By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.
Even when you’ve taken on a case as an attorney you keep investigating the claims of your client. Because there are few things worse than sitting across the table in arbitration when the other side makes an assertion you’ve never heard before.
You start to sit back in your chair because you’re certain your client would’ve told you of such a fact, but then see your client starting to sweat. You call a recess, take your client outside to find out what’s going on, only to find a good deal of your case has now crumbled.
It’s because I’ve had that happen a few times in my legal career that I continue to research the question of monkey viruses and autism, despite having spent many hours in conversation with Dr. Martin and various parents who are using his therapy with their children. It's a theory which keeps me scratching my head because it seems to come from so far out of left field.
But you go where the evidence leads you. And the issue of monkey virus contamination of the vaccine supply is a controversy people besides Dr. Martin have been working on for years.
The best written account of the contamination of the polio vaccine with monkey viruses is found in the book “The Virus and the Vaccine” by Debbie Bookchin, and Jim Schumacher. The book is based on an article they originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in 2000 and earned a selection in the Harper Collins book “Best Science Writing 2001.” I recommend the book to anyone interested in the controversy.
According to the authors, between 1958 and 1963 (and possibly even until 2001), more than 98 million people received polio vaccines contaminated with a carcinogenic monkey vaccine, known as SV-40. (SV-40 stands for “simian virus #40”. That’s right, they’ discovered 39 previous monkey viruses in the vaccine before they got to #40.)
And amazingly, a familiar name pops up in this account, Maurice Hilleman. When it was discovered that SV-40 had infected the supply of polio vaccine, and that it was causing cancer in laboratory animals in alarming numbers, Hilleman told the Public Health Service Technical Committee on June 20, 1961 that all the Salk polio vaccines, even his own Purivax vaccine should be withdrawn for six months while these problems were studied. (Hilleman was among the first to sound the alarm at Merck about the high level of thimerosal children would be exposed to when the vaccination schedule was changed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.)
In what can only be looked upon as a preview of what would later happen with thimerosal and autism, the public health authorities did not take these concerns seriously, and in many instances, attempted to wreck the careers of those scientists who asked questions.
While the SV-40 virus has been linked to five different types of cancer; lymphomas, brain cancers, bone cancers, leukemia, and mesothelioma, the authors of “The Virus and the Vaccine” concentrated on the link to mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer which attacks the lining that surrounds the abdominal cavity, lungs, and heart. It is associated with exposure to asbestos, but in about 40% of the cases there is no evidence of asbestos exposure. (Could this explain some of the autistic children who did not get vaccinations, or who according to their parents, were born that way?) Mesothelioma kills about 2,500 people a year in the United States and is expected to kill some 250,000 people world-wide between 2000 and 2030.
While I understand that Dr. Martin’s theory concerns the simian cytomegalovirus (SCMV)and not SV-40, the difference between the two might not be as great as first appears since the two have a tendency to “swap” genes and behave in similar manners.
Switching from my lawyer hat to my science teacher hat, I found the following assertions in “The Virus and the Vaccine” to be supportive of Dr. Martin’s claims of a monkey virus contribution to autism.
• In mesothelioma SV-40 secretes an antigen which suppresses p53, the body’s main cancer suppressor gene.
• Mesothelial cells contain 4 to 5 times more p53 than other cells. (My next question to research is whether the brain contains a large amount of p53 cells. My inclination is to say yes as I recall reading that of all the cancers, the least likely for a child to get is a brain tumor. It would make sense then that a child would have large amount of p53 in their brains, but I don’t yet know that for a fact.)
• SV-40 does different things in different cells and is very disruptive of cell physiology. One scientist described it as looking like a tiny bomb went off in the cell.
• SV-40 can accelerate cell growth. (This made me think of the observed cellular overgrowth in the brains of children with autism.)
• The main scientist who is studying SV-40, Micheal Carbone, (associate professor of pathology at Loyola University Medical School, and researcher at Loyola’s Cardinal Bernadin Cancer Center) believes SV-40 works in concert with other immuno-suppressant carcinogens. In mesothelioma it is asbestos, but it makes me wonder why a similar argument couldn’t be made for Dr. Martin’s simian cytomegalovirus and thimerosal or aluminum.
• Investigations of p53 levels in children with autism have found altered levels of this gene. (“Levels of Bcl-2 and P53 are Altered in Superior Frontal and Cerebellar Cortices of Autistic Subjects”, Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Volume 23, Number 6, pp. 945-952)
The science of this subject is extremely complicated and I’m the first to admit there’s still a great deal I don’t fully understand. But there are a few things which stand out quite clearly to me.
The widespread dispersal of monkey viruses in the general population through the polio vaccination campaign is well-documented. More controversial is whether these viruses are leading to an increase in cancers, and whether money viruses could be implicated in autism.
I can’t provide any personal testimony on Dr. Martin’s protocol as it was determined that one of the agents used in the treatment had expired. If in the future you do the treatment and the towel placed on your child’s body doesn’t start to glow when the UV light is turned on like something from some spooky Halloween special effect, you’ve got a bad batch. A new batch is being prepared and tested, with the hope it can be distributed by November 1. (Yes, I do sometimes get the feeling God really likes to test my patience!)
But aside from the problems to be expected in an "investigational study", the more I look at issue of monkey viruses and human health the more I believe the whole story hasn’t gotten out to the public.
In a June 2003 article in “The Lancet”, one of Dr. Carbone’s colleagues, Janet Butel surveyed every published finding looking for SV-40 in human tumors. The article summed up the results from nearly 1,900 tumor samples and more than 1,650 controls. They found the when SV-40 was combined with lymphoma the odds ratio was five, for brain cancers it was four, for bone cancers it was twenty-five, and for mesothelioma it was seventeen. For comparison’s sake, it was an odds ratio of ten which linked smoking with cancer.
I wonder what the odds ratio would be for the finding of Dr. Martin’s simian cytomegalovirus in our children with autism. I expect it would be similarly high.
I hope to give you my own personal report by Thanksgiving, God willing. Excuse me now while I venture off to church to burn a couple prayer candles for the hopes of all our children.
Kent Heckenlively is Legal Editor for Age of Autism.