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Capitol Hill Briefing on Autism Transcript

David_speaksManaging Editor's Note: The following provides a transcription of David Kirby's presentation to members of the Senate and Congress at Representative Carolyn Maloney's meeting on Wednesday, September 24, 2008. The audio was spotty in places, the transcription is as close as was possible under the circumstances.

Capitol Hill Briefing on Autism -- Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Slide Presentation by David Kirby - Rush transcription by Nancy Hokkanen
(Power Point Slides are viewable at www.evidenceofharm.com and HERE.

SLIDE 1: INTRODUCTION

Thank you very much, and I thank you all for coming here today. I know there’s a lot going on in Washington this week, but I think the turnout speaks to the fact that this is a very, very serious issue.

We have people from the left and the right and center representing offices in this room. Autism, of course, is a nonpartisan issues, quite a bit like the financial crisis that we’re all trying to deal with right now. And the parallels go beyond nonpartisanship: The financial crisis is a real threat to our country, and so is the autism crisis. And I hope you will go back to your various offices and talk about ways that Congress can respond even better than it has so far to this crisis.

This is a national emergency.

We now have hundreds of thousands of children with autism in this country, and the majority of people in this country are under 18 years of age. They will come of age, and they will be dependent on us, the American taxpayers, to support them.

It is estimated that the cost of care, education and housing for a person with autism runs up to 2 to 3 million dollars per person, and we have at least 250,000 people with autism in this country, so we are already up to the 700 billion, 750 billion dollar mark, coming at us in the future. And even though you’re all concentrating on fixing the financial mess, I just hope that attention will also be paid to fixing the autism mess we’re in, in this country. This is a serious national emergency.

Just a couple of things about myself: I am an author and investigative journalist. I am not connected to autism in any way: I don’t know anybody, or I didn’t know anyone personally with autism. And I’m certainly not anti-vaccine, and this is not an anti-vaccine briefing.

This is a briefing about autism, about what might be causing autism, and what factors in our environment might be combining with certain genetic susceptibilities to cause autism in children today. Vaccines and mercury in vaccines are just one part of that, and we will be discussing vaccines today. But please know that if people speak about vaccine safety, about making the vaccine program better, that doesn’t make us anti-vaccine. People who advocate for clean rivers and lakes are not anti-water. I want to save the vaccine program, not destroy it.

But the vaccine program is in deep trouble. There is tremendous distrust among parents today and they don’t feel like they are being leveled with. And in order to save the vaccine program, we’re going to have to consider ways to alter it. And I think where we are heading in terms of science and medicine, is identifying those children who have certain genetic susceptibilities so that they cannot necessarily handle the rather crowded vaccine schedule we have today.

Probably 99% of the children can handle it just fine. But what about those 1% who have a certain genetic susceptibility to vaccine ingredients and other environmental toxins? Shouldn’t we cull them out and vaccinate them separately, on a separate schedule?

So I am certainly not here to say “Don’t vaccinate your kids.” I know there are people in this room who are anti-vaccine, and we have disagreements. I think vaccines are necessary and important; I just want them to be as safe as possible.

A quick note: The rhetoric in this debate sometimes gets very heated and very personal. And I always do try to endeavor to keep the tone to a moderate level. You may have received a letter this morning from Every Child By Two, and in that letter, basically decrying this briefing, they said that people like me, people who want to investigate this possible link, are trying to sidetrack the search for the real causes of autism, and sidetrack the search for actual treatments.

That is a very inflammatory statement. To accuse anyone of not wanting to treat autistic children is morally wrong in my mind, and I think that that type of rhetoric really needs to be damped down a little bit.

I called the woman who wrote that letter this morning, Amy Pisani, and she actually apologized to me, and I accept her apology. But there is no place in this debate for that kind of language.

I also pointed out to Amy Pisani that Autism Speaks just authorized some $3 million in autism research funding for environmental causes of autism, including vaccines, and there are three special grants for Thimerosal. Amy told me that Autism Speaks was succumbing to parental pressure, and that they just did this to “appease” the people who want to see that type of research. That was an insult to the scientific committee at Autism Speaks. They did not fund these studies to appease anyone; they funded these studies because this debate and this research continues.

