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Out of Africa and Into Autism: More Evidence Illuminates the Somali Anomaly in Minnesota

Smells_badBy Mark F. Blaxill

Amidst the furor over autism in America, some very simple facts are getting lost in the rhetorical fog of medical denial, corporate self-dealing and civic irresponsibility. They’re worth repeating. Autism was once very rare in the United States and required “discovering” by Leo Kanner among a small group of children born in the 1930s. When researchers first measured American autism rates, they were lower than surveys coming from other parts of the developed world, sometimes less than 1 in 10,000. Today, it’s nearly impossible to find an American who doesn’t know a family touched by autism and rates are over 1 in 100 in some areas of the country. It doesn’t take a genius to derive a short list of broad-based environmental exposures that have changed rapidly enough to give us some pretty good ideas about causation.

Meanwhile, the moral cowardice of the American scientific community has been on full display in the midst of the obviousness of this scourge and its likely causes. Scientists, academics and public health officials get this pained expression on their faces when the subject of the autism epidemic comes up, as if someone has passed gas audibly in the middle of a tea party. “Can’t we talk about something more civilized?” their faces seem to say. “There must be an explanation for all these pesky numbers that won’t force me to change my beliefs or behaviors. Why can’t all you autism advocates just go away?” After years of seeing these faces, I’ve learned to recognize the look and have gotten better at managing my own frustration over the incoherence of the denialist impulse. Still, the stark reality of these simple facts needs reinforcing and like any stubborn problem new facts constantly emerge to provide new reinforcement.

As if on cue, the latest autism tragedy has emerged: the Somali community of Minnesota. This cluster of families is just the latest chapter in the long history of political refugees seeking shelter in America. In this case the Somalis are escaping an African nightmare of a civil war that has lasted nearly two decades and emigrating to American in large numbers looking to replace their nightmare with the American dream. For many of these families, however, the move to America has led them straight into a new nightmare, one where overt physical violence is replaced with a new danger: one full of smiling faces and the outward appearance of order, but where the threat of injury to their families is no less real. This new danger reaches into their homes not through the barrel of a gun but through the tip of a needle and it leaves no visible wounds, just the inflamed brain tissues of their infant children.

Out of Africa and into autism. Welcome to America, our Somali friends.

For the American autism community, the rapidly evolving Somali experience in America is unfolding in familiar form: first with their own rising awareness of the autism anomaly as inexplicably high numbers of autism diagnoses show up in their children, followed closely by organized denial by public health authorities of both the rising numbers and the obvious potential causes. American parents are accustomed to the evidentiary arguments and the debating points. But in the case of the Somali anomaly, the evidence is even starker and bears repeating.

1) Autism has always been rare in Africa, with low rates that have surprised researchers.

2) Most autism in Africa occurred in elite families with access to Western health services.

3) Among Africans who migrate to Western countries, autism rates are remarkably high. These immigrants face unusual risks of over vaccination.

What does it take to connect the dots here? But let me take you all through a quick tour of the evidence base on autism in Africa (see a short list of references at the end of this essay). It’s deeper and more conclusive than most of you might know.

Very low autism rates in Africa

Over thirty years ago, a man named Victor Lotter took a tour of Africa looking for autism cases. He didn’t attempt a full prevalence study; instead he simply went to visit “collections” of mentally handicapped children in institutions in hopes that he would be able to find evidence of autism in these high concentrations of mentally impaired children. “It was clear from…preliminary inquiries”, wrote Lotter, “that autistic behavior does occur in…Africa.” So he visited nine cities in six African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa) in search for as many cases of autism as he could find. Although not a full scale population survey, Lotter personally screened over 1,300 mentally handicapped children during a two year period.

Lotter was well suited for the investigation. His 1966 survey in Middlesex County England was the first of its kind: the oldest population prevalence survey of autism ever published. His prevalence estimate of 4.1 per 10,000 (1 in 2400) defined the generally accepted disease frequency of autism that was repeated for decades to follow. (For many of us, when our children were first diagnosed in the 1990s, Lotter’s rate of 4-5 per 10,000 was still the rate of autism most of us were quoted when we wanted to know how unlucky we really were).

