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Can Influenza Vaccines Cause Maternal Immune Activation Linked To Autism?

Posted Jan 01 2013 12:00am

Pregnant By Teresa Conrick

There have been numerous studies over the years, attempting to show a connection from maternal flu to autism. The original studies seemed to develop from the idea that those mothers who had flu during their pregnancy went on to have babies who later developed schizophrenia:

Children’s Health: Flu, Fetuses, and Schizophrenia 

"Pregnant women who contract the flu may increase the risk that their child will develop schizophrenia later in life, according to a recent addition to a growing body of research along these lines. The study, published in the August 2004 Archives of General Psychiatry, “is not definitive but is the strongest evidence thus far that a prenatal virus may be a risk factor [for schizophrenia],” says lead investigator Ezra Susser, head of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“Influenza infection during pregnancy appears to be a risk factor,” agrees Johns Hopkins University neurovirologist Robert Yolken, who adds it is probably one of many risk factors for developing schizophrenia..... Until more study is completed, the Mailman team still advocates that pregnant women get the flu shot. Susser says, “The very safest thing would be to get vaccinated against the flu virus before becoming pregnant.”

At the bottom of that page, we are shown a picture of a woman sneezing, with this caption next to her:

"A cold now, catastrophe later. Having the flu while pregnant may pave the way for future schizophrenia in children."

From this concept, research then on Autism having a connection to prenatal influenza was born. If you go on Pubmed and type in "Autism" and "influenza," 42 studies will pop up, the earliest in 1995, interestingly stating there is NO connection.

There were also studies showing no evidence in schizophrenia as well:

Schizophrenia and the1957 influenza epidemic

"Not a single study found a significant first- or second-trimester effect......Given high infection rates during the pandemic (about 50%), these results do not support the maternal influenza hypothesis."

"There was no increased risk of schizophrenia among the exposed cohort compared to the unexposed cohort."

In their book, The Age of Autism Mercury Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic , Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted included an important finding in a prenatal, viral connection to autism -- rubella. They described how the rubella virus seemed to worsen when coupled with gamma globulin that was preserved with Thimerosal, the mercury preservative. Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) had been shown to produce deafness, cataracts, learning disabilities, sometimes severe heart issues, BUT NO AUTISM. It was after the gamma globulin with Thimerosal was used that autism made its appearance

"For the first time in any CRS study, the Houston group also reported signs of autism....The researchers decided to look more intensively at the rate of autism in the New York CRS cases, and found a rate of 7.4 percent --- 18 out of 243 children evaluated were diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder.

They went on to describe the rates found by Victor Lotter in England (4.1 per 10,000) and Darrold Treffert in Wisconsin (0.7 per 10,000) and remarked, "In striking contrast, the prevalence rate in out rubella children would correspond to 412 per 10,000, for the core syndrome of autism, and 329 for the partial syndrome, yielding a combined figure of 741 per 10,000."

So is it possible there is some similar mechanism happening with influenza? Is there a pattern here? The studies regarding any connection seem to implicate maternal immune activation:

Maternal infection: window on neuroimmune interactions in fetal brain development and mental illness. 

"Direct viral infection of the developing brain can have disastrous consequences for the fetus.....This effect on fetal brain development might be caused by the maternal antiviral immune response, possibly mediated by cytokines."

Here then is a recent article about influenza and Autism:

Could pregnant mothers with flu trigger autism in their unborn? Scientists discover evidence that suggests a mother's immune system could affect their baby's brain

"Mothers who get the flu while pregnant could risk affecting their baby's brain, which might lead to 'infantile autism' in their child.

A Danish study shows that children were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with the condition before the age of three if their mother had the flu.

Researchers claim that when the mother's immune system is triggered - for example, when they have an influenza virus - it is possible that the foetus' developing brain could be affected.

But they have clarified that pregnant women and mothers should not be concerned by the findings, as only a tiny portion of those who had influenza gave birth to children with 'infantile autism' and that the research was so limited and early that no concrete findings had been discovered."

So like the Schizophrenia warning above, Forbes does the same with Autism:

"First, you can get a flu shot, which is recommended anyway for most pregnant women [PDF]. Second, you can find out more about autism, particularly from autistic adults, and learn that having an autistic child is not inevitably a tragic horrorshow that you need to stress about before you even know you’d have one"

Sound advice or an infomercial for phamaceuticals and the joy of autism-rearing? You can decide but let's look more at this issue. What causes a fetus to be affected by a mother's flu and if it is true, why did we see no autism in the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, the biggest and most dangerous influenza ever known? Let's look at some key studies.