That said, I want to jump right in because we don’t have a lot of time.

SLIDE 2: “TALKING POINTS”

This is an abbreviated version of my normal talk. a lecture I gave at NYU Law School in June. It’s about an hour and a half long, so I hope you take time to watch it. I have a lot more information that you won’t see here today.

These are my talking points. I am not here to ask for anything, to demand anything. I’m not an activist, I’m not a crusader. I’m just here to convey information. So when you go back to your offices and speak to your bosses today, these are the types of things I hope you will tell them.

And when you go back to discuss autism in your office, the only thing I would try to impress upon you today is that this debate is not over. And you will see that research continues at all levels of government and at major universities.

What I think we need to do is not only look at different possible causes, we need to look at the kids who got sick and work our way backwards from there. What types of things in the environment, combined with certain genetic susceptibilities, can cause these physical symptoms? And autism is a physical, biomedical disorder; it is not a psychiatric disorder.

I think people need to move their thinking beyond that. We need to look for genetic susceptibilities. Are people born with certain vulnerabilities? Maybe immune problems, autoimmune problems, or mitochondrial dysfunction. What about metal metabolism? Some people are able to excrete and metabolize heavy metals much better than others.
So, is there a certain small subset of the population that is particularly at risk for vaccine injury that might lead to autism and other problems?

We need to get past this idea that there’s just one type of autism, and just one cause. Thimerosal is not the cause of autism. MMR is not the cause of autism. There are many types and many causes and different children are vulnerable to different problems. Their genetic makeup makes them susceptible to different combinations of things.

Some children have gut problems; others don’t. Some children have immune problems; others don’t. Each child is different; we need to look at the different combinations of children, looking at combinations of genetic susceptibility. And that would include mercury and vaccines, and other heavy metals in our air, our water, keeping in mind that there’s rising mercury deposition around the world. There’s a study coming out next month that shows that the number of Americans with inorganic mercury in blood samples increased 8 fold in the last few years.

Vaccine research is still going on. People claim the debate is over, but as you will see today, it’s anything but. In fact, I would say the debate is just beginning. And there is a lot of research going on right now, specifically into the connection between vaccines and/or mercury and autism.

Then there is the Maloney Bill, and I really hope you’ll take a look at it and consider cosponsoring it. That would fund a study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations of children. Dr. Julie Gerberding has said that this study can and should be done, and I would just say that if this study was done and done properly, and there was absolutely no difference in outcomes between vaccinated children and unvaccinated children, it would shut me up. I would go away and go work on my own work. I’m not here because it’s fun. This is important.  I think this study could provide us with a lot of answers.

And finally: immigrants. We’re seeing extremely high levels in autism among children of immigrants, children born in the United States. For example, the Somalis in Minnesota, and I’ll be looking at this more in the near future. Their rate of autism is going through the roof. And there is virtually no autism, or very little autism reported in Somalia. The Somalis call autism the “American disease.” In Sweden that have the same problem and they call it the “Swedish disease.” And it’s not just the Somalis we have seen this in. A lot of refugees, a lot of people who immigrated from countries, for example, where the full complement of mercury is still used in their vaccines.

SLIDE 3: A NEW AUTISM VOCABULARY

This is an abbreviated list of some of the things that we need to start looking at - and tha tscience is looking at now – and we do actually need to look at the kids who got sick. When we do that -- at the cellular level, the molecular level, as we look at the kids themselves, we see a lot of commonalities.

A lot of these children seem to have immune problems: autoimmunity, immune suppression or even hyper-immunity.

Oxidative stress, we all know about free radicals and the damage they can do to the brain, the nervous system. Oxidative stress is extremely common in autism.

Neuro-inflammation, rapid brain growth, and inflammation in general is a huge problem and very common in lots of children with autism.

