for infants and toddlers with suspected autism, the diagnostic process can be quite protracted and intervention may be needlessly delayed.”

The symptoms of autism tend to emerge in children after six months of age, with a loss of social and communications skills. However, according to a new study, these changes may be both more common and more subtle than previously thought. Here are the details from an article in MedPage Today:

At six months, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrated behavior similar to other children, gazing at faces, sharing smiles, and vocalizing with similar frequency, researchers reported online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

However, autistic children displayed fewer of these behaviors as as they got older, and from six months to 18 months the loss of social communication and skills typically became clear.

While doctors typically caught early signs of autism, the declines were more subtle than previously suggested and most parents (83%) did not report regression in the social behaviors and skills.

These findings have lead the researchers to two major conclusions:

  • First, the behavioral symptoms of autism spectrum disorder appear to emerge over time, beginning in the second half of the first year of life and continuing to develop for several years.
  • Second, our most widely used and recommended practice for gathering information about symptom onset, parent-provided developmental history, does not provide a valid assessment of the slow decline in social communication that can be observed prospectively.

The bottom line is this: autism may progress more slowly and subtly than previously thought and parents often miss regressive symptoms of autism in their children.

MedPate Today explains:

Autism is thought to emerge in two ways: an early onset pattern and a regressive pattern.

A majority of autistic children are thought to experience the early onset pattern, showing clear signs of the disease in the second year of life but in some cases showing signs before the first birthday.

Those with the regressive pattern are thought to develop normally for the first year of life, then begin losing communications and social skills.

However, most previous studies have been retrospective in design, and some children don’t appear to fit either of the typical patterns, bringing into question the validity of this two-pronged model of onset.

More recently, a third category has been suggested, in which children develop normally and then seem to hit a developmental plateau, but not regress.

What does this mean for doctors and parents? First of all, early diagnosis of autism and ASD is incredibly beneficial. Simply put, it leads to early treatment which is enormously helpful to the child and the family.

Therefore, more than ever, parents and physicians who care for young children will have to carefully address developmental and social milestones in each child at each visit. If there are ANY concerns in the eyes of the parent or the physician, a careful evaluation (a second opinion) by a specialist in child behavior and development would be indicated. And, the earlier, the better.

You can read some of my blogs on autism here:

Lancet formally retracts paper linking vaccine to autism

U.S. study clears measles vaccine of autism link

One of the world’s most respected medical journals, The Lancet, is formally retracting an article that sparked a fierce debate and falsely linked autism to vaccines.

The 1998 study linked the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) to autism which led to a drop in vaccinations and a jump in measles cases around the world. In the meantime, at least 25 studies have found no link between the vaccine and autism.

The move “is part of a reassessment that has lasted for years of the scientific methods and financial conflicts of Dr. Andrew Wakefield,” whose “research showed that the … vaccine may be unsafe,” the New York Times reports.

Last week, the Times reports, “a British medical panel concluded … that Dr. Wakefield has been dishonest, violated basic research ethics rules, and showed a ‘callous disregard’ for the suffering of children involved in his research.”

A spokesman for the CDC said the retraction “builds on the overwhelming body of research … that concludes there is no link between MMR vaccine and autism.”

The Washington Post reports, “The Lancet said that after the” panel’s “ruling, it was clear that parts of Wakefield’s paper were wrong.”

The journal “highlighted, for example, assertions that investigations of children for the study were ‘approved’ by the local ethics committee.”

Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet, said the journal was especially concerned that Wakefield’s study specifically chose certain children to participate rather than testing those who arrived at the hospital as described in the study, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The AP reports, “The retraction … comes a day after a competing medical journal, BMJ, issued an embargoed commentary calling for The Lancet to formally retract the study.”

The BMJ “said once the study” was published, “the arguments were considered by many to be proven and the ghastly social drama of the demon vaccine took on a life of its own.”

“Despite multiple subsequent studies that have refuted the link, vaccination rates have remained lower than they were before” Wakefield’s study, the Los Angeles Times reported.

BMJ editor Dr. Fiona Goodless said the retraction “will help restore faith in” the vaccine “and in the integrity of the scientific literature.”

You can read my other blogs on the topic:

The argument should be over. This final action effectively puts the nail in the coffin to the now disproven theory that the MMR vaccine is associated with or causes autism. Period.

