"I wonder whether autistic enterocolitis isn’t a kind of SSPE with a weakened (vaccine) virus," Kathy Blanco wrote in an e-mail this week, with a link to a blog post HERE that reports: "Hidden government documents have revealed that leading professionals have had serious concerns about the safety of the single measles vaccines for many years. Secret government documents that have been under lock and key for thirty years have revealed that the UK government has known for many years that the single measles vaccine can cause the debilitating neurological disorder SSPE or Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis."
Whether "autism" is in effect a variant form of SSPE is well worth wondering.
SSPE, as many of you will know, is a rare outcome of wild measles virus infection that is debilitating and usually fatal and can come on well after the original infection. It's often cited as a reason the measles and MMR vaccinations are worthwhile public health interventions -- yes, for most kids measles is unpleasant, but for some it can be far worse. It is neurotoxic and lethal.
So the idea that the measles vaccine, a live virus, could also trigger SSPE or a variant is certainly biologically plausible, secret documents or not. If that's the case, mixing measles with mumps and rubella live viruses to create the MMR only makes matters worse because of immune interference (see Wakefield, Andy). So does adding a chickenpox shot on the same day, or cooking up the MMRV, with seven times the amount of chickenpox virus added to the already immunity-compromising MMR.
Blanco also notes: "An imbalance of TH1/TH2 system seems to be the prerequisite for both CNS diseases [SSPE and autism]. Possible causes for an imbalance are mercury (thimerosal) and vaccinations during the first months of life." And he includes this abstract from one of Wakefield's follow-up studies to the 1998 Lancet paper linking bowel disease and regressive autism (it's easy to forget -- because the medical establishment is trying to expunge the record -- that many follow-up studies by Andy and others have strongly added to the evidence)
The official concerns about the measles vaccine and SSPE Blanco cites go back to the early 1970s. But from the very earliest autism reports, there's been evidence that some kids were neurologically vulnerable to live virus vaccines -- perhaps because, as Blanco notes, they've been immunologically "set up" by early or simultaneous exposures to such toxins as mercury. In our book, The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic, Mark Blaxill and I wrote about the intriguing chronology of one of the original case histories presented by Leo Kanner in his 1943 landmark, "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact."
Kanner believed all 11 children had been autistic from birth, but we suspect he overlooked some clues to regression in Case 3, the child known as "Richard M." As I wrote in an earlier post, "At about age one, Richard got a smallpox shot that was followed by a fever and illness that lasted a week, and later his mother told Kanner she recalled him losing skills he had started to develop. If you carefully track the chronology contained within that case study, you realize this regression started about the time of the smallpox shot and subsequent reaction."
Interestingly, Richard's father was a forestry professor, and in our book we trace his proximity to toxic lumber preservatives, including Lignasan, a newly developed ethyl mercury compound. At the time of Richard's birth, the family lived in North Carolina, which was one of the earliest to require the ethyl mercury-containing (in the form of thimerosal) diphtheria shot at age one.
Now, the smallpox vaccine had been around for quite a while by then, but we don't think autism had been. It arose only after 1930, after the invention of those ethyl mercury compounds. So it wasn't just the smallpox shot that triggered Richard M.'s regression in this scenario, it was also the toxin that set him up for an atypical illness and reaction -- the same point Blanco is making. As we wrote in our book:
“Whenever germs are discovered to be an essential part of the disease process, we typically attribute causation solely to the germ. We generally accept that the measles virus ‘causes’ SSPE and the poliovirus ‘causes’ paralysis even though we don’t know why the condition turns pathogenic in some cases and not others. By contrast, in the case of conditions where environmental exposure is identified as a cause of a disease, instead of linking the exposure with the disease, the most frequent response is to remove the disease label from the case.”
Actually, since we wrote that, we've published a good deal on the biological mechanism by which we believe the usually benign polio virus triggers paralytic poliomyelitis in a small percentage of cases. Our theory is that poliomyelitis epidemics began and spread with the rise of industrial age pesticides -- namely lead arsenate starting the late 1800s, and DDT post-World War II. The toxins gave the virus entry into the nervous system and ultimately the anterior horn cells of the spinal column, where they can cause paralysis and death.
A strong clue to that, we believe, is the pattern of the first outbreaks in the United States in the late 1890s: largely rural area with intensive commercial farming, such as the San Joaquin and Napa valleys in California, apple orchards in Wisconsin, and blueberry-growing areas around Cherryfield, Maine. HERE
But is there anything that might suggest SSPE, like polio, could be a product of a co-factor interacting with the measles virus (or vaccine)? Well, here's something Mark and I came across: "Further Epidemiological Studies of Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis," by Detels et al., from The Lancet of July 7, 1973 (right around the same time the Brits were noticing SSPE could be an outcome of measles vaccination, as it happens).
