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NIH funded research includes search for possible vaccine-autism link

Posted Jun 10 2010 5:14pm

Much time is spent discussing whether a study of autism and vaccination status could or should be undertaken. Generation Rescue has been trying to get funding for such a study , but their proposal is weak and vague. The question arises, why doesn’t any group with real strong credentials consider this project?

Would you be surprised to find out that it is already ongoing? And that the principle researcher is someone with mainstream credibility?

It turns out that potential environmental causation of autism, including vaccines, are a part of a study which (if all went according to schedule) just finished the data collection phase. The NIH funded project, GENE-ENVIRONMENT INTERACTIONS IN AN AUTISM BIRTH COHORT , was headed by Prof. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University. The project started in 2003 and was prospectively monitoring a cohort of children diagnosed with ASD’s and another cohort of controls.

The project is discussed below:

Reports of increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), a set of highly genetic conditions, are intensifying interest in the role of environmental exposures, including infectious, immune, and toxic factors. Retrospective studies exploring associations between environmental factors and ASDs are compromised by selection bias, small sample sizes, possibly invalid diagnosis, and absence of biologic measures. This prospective study will employ an unselected birth cohort of 75,500 in which cases are ascertained through screening of the entire population, diagnoses established using uniform procedures, extensive histories and clinical data obtained, and biologic samples collected serially throughout pregnancy and early childhood. The application of high throughput laboratory assays to derive maximal information from developmentally-influenced, finite, and nonrenewable biologic samples, and inclusion of early screening and diagnostic assessments, will permit an unprecedented, rich view of the longitudinal trajectory and nascent signs and symptoms of ASDs, facilitate discovery of biomarkers, and afford unique insights into the role of gene:environment interactions in ASD pathogenesis. Specific aims are to: (1) establish the autism Birth Cohort (ABC) through ascertainment of cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD, N=150-233) and selection of controls (N-1000) from the Norway Mothers and Child (MoBa) cohort; (2) examine biologic pathways that may predispose to ASD, through evaluation of immune, endocrine, and neuroregulatory factors in mothers during early gestation or at birth and in children, at birth or 30 months postnatal; (3) identify environmental factors that may be directly or indirectly associated with ASD, including pre- or postnatal infection, vaccination, very low birth weight or other obstetric risk factors in which infections are implicated, dietary and/or environmental exposure to methylmercury; (4) describe the natural history of clinical, anthropometric, and neurobehavioral features of ASD; and (5) explore genotypic influences that may be directly or indirectly associated with ASD by testing associations of ASD and/or its endophenotypes with family history of autoimmune disease or selected candidate genes, and investigating conditional gene-environment effects using antecedent factors found to influence ASD risk.

Emphasis added.

Prof. Lipkin was a member of the team which looked at children with gastrointestinal disorders, Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study . Amongst other findings, they found that (a) regression was not correlated with MMR vaccination and (b) persistent measles infections are not present in the guts of autistic kids more than in non-autistic kids. Basically it was the study that most closely replicated some of Mr. Wakefield’s team’s efforts and showed that Mr. Wakefield’s results were not reproducible.

Another study, THE CHARGE STUDY: CHILDHOOD AUTISM RISKS FROM GENETICS AND THE ENVIRONMENT , includes “vaccines” in the project terms. This study has been funded to the tune of about US$5,000,000 and is headed by Prof. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, who has stated that vaccines should be considered for research into autism causes.

If you are wondering if mercury is being investigated, AUTISM IN A FISH EATING POPULATION continues study on methyl mercury exposures in the Seychelles. Also, the University of Washington has a study ongoing, NEUROIMMUNOTOXICOLOGY OF MERCURY . Johns Hopkins has a study now going on 4 years, GENETIC SUSCEPTIBILITY TO MERCURY-INDUCED IMMUNE DYSFUNCTION IN AUTISM & ASD . Also, the University of Texas has a study, EPIDEMIOLOGICAL RESEARCH ON AUTISM IN JAMAICA , which also is monitoring heavy metal exposures.

I have two questions. First, why do groups like Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, the National Autism Association and TACA claim that vaccine-autism and mercury-autism research isn’t being done? They are represented on government committees. Second, what do they hope to learn from doing their own study that isn’t going to be done better and sooner by other groups?

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