Now, all of who care for and love children should redouble our efforts to find the cause(s) of autism, and abandon the discredited notions that vaccines have a thing to do with this terrible group of disorders.

Chelation therapy for autism not only potentially harmful, it’s based on faulty premise

No treatment is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation. The influential autism recovery group, Defeat Autism Now, calls removing metals from the body “one of the most beneficial treatments for autism and related disorders.” Chelation is one of the highest-rated treatments on the parent survey of the nonprofit Autism Research Institute, the parent organization of Defeat Autism Now.
Parents trade stories and advice about chelation on large Internet groups. One Yahoo group has more than 8,000 members. The treatment takes many forms, including creams for the skin, capsules, suppositories and intravenous infusions of powerful medicines usually reserved for people with severe metal poisoning.
Families often embark on this course after seeing test results that make children with autism look like they spend their days playing in smelting plants.
A boy named Jordan King was chelated after his lab reports showed apparently high levels of mercury and tin, according to testimony at a special vaccine court formed by the government to address claims from people who think vaccines caused them harm.
It was “shocking” to see tin turn up, testified Dr. Robert Rust, a chaired professor of neurology at University of Virginia. “It’s seen almost exclusively in people who spend their careers for long periods of time working with tin,” he said.
In fact, Jordan’s troubling results were based on a lab test that is common in the world of alternative autism treatments and is practically guaranteed to give incredible results.
A child is given a chelating drug that provokes the body to excrete some of the metals that nearly everybody — healthy or not — has in the body in trace amounts. Those metals are excreted in urine, which is sent to a lab offering these tests.
Nobody knows what normal results of this test would look like, toxicologists say. But the lab sends back charts that show alarming peaks of metals graphed against a reference range that was calculated for people who had never been given a chelator.
“That is exactly the wrong way to do it,” said Dr. Carl R. Baum, director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Toxicology at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.
With Jordan and another child whose case was examined in vaccine court, “there was absolutely no reason to chelate them for any mercury-related reason,” testified Dr. Jeffrey Brent of the University of Colorado, Denver, former president of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology.
Alarmed by the rise in the use of this test to justify chelation, the American College of Medical Toxicology this summer criticized its use as “fraught with many misunderstandings, pitfalls and risks.”
Toxicologist William Shaw, lab director of the Great Plains Laboratory in Lenexa, Kan., and Jane Johnson, executive director of Defeat Autism Now, said the labs are identifying real problems and they have seen children benefit from chelation.
“Our only bedrock here is the observation by clinicians and parents that their children get better when they are given agents which are known to remove heavy metals from the body,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail.
But such anecdotal evidence is “at best good for generating hypotheses,” Baum said. “Where’s their control group? Their randomized controlled trial?”
Chelation’s popularity as a treatment for autism is driven by the unproved idea that the disorder is tied to accumulation of heavy metals in the body. Mercury, once common in vaccines as part of a preservative called thimerosal, is often pegged as the culprit.
Yet the federally chartered Institute of Medicine reported in 2004 that a review of dozens of studies had failed to show a link between vaccines, thimerosal and autism. Subsequent studies also found no connection. After thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines except for some flu shots, autism diagnoses continued to rise.
Last spring, after hearing hundreds of hours of testimony, three “special masters” presiding over vaccine court ruled conclusively that they found the argument that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and thimerosal cause autism unpersuasive.
Even when tests show normal or low levels of metals, doctors who support chelation as an autism therapy sometimes take the results as proof that the child is poisoned. They hypothesize that the child cannot excrete metals, which is why they do not show up in tests.
Colten Snyder, another child whose case was evaluated in vaccine court, underwent chelation after tests on his blood and hair over six years came back normal for mercury, court records state.
Given that the boy was immunized with vaccines containing thimerosal, “his hair mercury was exceptionally low,” said his physician, Dr. J. Jeff Bradstreet of Florida. “That’s pathological.”
Colten went “berserk” after being given a chelator, according to a nurse whose notes were cited in court records. He also had incontinence, night sweats, headaches and back pain. Bradstreet testified that the boy did not do well with chelation but later said it is “impossible to know” what caused the problems.
In her decision, special master Denise Vowell criticized Bradstreet: “The more disturbing question is why chelation was performed at all, in view of the normal levels of mercury found in the hair, blood and urine, its apparent lack of efficacy in treating Colten’s symptoms and the adverse side effects it apparently caused.”
Pediatric toxicology experts say that all chelation drugs carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children. Treatment with the medication is carefully monitored, as some drugs can dangerously deplete the body of essential metals, toxicologists said.
When rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation, said the study’s lead researcher, Barbara Strupp at Cornell University.
She said that finding raises concerns about administering chelators to children with autism unless they clearly have elevated levels of heavy metals. “I was just astounded and concerned for these kids,” she said.
After she learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings. The study was later canceled.
“Really,” Baum said, “[parents] are putting their children at serious risk.”