This case-control study in various areas of the United States found that among 43 SSPE patients who had clinical measles, the median age at original infection was 15 months, whereas among controls who didn't have SSPE, the median age was 43 months. That matches exactly what Wakefield et al. were saying in that study Blanco sites -- "it seems inevitable that a ubiquitous viral exposure of all 15-month-old children could induce" an aberrant immune response. He was talking about the MMR, of course, which was originally given at 15 months but has since been moved forward to 12 months. But clearly, the risk of neurological problems from measles increases when the infection occurs earlier.
Also interesting is the Detels comment that "in light of previous reports of a preponderance of SSPE cases in rural males, the interview included questions concerning animal exposures." The Detels study did find the same rural tilt: "An extensive search for urban patients yielded 5 cases [in other words, not very many]. 3 were from New York, and all were Puerto Rican who had lived most of their lives in rural areas. 2 were from Chicago, but their actual residences were in wooded suburban areas. There were no cases with lifelong residence in inner cities, nor among urban Blacks, although 3 cases among Blacks mor rural areas were encountered. Patients had more frequent exposure to birds and to possible canine distemper."
This caused the authors to conclude that SSPE involves an unusual persistent measles infection in the patient's tissues "and that a second factor most frequently affecting rural males precipitates the clinical expression of SSPE."
They automatically turn toward other viral co-factors as a possibility, because these guys are virus hunters. But their observation -- SSPE as a largely rural phenomenon, strikingly absent in central urban areas -- also could point to toxic co-factors, such as pesticides. That's what we believe the rural character of the early poliomyelitis epidemics is pointing to. (The father of another of Kanner's early cases was a plant pathologist who spent most of his career in Puerto Rico, which shows the degree to which commercial agriculture, including chemically intensive coffee growing, occurs on that island.)
There is one viral co-factor in SSPE that seems quite clear: "Additional evidence that unusual circumstances accompany the measles infection was the significant excess of chickenpox associated with measles in SSPE patients. While this occurred in only 6 instances it is of note because of the relatively early age of clinical measles in patients versus controls, decreasing the likelihood of this sequence."
So atypically catching measles and chickenpox about the same time at 15 months is a big fat risk factor for setting up a persistent measles infection that results in a neurological catastrophe. If I were in charge of the U.S. vaccination schedule, I would have a bit of a breakdown over that fact.
Giving the MMR live virus shot at age 12 months; giving the MMR and chickenpox live virus shots on the same day at age 12 months; amping by a factor of seven the amount of chickenpox virus in the combined MMRV shot and giving it at 12 months; putting toxic metals like mercury and aluminum in shots administered at 12 months or earlier to infants or in utero; using pesticides that studies suggest contribute to autism and ADHD, and in earlier formulations triggered poliomyelitis epidemics -- these all seem like not the best ideas if you were trying to cut down on neurological and developmental risks to infants.
Or, for that matter, if you had a lick of common sense.
LANCE VS LANCET: If the anti-doping agency treated all the first-hand accounts of Lance Armstrong doping with the same scorn mainstream medical "experts" treat parental reports of autistic regression after vaccination, he'd still be champion of the world.
THE MNEW YORKER: Seth Mnookin, whose only appearance in Vanity Fair in living memory is his largely honorific listing as Contributing Editor in the masthead, has kept himself busy, this week at least, with a blog post for The New Yorker, another of Sy Newhouse’s properties (GQ, also in Sy’s stable, pubbed his Derek Jeter profile last year, but Vanity Fair, his home team, seems to have no room for him in the lineup). This arrangement, odd as it is, might turn out to be beneficial for both – Mnookin gets a place to publish, and The New Yorker gets to replenish its supply of smart-sounding Pop Neuroscience know-nothings, a category it has done so much to define.
The magazine is one down in that department after the recent public sacrifice of Jonah Lehrer, whose self-plagiarizing (not a big deal) and tarted-up quotes (a much bigger one) got him bounced (the fact that he was insipid and ill-informed never seemed to cause any harm to his standing, obviously because his editors really didn’t understand his writing, either). That left Malcolm “Tipping Point” Gladwell and Michael “Denialism” Specter to hold down the fort as far as glib parroting of health industry party lines is concerned. (See “How Malcolm Gladwell shilled for the health care industry … and got away with it,” on AlterNet; also see “Seth Mnookin and the Error Virus,” and “Michael Specter Plagiarizes Paul Offit and Massacres Facts in ‘Denialism,’” both by me on Age of Autism, followed by “My Mistake and an Apology to Paul Offit,” by Specter, on his Web site.)
Specter passed his Offit-copying off to “carelessness,” which it manifestly was (frankly, I think I might rather plagiarize on purpose than be that sloppy). Mnookin, who is nothing if not careless, has gone after poor, cowering, washed up, finished, kaput Jonah Lehrer at length as a “charlatan,” though he has not yet taken down Lehrer’s blurb for his own book on Amazon. (“This important book should be read by anyone who has a child, cares about public health, or is interested in the state of discourse in 21st-century America. It is a terrific and terrifying call to action.” – Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, on The Panic Virus.)