Glutathione - glutathione is so key to this argument. Glutathione is a sulfur-based protein that we manufacture; it binds with heavy metal and helps us excrete them from our body. It also fights oxidative stress. Children with autism have very low or depleted levels of glutathione. Therefore it makes sense if you add mercury in the mix, they will be less able to excrete that mercury and it will build up in their system, as compared to people with normal glutathione levels. That will lead to what’s called an efflux disorder, a heavy metal metabolism disorder, which can then also keep a vicious cycle of oxidative stress and neuro-inflammation going.

We will also speak about heavy metals and mitochondrlal damage that can affect certain brain cells called glial cells. And there is activation of astroglia and microglia that we see in people exposed to mercury and people with autism.

And finally we see damage to myelin, which makes the sheath that protects the brain and the nervous system. Heavy metals have been shown to attack myelin. Myelin is implicated in other autoimmune disorders such as MS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. And there is evidence of children with autism who have problems with demyelination, and there is some evidence that suggests that vaccines may be able to cause it.

So we see evidence emerging that some children might have some of these issues, others might have others, or a combination thereof.  Looking at these symptoms, or combinations of symptoms, we can then look backwards and say, “Well, what kind of genetic susceptibilities might meet with certain environmental triggers that would then create this combination of symptoms?” We’re not talking about autism, we’re talking about autisms.

And yes, there is a big debate, still, about whether autism is truly a genetic disorder, or is there an environmental component? People who argue that autism is genetic say that it’s always been with us at this rate. Now, you cannot have a genetic epidemic, so the way to explain the increasing numbers, they say, is through better diagnosis and better reporting.

I am sure that that is at play here. But that could not possibly explain the massive increase. Let me just give you an example. We have 1-in-150 children in this country that have autism. We do not have 1-in-150 adults with autism in this country. In the state of New Jersey now, 1-in-60 boys have autism. And I don’t think you could go to New Jersey today and survey men and find 1-in-60 men with autism. This is a new disease, this is a growing disease. And it is not merely an artifact of better reporting. There is an environmental component at work here.

SLIDE 4: AUTISM AND THE ENVIRONMENT

This is a study (Correction: It was a Special Article) done out of a panel of the Institute of Medicine, published in Pediatrics. And they wrote: “The environment may play a significant role in triggering autism. Evidence points to a large genetic component, but genes alone cannot account for its cause.” Mark Blaxill was a member of this panel, and they specifically mentioned the role of parents in bringing attention to scientists the evidence of environmental factors in autism. So even now, leading scientists are starting to come to the consensus that we are not dealing with a genetic disorder – we are dealing with the intersection of genes and environmental triggers.

SLIDE 5: LINK BETWEEN MERCURY AND AUTISM?

Now, many people question how much evidence of a link there actually is between Thimerosal, the vaccine preservative, and autism. A lot of people think this argument is settled. One problem with that is, it’s just too soon to tell. The last lots of Thimerosal-containing vaccines expired in 2003. Now, the State of California tracks full-blown, autism and they looked at the kids born in 2004 who turned 3 years old in 2007, and did not see a decrease. Well you really can’t do autism prevalence studies doing 3 year olds. The average age of diagnosis is over three years of age. And when the CDC does prevalence studies, they look at eight years old, because that way, everybody has aged out, and you’re very sure that you’ve caught most of the diagnoses. Three years old is just too early. So, in theory at least, these kids who were born in 2004, if you’re going to use CDC standard, unfortunately, you would have to wait until 2015 (later corrected to 20012) to actually prove that the numbers in California did not come down.

(Note - Other factors to consider include: Pre-natal and neo-natal mercury exposures from flu shots; a drop in the average age of autism diagnosis; a steep rise in autism cases among Asian and Hispanic children compared with black and white children, suggesting a role for immigration; rising levels of background mercury exposures, and others). 

We’re also seeing reports of severe cases of autism starting to fall off. And in looking at the situation in Montreal, where some teachers are seeing fewer and fewer severe cases of autism coming into the schools, it’s actually closing down classrooms, kindergarten and first grade classrooms now, because the kids just aren’t showing up -- the most severe cases.

So maybe Thimerosal didn’t cause autism, but it’s still possible that Thimerosal made a bad situation worse.

