Can Influenza Vaccines Cause Maternal Immune Activation Linked To Autism?
Posted Jan 01 2013 12:00am
By Teresa Conrick
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:
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:
"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."
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:
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."
then is a recent article about influenza and Autism:
"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."
"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
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.
"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
"But the vaccine itself may stimulate an immune response in the mother
that leads to neurodevelopmental disorders in the fetus, some researchers
"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."
"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
"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.
"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:
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
"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
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.