What Lotter found in Africa surprised him, namely that “the number of autistic children found was much smaller than expected.” Only 9 of the 1312 mentally handicapped children he saw in nine cities were autistic (a rate of 1 in 145, nearly the same as the autism rate today in the entire US childhood population!). He had expected to see over 1 in 20. Around that time, clinicians in Nigeria and later in Kenya confirmed that autism indeed was present among African children but found it rare enough that it was worthwhile for them to give detailed profiles of just four and three cases, respectively.

From our current vantage point, the obvious inference to draw from this low rate of autism in Africa is that the rate of autism was low because the exposure to early childhood vaccination in the general African population was low as well. But at the time these early surveys were published, the autism controversy that was raging focused more on Bruno Bettelheim’s “refrigerator mother” theory than on vaccines, and so all these early authors tread carefully on the question of parental backgrounds (see below) and never even considered the vaccination question.

And for the most part, that is where the African prevalence information has been left. But the search for African cases has continued sporadically, and has led to an interesting recent twist. A couple of years ago, one of the most doctrinaire “autism is genetic” American researchers, in a major break with orthodox doctrine, conceded the idea that there might be such a thing as regressive autism. Not in America, of course, but in Tanzania. A group led by Susan Folstein recently examined reports that previously typical children could acquire autism after a malaria infection. In a group of 14 autistic children, Folstein’s group conceded that in at least three cases “the relationship between onset of autism and severe malaria seems clear” and that in four additional cases there was a possible relationship. That implies that as many as half of the autism cases seen in African populations could be acquired and not genetic. This was surprising enough, but it was not the only unusual implication. If malaria can cause autism, then of course Africa should be full of autism cases!

The researchers reluctantly conceded this point, although the Folstein paper is a veritable symphony of contradictions between orthodox autism doctrine and their evidence. After first reporting, true to form, that “autism in the Western world has a primarily genetic etiology, although the genes responsible for the majority of cases are still not known”, Folstein’s team then went on to crow that theirs was the “first report to identify Plasmodium falciparum as an etiologic agent of autism.” But this discovery led the authors straight to an obvious anomaly: “one logical consequence of the frequency of cases with infectious etiologies is that the prevalence of autism should be higher in Africa than it is in the West.” And if not, as should be obvious to anyone, then maybe there was something else going on in these cases in addition to their malaria infections. 

Clearly, the link between autism and malaria makes no sense at all if autism rates are low in Africa. How do the author’s deal with this contradiction? Their response strikes a familiar chord: they ignored it.

“The prevalence of autism in Africa…is unknown.”

Most African autism cases occur in elite families

Going one level deeper in the surveys of autism in Africa reveals another critical bit of evidence. Unfailingly, when autism was found by early researchers in African families, it occurred with overwhelming frequency in elite families. Lotter reported that “there was amongst all the children originally selected as possible cases an excess of the elite…this excess was even greater amongst the autistic children than amongst non-autistic children.” Lotter defined as elite as “any child who had been born abroad [Britain, Europe or North America], or had lived for any period abroad, or whose parent(s) had lived for any period abroad, or whose father had a non-manual job.” Lotter’s finding found support from other researchers as well: all four cases in the Nigerian report came from elite families as did the three Kenyan children, the parents of whom included a medical doctor, an engineer and the “chairman of a parastatal organization.”

Although none of the studies provide evidence on the point, the obvious inference to draw from this social class finding is that the children of elite families were at higher risk of vaccination. But again, this treatment risk was never considered. Instead, in the era of Bruno Bettelheim, the main question that emerged from this finding was whether or not autism was “class related.”

Not surprisingly, this interpretation of autism delighted some academic observers, who were eager to blame, if not simply the parents, then society and social class for autism. “Infantile autism”, wrote Victor Sanua in a 1984 paper that reviewed the evidence of autism in Africa, “appears to be an illness of Western Civilization, and appears in countries of high technology, where the nuclear family dominates.” The idea that the risk of Western Civilization might be real but boil down to something quite specific seems to never have occurred to Dr. Sanua.

High autism rates in African immigrants

Well before the Somali anomaly in Minnesota, autism surveys noted an increased risk of autism among African immigrants. The first hint that immigrants to Western countries might have higher risk of autism came not from Minnesota but from Göteburg Sweden. In 1991, Christopher Gillberg, one of the more prolific autism survey authors, published a study entitled, “Is autism more common now than ten years ago?” in which he made the following observation. “Almost 60% of all new children with autism in the urban region detected between 1984 and 1988 were born to immigrant parents. Almost all of these parents had been born in non-neighboring countries and more than half came from southern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. So far, this represents an unusual distribution of immigrants as compared with the Göteburg population in general.”