Maternal immune activation alters fetal brain development through interleukin-6

Activation of the maternal immune system induces endocrine changes in the placenta via IL-6.

"Activation of the maternal immune system in rodent models sets in motion a cascade of molecular pathways that ultimately result in autism- and schizophrenia-related behaviors in offspring. The finding that interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a crucial mediator of these effects led us to examine the mechanism by which this cytokine influences fetal development in vivo.....Together, these IL-6-mediated effects of MIA on the placenta represent an indirect mechanism by which MIA can alter fetal development."

So IL-6 looks to be the factor that can negatively alter the fetus so why again was the epidemic of 1918  not a time when mothers had children who then developed autism, as IL-6 was implicated back then, too?

It is important to note that vaccination for influenza seems to have its connection:

"But the vaccine itself may stimulate an immune response in the mother that leads to neurodevelopmental disorders in the fetus, some researchers caution.

"Don't get me wrong: nobody wants a pregnant woman to get the flu," says neurobiologist Paul Patterson of the California Institute of Technology, who did much of the pioneering work in this field. "But every year the CDC says that a maternal vaccine for flu is safe and efficacious. The data quoted for those conclusions I don't find all that convincing."

Controversial? You bet, but facts are facts:

Effect of influenza vaccine on markers of inflammation and lipid profile

"Despite wide use of the influenza vaccine, relatively little is known about its effect on the measurement of inflammatory markers.....There was a significant increase in mean IL-6 (P < .01 absolute values, P < .001 normalized values) on day 1 after receiving the influenza vaccine. Inflammatory responses to trivalent influenza virus vaccine among pregnant women.

Inflammatory responses to trivalent influenza virus vaccine among pregnant women

"In the U.S., seasonal trivalent influenza virus vaccine (TIV) is currently universally recommended for all pregnant women. However, data on the maternal inflammatory response to vaccination is lacking and would better delineate the safety and clinical utility of immunization.......Significant increases in CRP were seen at one and two days post-vaccination (ps<05). A similar effect was seen for TNF-α, for which an increase at two days post-vaccination approached statistical significance (p=.06). There was considerable variability in magnitude of response; coefficients of variation for change at two days post-vaccination ranged from 122% to 728%, with the greatest variability in IL-6 responses at this timepoint.......Trivalent influenza virus vaccination elicits a measurable inflammatory response among pregnant women. ......further research is needed to confirm that the mild inflammatory response elicited by vaccination is benign in pregnancy.

How is it possible that research is not looking into this specific issue of immune responses ? This from the World Health Organization (WHO) :

"Currently available vaccines have largely been developed empirically, with little or no understanding on how they activate the immune system."

Is it possible that like rubella and the Thimerosal of gamma globulin days causing an increase of profound autism, that influenza and thimerosal have a coupling of toxicity, too? Thimerosal is shown to have profound effects on the immune system and is in many of the influenza vaccines:

When thimerosal, at a concentration as low as 20 parts per billion, alters the fidelity of normal calcium signals, dendritic cells show abnormal secretion of IL-6 cytokine - a potent chemical signal that initiates inflammatory responses.

What to do and whom to believe?

"Obviously, the safe thing to do is to go with the experts, and the experts are the CDC," said Paul Patterson, a professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology and one of the leading researchers into the link between maternal infections and schizophrenia. "However, if it was my wife, I would not [want] her vaccinated."

Patterson said he would try to protect a pregnant family member from the flu by suggesting she keep away from infected people and by enforcing a regimen of regular hand-washing among all family members.

However, he conceded that such measures might not be as effective as flu shots and that women who get the flu because they don't get a flu shot might not only put their future children at increased risk for schizophrenia, but also incur numerous other risks from the illness. Careful prevention techniques, moreover, are unlikely to help pregnant women who have toddlers, because small children tend to bring home endless streams of viral infections.

Insel praised Patterson's research into the connection between infections and schizophrenia, but he warned against rushing to revise flu shot recommendations. "

The other connection here, the more subtle one, is that no matter what the evidence shows, by science, research and educated opinion that vaccines can harm, we are told to vaccinate anyway.

Teresa Conrick is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.

Posted by Age of Autism at January 28, 2013 at 5:46 AM in Teresa Conrick Permalink

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