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autism epidemic science, autism vaccine science

Posted Jan 27 2010 6:56am

Ex Derdrie Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology team leader Philip J. Landrigan is the latest scientist once associated with the debunked vaccine causation ideas to repudiate those ideas in a scientific journal.

Writing in Current Opinion in Pediatrics, Landrigan has published ‘what causes autism? Exploring the environmental contribution’ in which he explores what might be a plausible environmental causation. He also touches on genetics and the so-called ‘autism epidemic’.

Touching on genetics, he states:

Genetic and familial factors are unquestionably involved in causation of autism [4]. Families with multiple cases have been described. Autism has repeatedly been seen in sibs and twin pairs. Concordance in monozygotic twins is
reported to be as high as 70% [15], and, when the broader phenotype of autism is considered, concordance in monozygotic
twins approaches 90%. Concordance rates for autism in dizygotic twins appear no higher than among singleton siblings. Families with autistic children may contain members with ‘autistic traits’ such as social isolation or tendency toward repetitive behavior [13]. Autism occurs in a number of genetic conditions, among them Fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome, Cohen syndrome, Angelman syndrome [16] and Rett syndrome [17].

Regarding genetics as a whole Landrigan claims that autism can already be accounted for to the tune of between 7 – 8%. In an email to me he stated:

THE FRACTION OF AUTISM CASES THAT CAN RELIABLY BE ATTRIBUTED TO GENETIC CAUSES WILL CERTAINLY INCREASE AS MORE RESEARCH COMES IN

By how much though? No idea and Landrigan wouldn’t be drawn.

Regarding the ‘epidemic’ Landrigan states:

The reported increase in prevalence of autism has triggered vigorous debate as to whether the trend reflects a true increase in incidence, or is merely a consequence of expansion in the definition of ASD and greater awareness, improved diagnosis and better reporting [11]. This highly controversial question is not yet settled [14]. A
recent critical analysis concludes that increases in recognition, changed diagnostic criteria, and changing public
attitudes about autism have played a major role in catalyzing the upward trend in reported prevalence. This analysis observes, however, that the possibility of a true rise in incidence cannot be excluded [12].

Which should be – if one is truly interested in following the science so far – the correct conclusion. In other words, nobody really knows but the recent increases in recognition, changed diagnostic criteria and changing public attitudes (amongst other things) have played a major role.

In relation to vaccines, Landrigan states unequivocally that:

To address the issue, a series of studies was undertaken in the US, the UK, Europe and Japan. None of these studies have found any credible evidence for a link between vaccines and autism [12].....Fear of autism does not justify failure to vaccinate children against life-threatening diseases [75].

In an email to me Landrigan stated:

IT WAS RESEARCH THAT NEEDED TO BE DONE. BUT NOW THAT WE HAVE MORE THAN DOZEN, HIGH-QUALITY NEGATIVE STUDIES OF THE ISSUE IT IS TIME TO MOVE ON

I’m not sure it was research that needed to be done given the extremely tenuous hypotheses that began the various vaccine/autism strands but I agree that it is time to move on.

I was somewhat surprised at this paper as I had become used to seeing Landrigan’s name associated with those who believe vaccines cause autism and certainly his involvement with Derdrie Imus would indicate his belief in that set of ideas. It was a nice surprise to see that he was sticking to the science.

So what can we draw from this? First and foremost we have to say that a colleague of Derdrie Imus stating publicly that vaccines don’t cause autism is the biggest red flag so far that even the scientists who once gave credence to those ideas are moving away from them. Secondly we can say that althoough we cannot preclude the idea of a real actual increase, the major role in causing an increase in autism numbers still remains the combination of increased recognition, changed diagnostic criteria, changed public attitude, diagnostic substitution, more available locations for gaining a diagnosis and more doctors trained to give diagnoses. Lastly we can say that here is a toxicologist who acknowledges that there is a strong genetic component and that that component is likely to increase.

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