In subsequent studies, Gillberg went on to investigate the idea that children born to parents of immigrants to Sweden (including but not limited to African immigrants) had higher autism risk. Gillberg didn’t consider the vaccination risk in any of these papers. Instead, he raised for the first time the rather ridiculous notion that “men with Asperger syndrome (whose children would be more likely than others to develop autism) might marry women from other cultures, who, in turn, might not initially be as aware of the social and communication deficits shown by these men as native women would be.” (I’ve called this hypothesis the “geeks get lucky” theory elsewhere but that’s a subject for another day). As far as the African immigrants, Gillberg looked directly at three Ugandan immigrant families. In a detailed study of these specific cases, Gillberg rejected the parental mating theory while also not ruling out the idea that the Ugandan mothers were exposed to a novel virus while pregnant and that this exposure provoked autism in their children. The suggestion that the virus might be a vaccine rather than a wild type virus never came up.

Only recently has Gillberg even raised the specter of the vaccination hypothesis: this time indirectly in a 2008 analysis of Somali immigrants in Göteburg. Most importantly, this new study found a rate of autism among Somali immigrant families (1 in 142) that was three to four times higher than the rate in the non-Somali group from Göteburg (1 in 526). In their paper, the authors commented that the Göteburg Somali community was suspicious of the MMR vaccine and had a reduced vaccination compliance rate (70% vs. 95%). They also noted that they had collected medical records (“antenatal, perinatal, and postnatal data, medical information”) for all the Somali immigrants. That would seem to set the stage for a rather obvious analysis: what was the nature of the vaccine exposure in the children and mothers of these Somali immigrants?

But despite collecting all the information in Somali vaccine records, there was no vaccination risk analysis of any kind disclosed in the paper.

The obvious risk that immigrants to any Western country, both Sweden and America, face is over vaccination. As vaccination programs have spread around the world in recent years, future immigrants are increasingly likely to be vaccinated in their home countries. When they travel, they are forced to receive another round of vaccinations in their home countries before they leave. When they reach their new countries, their previous vaccination records are generally not recognized as valid and they often must be vaccinated again. This unique migration risk is especially relevant for population groups that can influence autism risk: women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and infants. It’s hard to know what kind of havoc these redundant treatments wreck on the immune system of such targets when they receive excessive vaccine doses. All we know is that children of modern immigrants are at high risk of both over vaccination and of autism. And that no one has ever bothered to investigate over vaccination as a specific risk factor of obtaining the medical entry visa to Western Civilization.

* * *

By now, the familiar rituals of denial in Minnesota are as predictable as they are pathetic. Autism rates can’t be low in Africa, “we simply don’t know what the prevalence is.” Autistic regression can’t be a reality in the US but when it’s reported after a small number of malaria infections in Tanzania, then even the most hard core genetic determinists are willing to consider the possibility—in Tanzania. When higher rates of autism show up in African women who immigrate, certainly it can’t be the experience these women had while immigrating that might shed light on their infant’s risks, no it must be the innate autistic features of their husbands (Swedish geeks who got lucky and fooled their Ugandan brides). And, of course, when the Somali community in Minnesota begins to mobilize around the possibility that the excessive rate of vaccination to which they’ve been subjected during their immigration process might have increased their children’s risk of autism, they are dismissed with the same contempt with which the American parents have been treated.

If it weren’t so tragic, it would make for high comedy. What are these people thinking?

At the end of the day, there must be a moral accounting here. Lotter found 1 in 138 in a population of mentally handicapped children. By contrast, in Somalian immigrants in Minnesota, we are finding 1 in 28 in the entire population of children. The Somali anomaly is no anomaly at all. Instead it is a bright beacon that shines an uncomfortable light on the root causes of autism. I can just see those puckered faces of public health officials.

When will they open their eyes to see the simple facts?