SLIDE 6:  REPORT TO CONGRESS ON VACCINE SAFETY DATALINK

And again, this research continues, the CDC and NIH are still looking into mercury and autism. One of the bigger studies to look at mercury and autism was the Vaccine Safety Datalink. And this was the study that was used to show there was no link between Thimerosal and autism. And ultimately what happened was the NIH was asked by Congress to look into it, and they did.

And they came up with some very serious criticisms of this database that the CDC used, and the way that this data is managed. And they wrote -- this is the NIH, this was signed by the Director of the NIH – they “identified several areas of weakness that were judged to reduce the usefulness of the VSD for addressing the potential association.” And Dr. Julie Gerberding, in her report to the House Appropriations Committee, wrote back.

And by the way, the weaknesses were in case ascertainment, heterogeneity in business practices, systematic changes over time, and no estimation of total mercury burden. You have to look at the whole thing. Kids are exposed to mercury in many more ways than just Thimerosal.

Dr. Gerberding wrote back to basically say “We concur.” (NOTE: This statement omits important details of the CDC response. For a more detailed explanation, please see David Kirby’s remarks from his June 2008 lecture at NYU Law School (HERE) and from the Huffington Post (HERE).

These weaknesses are serious. And still, this database and this study are held up as proof that Thimerosal does not cause autism. I have a lot more details on this matter on the DVD that you got.

SLIDE 7: COMPARISON OF BLOOD AND BRAIN MERCURY LEVELS IN MONKEYS

Now, mercury in the brain, Dr. Burbacher at the University of Washington is one of the leading toxicologists in the country, and he exposed monkeys – there’s two kinds of mercury: there’s methylmercury that’s in fish, and there’s ethylmercury that’s in Thimerosal. Ethylmercury is manufactured.

He gave half the monkeys injected ethylmercury, replicating the vaccine schedule; and he gave the other half ingested methylmercury in the form found in fish. And what he found was, even though the ethylmercury cleared from the blood more readily and did not cross to the brain quite as much, the ethylmercury that did get into the brain immediately started converting to inorganic mercury.

Now, organic mercury has a natural transport mechanism; it can wash in and out of the brain. Its half life in the brain is about 30 days. Inorganic mercury has a half life of about 20 years. Once it’s there, it stays there. And Burbacher showed that the vaccine mercury is far more likely to leave deposits of inorganic mercury in the brain than the fish form.

SLIDE 8:  CHANGES IN ASTROCYTES AND MICROGLIA IN PRIMATE BRAINS

This is significant, because the same team found that, if inorganic mercury does get trapped in the brain, it creates a reaction, a chain reaction, an autoimmune reaction. And one thing that happens is activation of astrocytes and microglia. These are certain types of brain cells, and mercury seems to go for those brain cells. And it seems to trigger a reaction that causes neuro-inflammation by activating these astrocytes and microglial cells.

SLIDE 9:  NEUROLOGICAL ACTIVATION & NEURO-INFLAMMATION IN BRAINS OF AUTISM PATIENTS

Now, when we look at the autopsied brains of people with autism, one done at Johns Hopkins and the other one at Harvard, we see the same things. We see inflammation, we see activation of astroglia and microglia, we see some connection to the brain’s immune system, and it’s ongoing in various sections of the brain.

SLIDE 10: LARGE BRAINS IN AUTISM: THE CHALLENGE OF PERVASIVE ABNORMALITY

At Harvard, they got even more specific. They looked at neuro-inflammation, which I talked about, and oxidative stress, and microglia damage were all found in the brain tissue of people with autism. And they wrote that, “chronic disease or external environmental sources” – i.e., heavy metals may be the cause, and that, “Oxidative stress, brain inflammation, and microgliosis has been much documented in association with heavy metal exposures.”

None of this is proof of anything. But it does present a very interesting scientific avenue that should be pursued with Federal tax dollars from the Combating Autism Act. And if any of you are familiar with the IACC, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, these decisions are being made right now. I would love to see more work on oxidative stress and microgliosis combined with heavy metals exposures.

SLIDE 11: HANNAH POLING CONCESSION; NOVEMBER 9, 2007

Now, I apologize because we have so little time, so I’m going to move on to the Hannah Poling case, which you might have heard of. And this is a case that I think significantly moves this debate forward.