The LA Times has an excellent investigative journalism series on alternative therapies for autism that I’ve blogged about. You can read that blog here.

But, of all of the alternative treatments for autism, none is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation.

Here are excerpts from the LA Times report. You can read the entire report here:

The influential autism recovery group, Defeat Autism Now, calls removing metals from the body “one of the most beneficial treatments for autism and related disorders.”

Chelation is one of the highest-rated treatments on the parent survey of the nonprofit Autism Research Institute, the parent organization of Defeat Autism Now.

Parents trade stories and advice about chelation on large Internet groups. One Yahoo group has more than 8,000 members.

The treatment takes many forms, including creams for the skin, capsules, suppositories and intravenous infusions of powerful medicines usually reserved for people with severe metal poisoning.

Families often embark on this course after seeing test results that make children with autism look like they spend their days playing in smelting plants.

A boy named Jordan King was chelated after his lab reports showed apparently high levels of mercury and tin, according to testimony at a special vaccine court formed by the government to address claims from people who think vaccines caused them harm.

It was “shocking” to see tin turn up, testified Dr. Robert Rust, a chaired professor of neurology at University of Virginia. “It’s seen almost exclusively in people who spend their careers for long periods of time working with tin,” he said.

In fact, Jordan’s troubling results were based on a lab test that is common in the world of alternative autism treatments and is practically guaranteed to give incredible results.

A child is given a chelating drug that provokes the body to excrete some of the metals that nearly everybody — healthy or not — has in the body in trace amounts. Those metals are excreted in urine, which is sent to a lab offering these tests.

Nobody knows what normal results of this test would look like, toxicologists say. But the lab sends back charts that show alarming peaks of metals graphed against a reference range that was calculated for people who had never been given a chelator.

“That is exactly the wrong way to do it,” said Dr. Carl R. Baum, director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Toxicology at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.

With Jordan and another child whose case was examined in vaccine court, “there was absolutely no reason to chelate them for any mercury-related reason,” testified Dr. Jeffrey Brent of the University of Colorado, Denver, former president of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology.

Alarmed by the rise in the use of this test to justify chelation, the American College of Medical Toxicology this summer criticized its use as “fraught with many misunderstandings, pitfalls and risks.”

Toxicologist William Shaw, lab director of the Great Plains Laboratory in Lenexa, Kan., and Jane Johnson, executive director of Defeat Autism Now, said the labs are identifying real problems and they have seen children benefit from chelation.

“Our only bedrock here is the observation by clinicians and parents that their children get better when they are given agents which are known to remove heavy metals from the body,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail.

But such anecdotal evidence is “at best good for generating hypotheses,” Baum said. “Where’s their control group? Their randomized controlled trial?”

Chelation’s popularity as a treatment for autism is driven by the unproved idea that the disorder is tied to accumulation of heavy metals in the body. Mercury, once common in vaccines as part of a preservative called thimerosal, is often pegged as the culprit.

Yet the federally chartered Institute of Medicine reported in 2004 that a review of dozens of studies had failed to show a link between vaccines, thimerosal and autism. Subsequent studies also found no connection. After thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines except for some flu shots, autism diagnoses continued to rise.

Last spring, after hearing hundreds of hours of testimony, three “special masters” presiding over vaccine court ruled conclusively that they found the argument that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and thimerosal cause autism unpersuasive.

Even when tests show normal or low levels of metals, doctors who support chelation as an autism therapy sometimes take the results as proof that the child is poisoned. They hypothesize that the child cannot excrete metals, which is why they do not show up in tests.