References
Studies of autistic children in Africa
1. Lotter V. Childhood autism in Africa. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1978;19(3):231-44.
2. Dhadphale M, Lukwago MG, Gajjar M. Infantile autism in Kenya. Indian J Pediatr. 1982;49(396):145-8.
3. Longe, C.I. Four cases of infantile autism in Nigerian children. African Journal of Psychiatry 1976;2:161-75.
4. Khan N, Hombarume J. Levels of autistic behaviour among the mentally handicapped children in Zimbabwe. Cent Afr J Med. 1996;42(2):36-9
5. Mankoski RE, Collins M, Ndosi NK, Mgalla EH, Sarwatt VV, Folstein SE. Etiologies of autism in a case-series from Tanzania. J Autism Dev Disord. 2006;36(8):1039-51.
6. Sanua VD. Is infantile autism a universal phenomenon? An open question.
Int J Soc Psychiatry. 1984;30(3):163-77.

Studies of autism among families of African immigrants
1. Gillberg C, Steffenburg S, Schaumann H. Is autism more common now than ten years ago? Br J Psychiatry. 1991;158:403-9.
2. Gillberg C, Schaumann H, Gillberg IC. Autism in immigrants: children born in Sweden to mothers born in Uganda. J Intellect Disabil Res. 1995;39 ( Pt 2):141-4.
3. Gillberg IC, Gillberg C. Autism in immigrants: a population-based study from Swedish rural and urban areas. J Intellect Disabil Res. 1996;40 ( Pt 1):24-31
4. Barnevik-Olsson M, Gillberg C, Fernell E. Prevalence of autism in children born to Somali parents living in Sweden: a brief report. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2008;50(8):598-601.

Mark Blaxill is Editor at Large for Age of Autism.

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Your article was interesting, but it seemed too one-sided. I have been reading hundreds of articles and visiting with medical experts for several years now over the autism & immunizations debate. Your article has confirmed my theory that autism cases are mainly genetic & environmentally caused. I wish more experts would focus on that and find a real solution instead of pointing at immunizations which have saved countless lives for more than a hundred years now. I have immunized each of my four children and feel that too many people have made it their life mission to stir Americans and other nations to not immunize, which is causing more deaths from these childhood diseases that should have been prevented.

I am not entirely confident that vaccinations are the cause of autism. I believe that "friendly bacteria" is more likely keeping African peoples autism rates lower. The prevalence of pesticides, personal hygeine products and recently the use of hand sanitisers has created a lowered immune system in the general population of most industrialized countries. The lowest autism rates are in the most "isolated" African countries. Has anyone every fully explored the lack of "friendly bactiera" especially those prevalent in African countries?? Just a thought.

I have a son who is autistic. I strongly believe there is a link between autism and vaccination.Those with autism are genetically predipose to this vaccine. Mine son was talking fluently and has no problems until after taking the MMR vaccine, when suddenly we noticed a decline in verbal communication and varying behavoural changes. No one as at now, has come out to say exactly the cause of this illness. It's just around the corner for the cause of this illness to be known.

Let's say some of our children have something similar to the g6pd enzyme deficiency or the Pyruvate kinase enzyme deficiency which can be traced to malaria as actual protection from the disease set up in nature. It kind of fits with my son, he is very sulfur sensitive and bean sensitive. He is sensitive to penicillin and of course Gluten casein and soy. Furthermore, I have researched that they have to be very careful about immunizing this select group of people because the reaction to the vaccine can be so immense it can cause neurological disorders or even death. Have they ever taken blood from a child at the time of reaction, who has regressed into autism to see if they are having some sort of hemolytic reaction to it? No. My Husband's family is from Puerto Rico, which before 1962 had major malaria problems. If you look at a list of countries that are at risk for malaria the list is huge. Anyway, I do not think it is the actual malaria causing autism, but I think that there may be a tie in the enzymes deficiencies related to malaria. Thus, with out a specific enzyme like G6pd, you may be looking at major repercussions from immunizations. So you see some children regress into autism after their shots. Diet can also be a contributing factor because without some enzymes the body can not utilize the foods properly and thus cause problems in some children. Chemicals and metals may be a problem in some children because of the bodies inability to detoxify. It makes it a puzzle because it responds differently in different genomes. Therefore the wide range of differences.

Dear Monica,
I'm sorry to hear you considered my arguments "hysterical" and "insulting." I understand how autism advocacy has the potential to polarize the thinking of the advocates; there are certainly autism advocates in the US who would share your views.

I can only comment on your specific points.
1. I refer here to a wide range of literature on autism in Africa and in African immigrants. The studies range in publication date from 1978 to 2008. To suggest that this research "doesn't exist" is simply nihilist. As the saying goes, if we ignore the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat it.