This is the actual court medical report filed on Hannah’s behalf. Hannah, of course, will personally receive money from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program for her autism. She’s a little girl from Georgia. She was perfectly normal -- walking and talking, she started speaking at nine months, and she met all of normal milestones, as you can read for yourself.

Then in 2000, when she was 19 months of age, she came in for her well-baby visit. She had missed a couple of vaccines because she had been sick, so the doctor played catch-up. And Hannah got nine vaccines in one day. She was given shots for tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenza B, chicken pox and polio.

Well, within two days, she had a spiking figure, she was lethargic, she was irritable, she cried for long periods. And, she began to show a decreased response to stimuli within just two days of her vaccinations.

Now, I have traveled all over this country, and I’ve spoken in about 40 different states. I have sat down in person with roughly over a thousand parents of children with autism, and I have heard this story a thousand times. That’s not science, that’s journalism. But when a journalist hears a distinct story a thousand times, and they are virtually identical – Kid is fine, kid is normal, kid is developing, kid gets vaccinated, kid regresses – you have to start asking yourself: “Are all these people just making it up? Are they crazy? Are they irrational?” They’re not. These are very intelligent parents that are in my book.

SLIDE 12: POLING CONCESSION

Anyway, Hannah began to deteriorate over the next several months. She showed irritability, she started pulling at her left ear, which is a sign of autism “stimming,” they call it. There were more fevers, more rashes. She kept going back to the doctor. She was getting sicker and sicker. She had speech delay, she was less responsive, she lost language.

SLIDE 13: POLING CONCESSION

In February, she lost eye contact, she was staring at the fluorescent lights. She was diagnosed with autism in February. And what they found was, when they did her blood work, that she had markers for mitochondrial dysfunction.

Mitochondria are the little batteries, which are virtually in every cell, that convert food and oxygen into energy. Hannah had a dysfunction of her mitochondria. She had low cellular energy. It was fairly asymptomatic because, at the time, no one knew that she suffered from this condition.

SLIDE 14:  POLING CONCESSION #2; FEBRUARY 21, 2008

Now, what happened was, when she got those nine vaccines at once, according to the concession by the Federal government, who will be paying out a lot of money to the Poling family – and Hannah also has epilepsy, which the government said was caused by the vaccines, even though the epilepsy took six years to develop, they still said it was caused by the vaccines -- this is what they wrote:

“The cause for Hannah’s (autistic) encephalopathy was an underlying mitochondrial dysfunction exacerbated by a vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves.”

She got pushed over the edge. And I just took that, and boiled it down just a little bit without really changing too many words, and I came up with this: “Hannah’s autism was caused by a vaccine-induced trigger of her underlying mitochondrial dysfunction.”

Now, at the time, we were told that this was an extremely rare condition, on the order of only 1 in about 5000 children. Now, there are only 5,000 cases pending -- only -- in vaccine court. And it was believed that Hannah Poling was going to be the only one. Well, I can tell you that she is not the only one. I’ve already identified a couple dozen kids just casually picking up the phone, calling parents, having them go back through their early blood work. Their kids have the exact same markers as Hannah Poling, the same indications of mitochondrial dysfunction, of low cellular energy. It happened to Hannah, and I’m convinced it happened to more kids than just Hannah.

SLIDE 15:  DR. GERBERDING ON CNN; MARCH 29, 2008

Dr. Gerberding went on CNN at the end of March and this is what she said: “If a child was immunized, had a fever, had other complications from the vaccine, such as over-stimulation of the metabolic reserves, it can certainly set off some damage, and some of these symptoms can have characteristics of autism.”

Well, Hannah doesn’t have “characteristics of autism;” Hannah has autism. I spoke to her mother this morning. Hannah is not doing well; she’s got some serious problems. And they’re worried about her. And to pretend like she really doesn’t have autism is just ridiculous. If you have the symptoms of autism, you have autism.

And then Dr. Julie Gerberding went on to say, “I think we have to have an open mind about this subject,” about vaccines and autism. She said it on CNN. When I say it, I get accused of being fringe, crazy, radical. But the director of the CDC said it.