Mnookin’s New Yorker blog this week was, like his book, about his favorite topic – how vaccines don’t cause autism (also Specter’s derisive view), and how a new study on older dads’ genes proves it. In that arch, plummy New Yorker voice, he begins the article, titled “Gene Blues”: “Autism, as anyone who has ever written about the topic can attest, is a subject that provokes strong reactions. …”
Yes, you can hardly get a word out edgewise before those hysterical autism parents and their enablers (like me) descend like a pack of yipping dogs to tear apart established orthodox approved New Yorker-grade Science that vaccines can’t, don’t, would never, could never, will never cause autism.
The article ends with Mnookin quoting the study’s principal author, Kari Stefansson, in what must have been a richly satisfying conclusion:
“Autism is fairly heritable,” [Stefannson] says—which means that inherited mutations must make a “significant contribution.” … Stefansson says, “we have the disease pretty well covered. So this is still another set of observations that indicate that this idea of toxic substances in the form of vaccines has no legs to stand on.”
“Fairly heritable”? Incoherent (and incorrect). “We have the disease pretty well covered”? Please. "Toxic substances" aren’t autism triggers? Shirley, you jest.
The post links to Specter’s work, and to another New Yorker writer called Amy Davidson, whose blog on the same older-fathers study asserts, “vaccines simply do not cause autism.”
In his Vanity Fair bio (which needs to be updated – no mention of Panic Virus), his credits include having written for The New Yorker. But except for this piece, you’ve got to back to 2003 for a Talk of the Town story by Mnookin, about “the microphone used in Al Green’s recording sessions…”, preceded by another Talk story a year earlier “about the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players.”
This was during Mnookin’s days as a music critic, before, like Gatsby, he recreated himself in his own Platonic conception as an expert on the most devastating childhood disorder now besetting the country.
Here’s the problem with Lehrer and Mnookin and Gladwell and Davidson and their ilk, beyond their several separate issues: They’re callow. They don’t know what they’re talking about it. Autism -- and its implications -- is the most important domestic issue of our lives, and they're getting it utterly, completely, indelibly wrong.
Here's my letter to the editor: Dear David Remnick, I hear you care about autism. Please do something before these guys drag you all the way to the wrong side of history. I like The New Yorker, and I hate when that happens.
FROM ANNE DACHEL -- TWISTED: I’ve been listening to the Weather Channel over the last several days as they extensively cover tropical storm Isaac as it approaches the U.S.
It’s impressive. I keep hearing phrases like “live expert analysis” and “latest update.”
Experts go flying in to see the storm close up. They’re working feverously on the figures:
What category hurricane is it going to be and how will it be progressing?
What’s the route the storm is going to take and who should be on the alert?
How much rain can we expect over how many days?
Mayors and governors are interviewed about the actions they’re taking.
Meteorologists show us what’s going on at the center of the storm. We’re giving the latest information. What we have is an intense focus on a critical weather event and no one is out there downplaying the threat.
It’s hard to believe that the same country that can maintain the National Hurricane Center inMiami with all their experts does such a pathetic job when it comes to autism.
If we addressed hurricanes like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handles autism, things would be a lot different.
First of all, meteorologists wouldn’t be watching the storm move across the radar. They’d be looking at where it was two days ago and announcing its current position is unknown. They wouldn’t care what category of storm it was because they’d also have scientists changing the definition of each of the five hurricane categories while the storm approached.
They’d assure the public that there was nothing to worry about because we’ve always had intense storms like this hitting the U.S.—we just didn’t call them hurricanes. And when tens of thousands of people are left struggling in the aftermath of the storm, weather experts at the NHC would only shake their heads and solemnly tell the public that there’s nothing anyone can do to help them.
And if the CDC were run like the NHC, we’d have officials talking about autism everywhere. It wouldn’t be just “a serious health care concern.” We’d be worried about “a national health emergency.” They’d be looking at kids who regressed and thoroughly investigate what happened to them. We’d talk about how severely disabled many children with autism are and video coverage would show us teenagers in diapers and little kids who scream for hours and bang their heads endlessly.
There wouldn’t be fraudulent studies pretending that anything might cause autism—except vaccines. We’d have all those independent scientists whose research raises huge concerns over vaccines being interviewed at length about their findings.
They’d be all kinds of people projecting the cost of autism as the children age out of school and into adult services. We’d be building homes for adults with autism and we’d finding ways of employing them and developing their full potential.
Most of all, this kind of CDC would have stopped using mercury 12 years ago when the alarm over mercury levels was first sounded and they’d be no MMR combination vaccine because they would have listened to Andrew Wakefield in 1998.
The contrast between the National Hurricane Center and the Centers for Disease Control should be a wakeup call for us all. We demand weather authorities know what they’re doing. We insist they give us accurate information. We expect them to give a hurricane all their attention. Why do we passively accept unending malfeasance and ignorance from the agency in charge of our nation’s health? The CDC gets billions to do their job—they need to be held accountable.