2. As to your hostility to the notion that autism may have at one time been concentrated among the elite, please don't accuse me of disrespect, read the studies themselves and demonstrate their errors. The suggestion that autism was most common in elite families was common in many early autism surveys. Just because you don't like the evidence that doesn't mean it doesn't exist and that others were necessarily negligent in their reporting. Evidence is evidence, and has a way of evading our expectations.

3. More broadly, there is a habit that has become common in the autism debate and that is the attempt to nullify the source of evidence when that evidence contravenes an orthodox set of beliefs. Clearly, as a longtime autism parent advocate (something for which you certainly deserve praise), you have adopted some of the prejudices and beliefs of the old autism paradigm and profess an attachment to mainstream medical practice. But your good works and your prejudices don't justify name calling and certainly don't justify the rejection of evidence just because you don't like it. The evidence is what it is. Deal with it.

4. To the extent that your personal experience provides evidence that contradicts the argument I have made here, I am certainly open to learn more about what you know about autism in Africa (I certainly don't doubt that there is familial clustering in some African families as we've seen there is in the US). If you have documentation that supports your claims, I'd be very interested to learn more. All I can say is that there are other African commenters on this thread and elsewhere that agree with my arguments.

It's interesting to know the ASAfrica has such a blase attitude toward the crisis in Minnesota. I guess Kool Aid is an international drink.

Kim

I read this article with much reservation. I felt that it was almost hysterical in its approach and probably the facts are obscured by hysteria. I am from Kenya. I have an autistic son. He is now 20 years old and I have struggled with this issue to the extent that I founded, with two other women, the Autism Society of Kenya.

The references that you have used are very old. I have to say, that in the first place, Africa is a huge continent, with a diverse population, diverse cultures and norms and it is never possible to generalise about "research" and "realitities" in Africa. I would go three steps further and say that no real research regarding autism have yet taken place in Africa, with the possible exception of South Africa, and so no body can come to any conclusion about autism being found in only "elite" families who have had access to "Western" medicine. In the first place it is an insult to talk about "western medicine" as though there are any groupings. In my mind, there is only one type of medicine and here in Kenya, we have some of the finest practioners of medical science!

As a founder of the Autism Society of Kenya, I have personally come across hundreds of families affected by autism, and they come from all socio-economic backgrounds - from the poor family in the rural areas with no access whatsoever to information to those with access. Kenya is a dirt poor country with the majority of the population living below the poverty line, therefore, the majority of autistic people will logically be found within this bracket (this is a mathematical probability).

There is a big problem with many people with autism being tied up and hidden in homes. When you talk about "elite" families, I find that personally insulating as though it is a rich persons condition. Even people in Europe and in the USA ought to be insulted by the connotation. What about the families living in the projects - on the fringes of society in the U.S.A.? it is easy to sweep these families under the carpet and pretend they don't exist.

Do not talk about autism research in Africa and their findings - it doesn't exist except in the figment of someone's imagination. Do not forget that AFrica is a vast continent made up of so many different countries and cultures (I think 49 countries, maybe more) - some are English speaking, some are French speaking, some Portuguese, etc. and there are some Arabic speaking countries to the North.

It is important to realise that in Kenya, no research has been done, and in the majority of African states - perhaps in South Africa - so no conclusions can be drawn about the "causes of autism". I can say, however, that here in Kenya, I have come across several families that have more than one autistic person in their midst - that speaks to a genetic pre-disposition.

Monica Mburu
Autism Society of Kenya

I have two autistic children, and one autistic (Aspergers) husband. My daughter, looking back, was different from BIRTH. Seeing her in my memory's eye on the warming table at delivery, even, I know that she was autistic immediately. My son, less so. And he has many different issues than she does. They're mirror images of each other in autism. I held back only the MMR vaccines. And she was diagnosed before receiving the MMR. I went to a very upper set of pediatricians, and all of their vaccines were mercury-free (I was shown the vials, the labels, etc., to help me understand). My children's exposure to mercury, at least in vaccine form, is almost nil. And my husband received only whatever vaccines were required as a youngster--nothing like the load kids are expected to deal with now. So how does that figure into it? And why do my two have autism, when my mother's sisters have between them 12 children and 19 grandchildren and none of them have autism but have received all of their vaccines? I believe it must lie in genetic predisposition and that until we can screen for this, and schedule vaccines accordingly as they are young, we will continue to blunder upon the 1 in 150 who is going to be lost to us. Mine started out like this--what about others?