Colten Snyder, another child whose case was evaluated in vaccine court, underwent chelation after tests on his blood and hair over six years came back normal for mercury, court records state.

Given that the boy was immunized with vaccines containing thimerosal, “his hair mercury was exceptionally low,” said his physician, Dr. J. Jeff Bradstreet of Florida. “That’s pathological.”

Colten went “berserk” after being given a chelator, according to a nurse whose notes were cited in court records. He also had incontinence, night sweats, headaches and back pain. Bradstreet testified that the boy did not do well with chelation but later said it is “impossible to know” what caused the problems.

In her decision, special master Denise Vowell criticized Bradstreet: “The more disturbing question is why chelation was performed at all, in view of the normal levels of mercury found in the hair, blood and urine, its apparent lack of efficacy in treating Colten’s symptoms and the adverse side effects it apparently caused.”

Pediatric toxicology experts say that all chelation drugs carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children. Treatment with the medication is carefully monitored, as some drugs can dangerously deplete the body of essential metals, toxicologists said.

When rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation, said the study’s lead researcher, Barbara Strupp at Cornell University.

She said that finding raises concerns about administering chelators to children with autism unless they clearly have elevated levels of heavy metals. “I was just astounded and concerned for these kids,” she said.

After she learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings. The study was later canceled.

“Really,” Baum said, “[parents] are putting their children at serious risk.”

You can read more about evaluating alternative therapies and natural medicines, in general, and about chelation, in specific, in my book Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook:

  • You can order an autographed copy here.
  • You can read the Table of Contents here, and
  • You can read a sample chapter here.

Many autism therapies are unproven and risky

In a gripping series exploring autism and its treatments, the Los Angeles Times reports that “after reviewing thousands of pages of court documents and scientific studies and interviewing top researchers in the field, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that many of these treatments amount to uncontrolled experiments on vulnerable children.”

According to results of the investigation, “the therapies often go beyond harmless New Age folly,” with many being “unproven and risky, based on flawed, preliminary or misconstrued scientific research.”

Moreover, “lab tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted,” and “the few clinical trials conducted to evaluate the treatments objectively” have yielded “disappointing results.”

The  Times reports that “up to three-quarters of families with children who have autism try at least some alternative therapies.”

While some physicians and people in the autism “recovery movement … say their treatment protocols rest on a foundation of solid science,” the Tribune discovered “otherwise after speaking with dozens of scientists and physicians and reviewing thousands of pages of research and court testimony.”

Chelation seen as emblematic of alternative therapies for autism

The Los Angeles Times is also reporting, “No treatment is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation.”

But, according to “pediatric toxicology experts … all chelation” medications “carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children.”

Barbara Strupp, PhD, of Cornell University, said that when “rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation.”

In fact, after Strupp “learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings,” and the “study was later canceled.”

Alternative therapies seen as getting undeserved credit

In their final report on the topic, the Los Angeles Times reports that stories of “children who could suddenly speak” are, “for many parents … more persuasive than what experts say.”

Nevertheless, “in evaluating a therapy, the challenge is determining how much, if any, of the progress can be credited to the treatment,” because, “over time, children with autism do develop, said” pediatric neurologist and autism expert Max Wiznitzer, MD.”

In fact, “between 10% and 20% of children with autism who were diagnosed early may make so much progress that they are indistinguishable from peers,” and whether or not they are “undergoing alternative therapies,” said Susan Levy, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, progress which parents may attribute to alternative therapies.

You can read more about evaluating alternative therapies and natural medicines in my book Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook.

  • You can order an autographed copy here.
  • You can read the Table of Contents here, and
  • You can read a sample chapter here.