SLIDE 16: THREE SOURCES OF MITO DISORDERS

Now what causes mitochondrial dysfunction -- or disease? There are different degrees of mitochondrial disorders. We have two types of DNA: We have mitochondrial DNA, and we have nuclear DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is passed down only through the mother. Obviously, nuclear DNA we get from both parents. So you could acquire mitochondrial disease either way. But the most common form is the so-called “sporadic form.” The United Mitochondrial Disease and the Cleveland Clinic now estimate it is responsible for 75% of all cases of mitochondrial disorder.

“Acquired,” through what? A lot of things attack mitochondria – mercury, aluminum, pesticides, formaldehyde, alcohol – even HIV drugs. AZT can delete large segments of the mitochondrial DNA in the fetus. Mitochondria are under assault in a lot of different ways, like I said, through the air, water, even household cleaning products. There’s a study showing that pregnant women, giving the dog a bath using flea shampoo, the pesticides in that might increase the risk of autism in the child. And that may be damaging the mitochondria in that child, setting that child up for the same kind of metabolic meltdown that Hannah Poling had.

SLIDE 17:  ESTIMATES OF MITO DYSFUNCTION

Mitochondrial dysfunction is not rare. It is common in autism, and the DNA mutations that might affect mitochondria are very common in the general population.

These are some studies. And the lowest estimate is 7.2% of all children with autism have mitochondrial dysfunction. But other estimates are up to 20%, or 30%. And if you look at just the regressive cases, for example the 5,000 cases pending in Vaccine Court, the attorneys for those families estimate that up to 50% of the children have the same mitochondrial markers as Hannah Poling.

Hannah was removed as a test case for Thimerosal. Her replacement was also just removed, because that child has the same mitochondrial markers as Hannah Poling. So this is far more common than we could have ever imagined.

And the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation just issued a major study -- which we’ll hand out at the end of this session – which estimates up to 1-in-200 people has a mutation in their mitochondrial DNA that might cause mitochondrial dysfunction. And another group of doctors, looking at nuclear DNA, estimates that up to 1-in-50 people might have a nuclear DNA mutation that could confer mitochondrial dysfunction.

And this is kind of exciting science. And it goes far beyond autism. It may involve all kinds of metabolic and autoimmune diseases in our country.

SLIDE 18:  CDC CONFERENCE CALL ON MITO DYSFUNCTION, VACCINES AND AUTISM

So what is the government doing in response to this? Well, one of the things is at a group called CISA (Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment) Network, which, if you don’t know about it, I suggest you check it out. It is made up of the CDC, vaccine experts around the country, and America’s health insurance companies. Bills are now being passed, state by state by state, requiring insurance companies to cover autism. And the insurance industry is rightly concerned, because this is really going to hurt their bottom line. They want to get to the bottom of this: The insurance industry wants to investigate vaccines.

Now, also this year, it was reported in a study of 30 children with autism at the Kennedy Krieger Clinic in Baltimore, that they all had low cellular energy, they all had the exact same markers as Hannah Poling. One of them was Hannah Poling. And they found out that this inheritance pattern seemed to be passed down from the father. And they suspected the mutation in the nuclear DNA may be as common as 1 in 50 people.

SLIDE 19:  MEETING TO DISCUSS TOP VACCINE SAFETY ISSUES IN DC

There is something called the Vaccine Safety Working Group, and I attended their meeting here in Washington on April 11. And these were the top vaccine safety people in the country, talking about what we need to study in terms of vaccine safety. And these were some of the questions that they want answered.

These are some of the specific questions: “Does Thimerosal cause tics or Tourettes?
Is pertusis vaccine associated with acute neurological events?” Then there is the combination of MMR and varicella. When they combined that shot into what was called ProQuad, it doubled the risk of seizures in children. That would indicate that some children can not handle that type of multiple vaccines as well as others. They want to look at MMR plus varicella, chicken pox, to see if that creates a particular risk for outcomes.