Scientists/physicians must stop denying the link between autism and vaccination. There are also children afflicted who have never received vaccinations. I would appreciate references for further reading.
Susan Florida

Regarding autism affecting 'elite' families in Africa, a similar thing is reportedly happening right now in some Asian countries. For example in Vietnam the rates of autism are increasing now, but according to one parent "our therapist does not see any affected kids when she visits schools in poorer neighbourhoods", it is only children of middle class families, those that can afford Wester-style health care, that are affected.

THANK YOU! I will be taking thiis to my PDD son's doctor asking for an order excusing him from some or all the Army vaccinations when he goes into the Army Dec 30th. If anyone has advice on how to get him excused from their heavy vaccination program, I would appreciate it! paulanotes@yahoo.com

I am from Africa too! Next door to Somalia.When my son was diagnosed I was trying to find out a way to explain the cause of the problem. I, myself, have reached at a conclusion that it is purely environmental. About eight years ago, I had, in fact, contacted NAAR to carry out a research work and show the public that autism is not genetic and since I was alone struggling to explain the source of the problem, I could not go any further.
Whenever I discuss the matter with people, I have consistently explained, "as a child I did not see autism in my neighbourhood, as a student I did not see autism in my school and as teacher I did not see it in my classroom .The writer really expressed my own belief,That is exactly what I wanted to show the world.Poor me I could not go further, still I try to explain to every body that Autism is a man made disorder!
Thank you

I am from Africa too! Next door to Somalia.When my son was diagnosed I was trying to find out a way to explain the cause of the problem. I, myself, have reached at a conclusion that it is purely environmental. About eight years ago, I had, in fact, contacted NAAR to carry out a research work and show the public that autism is not genetic and since I was alone struggling to explain the source of the problem, I could not go any further.
Whenever I discuss the matter with people, I have consistently explained, "as a child I did not see autism in my neighbourhood, as a student I did not see autism in my school and as teacher I did not see it in my classroom .The writer really expressed my own belief,That is exactly what I wanted to show the world.Poor me I could not go further, still I try to explain to every body that Autism is a man made disorder!
Thank you

bureaucrat(sp) I meant. Gotta get that one right.

Stan

You nailed it on the head but I still think that this bit is not entirely correct.

"(a) the genes found to be linked with autism code for glutamate synapse formation, so children with autism have a genetically miswired glutamate neurotransmission network"

Is it truly miswired or just functioning differently, as in more sensitive.. as in faster processing of information? This is one are where we can't ever let some beaurocrat state that genes related to autism are "flawed" in any way. Not that you were saying that, but it is what is always implied by the CDC, and it is real easy to fall into the Pharma trap of blaming "faulty" genes.

Mark Blaxill thank you from Cambridge, MA. My son is in Special Start and the number of Somali children with Autism is higher than any other ethnic group.Keep going, you are going to get to the bottom of this quickly along this path. Your neighbor and supporter, Alison macNeil

Mark,

What a well written piece.

"The Somali anomaly is no anomaly at all. Instead it is a bright beacon that shines an uncomfortable light on the root causes of autism."

The simple and profound truth started as a ripple and now has become a tidal wave.

Thanks for continuing to pull the alarm not only with the facts and analysis but the moral and emotional implications as well.

"All we know is that children of modern immigrants are at high risk of both over vaccination and of autism. And that no one has ever bothered to investigate over vaccination as a specific risk factor of obtaining the medical entry visa to Western Civilization." -

Excellent, succinct observation, Mark. And thanks for digging out the info about African "elite families" being particularly associated with autism. That fits perfectly with the observation, in 1990, of Harris L Coulter, Ph.D in his book 'Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality' that the first cases of autism in the US (as identified by Leo Kanner) were overwhelmingly amongst the better-educated, and within that cohort, having a particular association with families with a connection to the medical profession. (And of course there is the link, uncovered by Dan Olmsted, with mercury via researchers and farmers working with poisons.)