In a series exploring autism and its treatments, the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-autism-main7-2009dec07,0,5807576.story) reports that “after reviewing thousands of pages of court documents and scientific studies and interviewing top researchers in the field, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that many of these treatments amount to uncontrolled experiments on vulnerable children.” According to results of the investigation, “the therapies often go beyond harmless New Age folly,” with many being “unproven and risky, based on flawed, preliminary or misconstrued scientific research.” Moreover, “lab tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted,” and “the few clinical trials conducted to evaluate the treatments objectively” have yielded “disappointing results.”
The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-hew-autism-day-two7-2009dec07,0,4327817.story) reports that “up to three-quarters of families with children who have autism try at least some alternative therapies.” While some physicians and people in the autism “recovery movement…say their treatment protocols rest on a foundation of solid science,” the Tribune discovered “otherwise after speaking with dozens of scientists and physicians and reviewing thousands of pages of research and court testimony.”
Chelation seen as emblematic of alternative therapies for autism. The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-autism-chelation7-2009dec07,0,3198790.story) reports, “No treatment is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation.” But, according to “pediatric toxicology experts…all chelation” medications “carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children.” Barbara Strupp, PhD, of Cornell University, said that when “rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation.” In fact, after Strupp “learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings,” and the “study was later canceled.”
Alternative therapies seen as getting undeserved credit. The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-autism-parents7-2009dec07,0,7076900.story) reports that stories of “children who could suddenly speak” are, “for many parents…more persuasive than what experts say.” Nevertheless, “in evaluating a therapy, the challenge is determining how much, if any, of the progress can be credited to the treatment,” because, “over time, children with autism do develop, said” pediatric neurologist and autism expert Max Wiznitzer, MD.” In fact, “between 10% and 20% of children with autism who were diagnosed early may make so much progress that they are indistinguishable from peers,” and whether or not they are “undergoing alternative therapies,” said Susan Levy, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, progress which parents may attribute to alternative therap

Reader wants more proof on vaccine safety

A reader recently wrote: Hi Dr Walt I am having trouble finding a peer review or non drug company funded study proving that vaccines work out of the 2,427 (studies) you link to. Can you please identify one good one of these studies that proves they work for all the readers to read. Thanks.

More Information: Continue reading

Supposed ‘miracle drug’ for autism called ‘junk’

Desperate to help their autistic children, hundreds of parents nationwide are turning to an unproven and potentially damaging treatment: multiple high doses of a drug sometimes used to chemically castrate sex offenders. Believe it or not.

More information: Continue reading

More on the Risks of Not Vaccinating Your Children

A past blog, that has been very popular, was on the topic of the Risks of Not Vaccinating Your Children (Friday, 6 February 2009). In response to that blog, Kelly wrote, “Hello, I was just wondering if you could answer a question for me. I run a day care out of my home. I was recently inquired about watching a girl who is 2 and has never been vaccinated or seen a doctor. I was wondering if this was any risk to myself or the other children in my day care? Thank you for your time.” I thought you might be interested in my response to her.

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Special court rules against families who claim vaccines caused autism

According to an AP report today, a special court has ruled rather dramatically against three sets of parents with autistic children, saying that vaccines are absolutely not to blame for their children’s neurological disorder (autism). The judges in the cases said the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary to the parent’s claims — and their ruling backs years of science and mountains of evidence from around the world that found no risk for either the MMR vaccine or the vaccine preservative, thimerosal, having any role in autism or ASD.

More Information: Continue reading

Doctor Is Rallying Resistance to the Antivaccine Crazies

A new book defending vaccines, written by a doctor infuriated at the claim that they cause autism, is galvanizing a backlash against the antivaccine movement in the United States. But, according to the New York Times, there will be no book tour for the doctor, Paul A. Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets. He has had too many death threats.

More Information: Continue reading

Vaccines: Separating fact from fiction

When it comes to the arguments about the safety of vaccines, what’s a worried mom to do? Between the scary claims about shots themselves and the scary news about what can happen without them, you might feel like you need a Ph.D. in immunology, toxicology, and biostatistics to make sense of it all. Never fear, Dr. Walt is here. The bottom line: No medical intervention is 100 percent risk-free, and no one but you can choose what’s right for your child. My job is to help that decision come a little easier, so here goes:

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Fringe Autism Treatment Could Get Federal Study

The Associated Press is reporting that the NIH is being pressured by desperate parents who are pushing them to test an unproven treatment on autistic children, a move some scientists see as an unethical experiment in voodoo medicine. The treatment removes heavy metals from the body and is based on the fringe theory that mercury in vaccines triggers autism — a theory never proved and rejected by mainstream science. Mercury hasn’t been in childhood vaccines since 2001, except for certain flu shots.

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