SLIDE 20:  CDC - CLINICAL OUTCOMES TO STUDY

Now, the other things that they want to study are these clinical outcomes, in a more general sense. What types of problems might vaccines cause? And right on the list are: “Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.”

This is HHS. This is CDC. This is the national vaccine research agenda. This is not my agenda. They are going to look at vaccines and autism. They’re going to look at vaccines and autoimmune diseases, nervous system demyelinating disorders, encephalitis, which just means brain swelling, and encephalopathy, which means disease of the brain - and other outcomes associated with post immunization fever, such as the type that afflicted Hannah Poling. So again, when people say that this debate is over, this debate is just getting under way. And it’s not me. It’s the United States government.

SLIDE 21: CDC ALSO PROPOSES MITO RESEARCH

And I also note that the CDC wants to ask this question – And I quote verbatim from the document, from the strategic research agenda: “Is immunization associated with increased risk of neurological deterioration in children with mitochondrial dysfunction?”
Well, if you ask Hannah’s father, Jon Poling, a real pediatric expert, he would say, “Yes,” And in the case of his daughter, the answer is yes. And the point is that the CDC is looking at the connection between vaccines, mitochondrial disorders, and autism.

SLIDE 22: BRIDGING FROM CELLS TO COGNITION IN AUTISM

Now, what we are reviewing here is hardcore science, none of it is junk science. It’s all peer reviewed and done at major universities. And it tends to tie together environmental toxins, mitochondrial damage, glutathione deficiency, neuro-inflammation and oxidative stress in a really elegant and beautiful way.

And it is fascinating science, and I think we all should read about it. Now, the way that toxins work is, they actually permeate the mitochondrial membrane. They make the mitochondria dysfunctional, and also release certain chemicals (in the mitochondria) which are toxic to the cell. So some toxins actually kill cells through the mitochondria.

Now, this study by Martha Herbert is particularly interesting, and she says that, “Autism may begin when early environmental, infectious, seizure, or autoimmune insult triggers an immune response that increases oxidative stress in the brain.”

This oxidative stress in turn leads to DNA damage, both nuclear and mitochondrial, and blocks productions of glutathione, which helps us fight oxidative stress and helps us fight heavy metal accumulation.

This starts a cycle, and “the continued use of damaged mitochondria” and impaired metabolic function will make the situation worse, and create additional oxidative stress. Finally, “this mitochondrial dysfunction will then activate astroglia and microglia.”

So we keep coming back to those same words that I showed you in that first slide. Oxidative stress, neuro-inflammation, glutathione depletion, activation of astroglia and microglia: It all really should be researched more.

SLIDE 23: OBAMA AND MCCAIN

I’m almost finished. In the political realm, once again, as part of this debate, the next president of the United States, whoever he is, has said already that we need to research this; that this is not over, and that it’s the government’s responsibility to get to the bottom of it. I’ll let you read the quotes themselves; I think they speak for themselves:

Barack Obama - April, 2008: “We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

John McCain - March, 2008: “It's indisputable that autism is on the rise amongst children, the question is what's causing it. And we go back and forth, and there's strong evidence that indicates that it's got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

SLIDE 24:  DR. BERNADINE HEALY ON CBS NEWS

And finally Dr. Bernadine Healy, who I have tremendous respect for, a former head of the NIH and the American Red Cross, who now is the medical editor at U.S. News, said this on CBS News:

“Officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as 'irrational,' without sufficient studies of causation, without studying the population that got sick.”

You can’t rely solely on epidemiology to solve a physiological mystery; we have to look at the kids. And then she said, and I think we should all take this to heart, “Never turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you are afraid of what it might show.”

I’m trying to save the vaccine program, not destroy it. What if we can locate the children who have certain genetic susceptibilities and vaccinate them differently? What if Hannah had only gotten three vaccines on that day? Or two? Or one? Yes, she would have had to come back to the office more. But she might not be autistic today. And no one is saying don’t vaccinate, but maybe some kids just can’t handle it (the schedule). Particularly with the rising level of background environmental toxins that we have.