So yes, the link with vaccines is there, both with their mercury component and with other components - of particular concern: aluminum and MSG/glutamate. Glutamate, incidentally, is not only a neurotoxin, increasing inflammation in the brain, but (a) the genes found to be linked with autism code for glutamate synapse formation, so children with autism have a genetically miswired glutamate neurotransmission network; and (b) it lowers glutathione levels, so kids who are already with lowered levels (genetically or otherwise, as in being used up trying to excrete heavy meals) get a double-whammy hit from this substance being present. (Thus the value of a GFCF diet.) Good info in this regard is at msgtruth.org (Carol Heinlein).

And speaking of valuable websites, and further to gatagorra's comments on peanuts/allergies: an excellent site going into the issue of anaphylaxis/allergies from vaccines is vran.org. Rita Hoffman in Canada has done wonderful work researching this angle.

All of this good research due to parents not willing to write off their kids, because the authorities didn't/don't want to go there...what a remarkable story this, of the value of people power. Of patience, persistence, and perseverance. Good on you all.

"MDH's immunization chief, Kris Ehresmann, has made statements at hearings and meetings that caused me to question her judgment -- especially because she has a child with autism, and is out of touch with cutting edge biomedical testing and treatments."

It seems that the staunchest defenders of vaccinations with regard to the autism issue are not even the ND group themselves but the parents of children with autism (who appear to be the loudest voices of the ND movement anyway) who cannot bring themselves to even consider the possibility that a decision they made about their children's vaccinations could have caused their autism. In my opinion, this is psychological conflict of interest for any professional whose job it is to obtain accurate information that might (does) implicate vaccines.

Mark as always, your writing and investigation is brilliant. This is a very important piece to this devestating puzzle. I sat through the Somali autism forum feeling ashamed at my state's public health officials response to this tragedy. I can't imagine any of them went into public or social service wanting lie to the very people they've pleged to protect.

The Somali parents in Minnesota are truly heroes. My respect for them is boundless, and they have my warmest and best wishes. However, it saddens me greatly that they had to be the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. It is their sacrifice, their heartache and their pain, the same that echoes with all of us, that seems to have finally gotten someone's attention. We are all heroes, and maybe, finally, we'll see justice.

"It's hard to get a man to understand something if his paycheck depends upon him not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

Public health officials have more to risk than just a paycheck. They have to risk their entire careers - and most lack the moral courage.

The persecution of Dr. Wakefield (and others who have dared question the safety of vaccines) has served its purpose. Those who challenge religious orthodoxy are punished - as always.

Things have improved some since the 16th century. Dr. Wakefield was not burned at the stake. He lost funding. He has had to deal with character assassination. His family has had to relocate. His license is in jeopardy. The 21st century tools of control are more subtle.

Now as then, history will eventually reward those with the courage to pursue the truth.

I don’t think I can say it enough – Mark Blaxill *Blows-Me-Away* and is by far one of the most intelligent, principled individuals I know; his relentless (and I *do mean* relentless) pursuit for truth is the *gold standard* for excellence and it’s one of the main reasons *why* we WILL win this fight!

Mark, your expertise and guidance have been invaluable to me over the years and it IS an absolute privilege to count you among my closest friends. (And I say this even in spite of the fact YOU delegated my purse to a trash can lid -- now, if that ain’t the definition of *true friendship* I don’t know what is ;-)

Kelli

The Minnesota Department of Health has been denying the vaccine/autism connection for years. Supporting data has repeatedly been given to them, which they have consistently refuted or ignored.

MDH's immunization chief, Kris Ehresmann, has made statements at hearings and meetings that caused me to question her judgment -- especially because she has a child with autism, and is out of touch with cutting edge biomedical testing and treatments.

Minnesota's inert interlinked government agencies and advocacy groups have a cronyistic coffee klatch mentality. These public health administrators are on information overload, relying on bullet points and info-bits, working off the same memos rather than making time to do original research.

There's a nasty passive-aggressive flip side to "Minnesota Nice." Too many Minnesota women seek consensus rather than debate and fact-finding. They fear disagreement with groupthink, but after meetings return home only to grouse to spouses and friends about bad decisions. Somehow they fail to realize that they could have, and should have, intervened with their honest considerations.

The vaccine/autism debacle has parallels to the paradoxically murderous Christian Crusades. How do you put the brakes on "good people" who are killing us with kindness?


Mark -

"This new danger reaches into their homes not through the barrel of a gun but through the tip of a needle and it leaves no visible wounds, just the inflamed brain tissues of their infant children."

