By David Kirby
On June 29, HHS, CDC, FDA and NIH will hold a major public workshop on mitochondrial disorders, autism and “triggers for neurological deterioration.” And to think, just four months ago, any scientist who had seriously proposed a high-profile, marquis meeting on such an esoteric subject would probably have been laughed out of HHS headquarters, and possibly his or her career.
But that was before Hannah and her parents came along.
When news of the two Poling concessions began to emerge in March, officials from the CDC and other agencies were quick to mount a defensive public relations posture, one that still clouds and confuses the importance of this seminal case, but now seems to be lifting like the haze over Atlanta.
Back then, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding and others took to the airwaves to proclaim that Hannah’s case was, 1) Extremely rare, 2) An inherited, genetic condition that would have lead to regressive encephalopathy anyway, and 3) Without any bearing on the etiology of ASD or any relationship whatsoever to the court’s other cases of autism (which Hannah did not have, we were falsely told: She just had “autism like features.”)
Soon after that, I reported that mitochondrial disorders in ASD kids were not that rare after all. Estimates ranged from 7% to about 30% of all ASD cases involving an underlying dysfunction of the mitochondria, as measured through impairment of oxidative phosphorylation (and thus low cellular energy). Among regressive cases, the rate may be higher than that.
The CDC took note. On March 29, Gerberding told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that, “If a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines, and (is) pre-disposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage…. Some of these symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism. I think we have to have an open mind about this.”
In fact, the CDC’s mind had become so opened after learning how prevalent mitochondrial disorders were in autism, that the agency agreed to dedicate a conference call with vaccine researchers and HMO executives on new research on the topic.
What did they learn? That many children with regressive ASD out there also had the same low-cellular-energy biomarkers as Hannah.
And there was more: The scientists told the government and the insurance industry (which is reportedly tired of footing the bill for so many neuro-damaged kids) that the nuclear DNA mutation that confers mitochondrial dysfunction, passed down through the father, could be as prevalent as 1-in-50 people, or 2% of the population.
Estimates of the classic, more rare and serious form of mitochondrial “disease,” meanwhile, which is passed down through the mother via mitochondrial DNA, are about 1-in-5,000, or 0.02%.
A week or so later, in Washington on April 11, the CDC announced its new draft research agenda for vaccine safety issues. Amazingly, among the questions that CDC officials now wanted answered was this one:
“Is immunization associated with increased risk for neurological
deterioration in children with mitochondrial dysfunction?”
Apparently, the CDC was one step ahead of everyone else on this question, because it simultaneously announced on April 11 that it had already formed, “a working group to study methods related to mitochondrial disorders and immunization, in collaboration with partners.”
Immunization and mitochondrial disorders are a very tricky subject. Children with such disorders might be more susceptible to autistic regression following a stressful event on their immune system. This “trigger” could include any number of childhood febrile infections – including those for which there are vaccines.
But then again, as Hannah’s case teaches us, the trigger might also be too many vaccines at once – in this instance, nine.
But what was it about those nine vaccines, given in five jabs that induced fever, and, “an immune response that exceeded metabolic reserves,” as Concession #2 described the “cause” of Hannah’s “autistic encephalopathy?”
What vaccine ingredient or ingredients induced her metabolic meltdown?
Was it the 50 micrograms of ethylmercury from thimerosal? Was it aluminum in several of her shots, put there precisely to create stimulation of the immune system? Was it one or more of the live viruses or attenuated viruses she received? Was it one of the other vaccine ingredients? Or, was it some combination of the above?
And, the question remains, wouldn’t some other natural fever have pushed Hannah over the edge just as easily? (It’s possible, though not certain, as I reported HERE.)
In less than two weeks, experts may begin to shed some light on these critical questions (and hallelujah to that.)
On June 29, a public workshop will be held in downtown Indianapolis, following a meeting of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.
The title of the workshop is, “Mitochondrial Disorders of Childhood: Testing, Potential Relationships to Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Triggers for Neurological Deterioration.”
This landmark event is being sponsored by a number of Federal agencies including DHHS, CDC, FDA, NINDS and NIMH. “Observers are welcome,” the HHS says, “as seating allows.”
The Goals and Objectives as listed as followed:
“The workshop will convene 11 experts in mitochondrial disorders or autism to discuss how the neurology of mitochondrial disorders might inform autism research.” (Click HERE)
Meanwhile, the UMDF’s website gives us a slightly more expanded take:
“The workshop will address the implications for autism research of topics such as neurological features of mitochondrial disorders, current understanding of their exacerbating factors, and challenges in testing and diagnosis.” (Click HERE)
The italics are mine. In the Poling concession, the government said that vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation exacerbated Hannah’s mito dysfunction, which caused her “autistic encephalopathy.”
Meanwhile, “Representing the mitochondrial disease communities at the workshop through their affiliation with the UMDF are: Charles A. Mohan, Jr., Executive Director and CEO of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D., UMDF Trustee, Salvatore DiMauro, M.D., Columbia University and Chairman of the UMDF’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board (SMAB). Also representing the SMAB are Bruce Cohen, M.D., Cleveland Clinic, Vamsi Mootha, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Doug Wallace, PhD., University of California, Irvine. Also attending are past SMAB members Robert K. Naviaux, M.D. PhD., and Richard Haas, M.D., both from University of California – San Diego School of Medicine and Tanja Taivassalo, PhD. who is a previous recipient of the UMDF research grant.
It looks like a nice group. I may not make it to Indy, but I can’t wait to read the transcripts.
And thank you, Hannah and her parents, for getting this big old ball rolling.
David Kirby is a journalist, Age of Autism contributor and author of Evidence of Harm. To read more of his work, please click on his name in our left sidebar. And click HERE to read his Huffington Post pieces.