SLIDE 25: SINCE THE BEGINNING OF 2008, WE HAVE HEARD FROM…

This slide will be in your handout that you’ll be given when you leave. In the last year, these people and these groups have said, “We should look into vaccines and autism, or we at least need to consider the possibility”:

Both presidential candidates. The director of the CDC. The former head of the NIH. The chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Investigations, who is doing some really interesting work right now. Dr. Jon Poling, a respected pediatric neurologist. The HHS Vaccine Safety Working Group. CDC’s Vaccine Safety Research Agenda. Medical personnel at HHS. The strategic planning working group of the IACC Committee, which I hope we can get to in the Q&A. The CISA network. Autism researchers at Johns Hopkins. America’s health insurance companies, and Autism speaks.

Not a fringe among them. This is as mainstream as it gets. And so when people tell you this debate is over, you refer them to any one of these 13 groups. And see if these folks feel like the debate is over or not. I’m going to leave it there, and I’m going to hand this to Mark. Thank you very much.

David Kirby is the author of Evidence of Harm, a journalist and contributor to Age of Autism.

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Mitochondrial Dysfunction would certainly explain the pervasive deficits that children on the Autism spectrum display -- almost as if they "don't have the energy necessary" to engage in reciprocal relationsips (cognitive resources) and have notoriously "low muscle tone" as well. I think that further exploration along this line will be fruitful, but we also need to fund treatment programs that work with children on the Autism spectrum -- especially those that provide the persistent encouragement to "go the extra mile" in pursuing reciprocity in social relationships that is the hallmark of the "Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Services" (BHRS) available under the EPSDT mandate of Medicaid. Research is showing this to be a highly promising means of helping children with autism and related disorders. For more information, see www.ibc-pa.org

Thank you David for a wonderful summary in language that is easy for parents to understand. I am taking notes to discuss at my next Dr. appt with my son!

would LOVE a copy of the power point presentation...can AoA put up a link?

Thank you again!

David's address mentions other events in Washington this week, but is it too much to suggest that our event is thematic with the financial crisis, and that pharmaceutical science is conducted on much the same level of probity as our financial services, with almost identical flaws in monitoring and regulation. All the time we are confronted with the disingenuous and the facile explanations: everything is appearance but the system is thoroughly debauched. We are mired in the same corporate greed and ruthlessness, and the tricks only have to slightly adapted from one sector to another, in which semantics substitute for truth.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/aug/07/highereducation.news

Kirby's briefing is exceptionally easy to understand and should be made available to the mainstream media to reach as large an audience as possible. Why can't investigative shows like Dateline or PBS's Nova do a follow-up on Kirby's excellent work?

How do I get a copy of the DVD from NYU and the handout from this presentation? I see the link to the powerpoint slides, but you mentioned a handout they would be given on the way out?

It would be soooo helpful to have these when I meet with some influential people in the medical community next month.

My email is kellyvalenta (at) yahoo.com

David and Mark - you are fantastic! David - this is a great overview and I've sent it to lots of friends and family - you are SUCH a fantastic voice for our community!! We are so grateful for you!

I am glad to see that there is a continuing dialog. I am convinced that mercury is involved in some way, and it is really important to include other sources of mercury and other synergistically relevant toxins. One added point that I came across recently is the fact that children with autism are likely to be Vitamin D deficient. It matters because Vitamin D is necessary for glutathione production. The upswing of mercury exposure since the beginning of the '90s has been accompanied with an increase in Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency and mercury exposure might be of significance in the Somali populations in Sweden and Minnesota. It hope this connection will be included in further studies.

"...Not a fringe among them. This is as mainstream as it gets. And so when people tell you this debate is over, you refer them to any one of these 13 groups. And see if these folks feel like the debate is over or not..."

Niiiiice.

Since the ScienceBlog is irrelevant as well, can you find a way to remove it?? Pretty please??

FeFe's comment was irrelevant to this post and we removed it.

"Amy told me that Autism Speaks was succumbing to parental pressure, and that they just did this to “appease” the people who want to see that type of research. That was an insult to the scientific committee at Autism Speaks. They did not fund these studies to appease anyone; they funded these studies because this debate and this research continues."

Glad to see David Kirby say this. Gives me a little more faith in Autism Speaks motives.

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