I wept when I read this. I sat in the forum on November 15th, and watched my friends in the Somali community get lied to by the very people they went to for help.

I know that some of those MDH people are now reading Age of Autism, to see just how badly this attempted cover-up has gone. To all of you - SHAME!!

Thank you for the sleuthing and the great report. I'd love to see more but I can imagine how dangerous it is for civilian researchers to go into some areas to gather statistics. That is, before WHO gets in there and skews the controls in Africa by innoculating everything that moves.

Something else which supports the idea of low incidence in Africa are the reports from some of the doctors with various "Doctors Without Borders" types of groups who reported the miracle of how well a certain peanut butter concoction is working to combat severe malnutrition in some regions of Africa. When a relief physician was asked by Westerners, "What about peanut allergies?", the physician replied that they just didn't see peanut allergies in Africa.

Why don't they have peanut allergies in Africa when the rates in the West are enormous? I can only think of the various vaccine-induction theories. One theory speculates that a peanut adjuvant in certain vaccines could be the culprit. Another brings up a guinea pig expiriment with Prevnar, in which protein allergies were induced in innoculated nursling guinea pigs. The vaccinated infants developed intolerance in response to scant traces of these proteins in the mother guinea pigs' breast milk-- traces so minute that they would otherwise not trigger allergies in unvaccinated infants.

All roads lead to Rome in this thing over and over again.

I found the correlation between the elite (those that vaccinate) in Lotter's study and Malaria/Autism interesting. Perhaps the vaccinations actually left this group's immune system too fractured to handle the every day assaults to there sytem ending up in regression when exposed to Malaria where the unvaccinated got only Malaria without the regression into Autism.

I chuckled when I saw your reference to the "pained facial expressions" of those in the public health and scientific communities at the mention of the autism epidemic.

Just the other day, my 10 year old NT daughter and I were watching the big 3 auto CEOs being asked about flying to DC in private jets--they all immediately turned away from their inquisitors and got "that look" on their faces. I said to my daughter: "See that look? That is the look of cowardice." We then talked about how often we have seen that look since we began our autism journey with my son. We've seen it on the faces of scientists, physicians, public health folks, neuropsychologists, pharma reps, politicians and yes, even family members, fellow church members, work colleagues and friends. All people who know they have various responsibilities to children with autism and their families, which they have chosen to abdicate.

In my opinion, courage has become the rarest of virtues in our time, and especially with respect to the autism issue...thanks to you and David for exhibiting it in spades.

Jenna

How lucky are we to have Mark Blaxill on our team? Superb, Mark. Just superb.

And why is it the "geniuses" with all the letters after their names at CDC and all Dept's of Public Health can not crunch 1 plus 1 into 2? Why are our kids buried UNDER the totem pole, let alone at the bottom?

Mark,
This is an excellent summary of autism and the Somalis. It would be wonderful if Judy Punyko would ask you to help her with the MN Somali numbers that she's been looking for months.
Anne Dachel
Media Editor

Wow, amazing report on all this history.
Thanks, Mark, for all your hard work. The autism community is so appreciative.
It may be the best Thanksgiving in years for us.
Maurine

It never fails to amaze me that we continue to argue, prove, uncover the obvious. And when I say "we" I mean YOU! ;-)

Great job Mark!

I have been forced to read again "The Year of the Gorilla", by George B Schaller. I know what I read 15 years ago is relevant now. I'll be taking a day or so off :) Add Dian Fossey to the mix. She was murdered in Africa. I wanted to go there. Ask my hubby about it. Honestly I would still consider going.

Michelle Woods, Mother Warrior to Kevin - first story in Jenny's book - she's a dear friend of mine... Anthro. It brought us together...I love ya KLJMWK :)

Will they be forced to open their eyes??? remains to be seen. I think our eyes are opened. Have been and waiting.

Thank you Mark. Damn for making me want to go again... Anthropology I'd go in a heart beat for our kids - minus vx's :)
Ang

Clearly today there are massive WHO vaccination programmes in Africa with unrestricted use of thimerosal - almost certainly there is much autism too, though harder to track even than in Minnesota. This does not,of course, detract from the fascinating historical picture Mark draws based on the studies of Lotter and Gillberg (which could not be more telling).

Thank you, Mark.

great article, Mark. Thanks for your diligence.

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