I have seen a number of online postings and comments from readers of Discover Magazine who are wondering why freelancer Chris Mooney did not interview doctors and scientist who believe that more vaccine-autism research is warranted in his recent article, “Why Does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On?”
Chris contacted me in mid-March to ask if he could interview me for the piece. When I wrote back to say that was fine, I added that I hoped he would consider “doing an honest examination of this controversy.”
I also urged Chris before, during and after our 90-minute interview to not just listen to me, but to speak with several scientists and clinicians who do not feel like the vaccine-autism question has been thoroughly answered.
Chris and Discover Magazine have every right to craft an article as they see fit, and I would not tell another journalist how to do their job. Nor am I complaining about how I was personally portrayed in the piece. I am writing this simply for the record.
Among the things I mentioned to Chris was that Department of Health and Human Services' National Vaccine Advisory Committee Vaccine Safety Working Group (NVAC VSWG) had just recommended appointing a panel of experts to explore the strengths and weaknesses of conducting studies on health outcomes in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children, and they said it was "desirable" to include autism as one of the health outcomes.
I suggested he might want to contact some of the mainstream doctors who supported the measure, which is still moving forward, even if they didn’t personally believe in a connection. I sent him the names of many of these doctors, including Bruce Gellin, M.D., MPH, Director of the HHS National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) and Executive Secretary of NVAC, Andrew Pavia, M.D., an NVAC Member and Chair of the NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group, and James Mason, M.D., DrPH, an NVAC member and member of the Vaccine Safety Working Group and a former CDC Director and former Assistant Secretary of Health.
I suggested Chris speak to researchers doing some interesting work coming out of Harvard (Herbert et al) and Johns Hopkins (Vargas et al) in terms of autistic brain tissue and oxidative stress, chronic neuroinflammation, autoimmunity, microglial activation, etc. I also mentioned that Martha Herbert had been looking at the role that glutathione depletion and mitochondrial dysfunction might play in autism symptoms – and that a new study from Stanford said that glutathione depletion is probably a marker for mitochondrial disorders. Other people I mentioned were Dr. Jill James et al at the University of Arkansas and Dr. Thomas Burbacher at the University of Washington.
I brought up the court cases of Hannah Poling and Bailey Banks, and suggested that Hannah’s father Dr. Jon Poling might have some interesting perspectives on mitochondria, vaccines and autism. I also said that Bailey Banks’s lawyer could attest that the previously normal boy developed acute brain damage after an MMR shot, which then turned into PDD-NOS, for which he will be compensated.
(As an aside to those who still don’t think that PDD-NOS is an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, the new autism report from the State of California’s Department of Developmental Services states, “ASD includes Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD NOS), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.”)
I also mentioned that researchers at HHS and the EPA working on the National Children's Study, in which federal researchers expect to find 600 to 700 kids with an ASD by age three and will compare these outcomes to genetic and environmental factors, including vaccines.
I spoke about the CDC program called the CADDRE Network, whose five year goal is to "identify what might put children at risk for autism," including "specific mercury exposures, including any vaccine use by the mother during pregnancy and the child's vaccine exposures after birth."
I suggested that Chris contact scientists at the Cleveland Clinic, Harvard University, and Johns Hopkins University who wrote in a recent study that "There might be no difference between the inflammatory or catabolic stress of vaccinations and that of common childhood diseases” and that "Large, population-based studies will be needed to identify a possible relationship of vaccination with autistic regression in persons with mitochondrial cytopathies."
Among the authors of that paper were Dr. Richard I. Kelley of the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center and Division of Metabolism at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Dr. Margaret L. Bauman of the Department of Pediatrics and Learning and Developmental Disabilities Evaluation and Rehabilitation Services (LADDERS) at Massachusetts General Hospital. I said that Dr. Bauman, in particular, might have some interesting perspectives, given that she withdrew her name as a witness for the government in the Autism Omnibus Proceedings in federal vaccine court.
Along those lines, I also suggested that Chris might want to speak with Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist and research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute and Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Zimmerman also withdrew his name as a government witness in vaccine court, and recently published a groundbreaking book titled “Autism-Current Theories and Evidence,” According to the publisher, Zimmerman’s goal is to “show how the scientific method is revealing the biological bases of this spectrum of disorders, thereby leading the way to their treatment and prevention using evidence-based medicine.” The book is divided into 6 sections, including one on immunology and another on environmental mechanisms and models.
I also told Chris he might enjoy speaking with Dr. Douglas Wallace, Professor of Molecular Medicine and Director of the Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine in Genetics at UC Irvine. A member of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation's scientific board, and father of a son with autism, he testified that children with mitochondrial disorders are not only at greater risk for autistic regression, but they are also more likely to suffer from vaccine injuries. And, he told the NVAC: "We advocate spreading vaccines out as much as possible. Each time you vaccinate, you're creating a challenge for the system, and if a child has an impaired system, that could in fact trigger further clinical problems."
There were other prominent researchers I that thought could contribute to the article, such as former NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy, and Dr. Geraldine Dawson, Scientific Director of Autism Speaks, which currently supports and funds vaccine-autism research.
I also mentioned Dr. Duane Alexander, Director of the National Institute of Childhood Health and Human Development, who supports autism-vaccine research and who said that, "Genetic variations exist that cause adverse reactions to specific foods, medications, or anesthetic agents -- it is legitimate to ask whether a similar situation may exist for vaccines.” He added that there may be, "subpopulations unable to remove mercury from the body as fast as others, or some adverse or cross-reacting response to a vaccine component, or a mitochondrial disorder increasing the adverse response to vaccine-associated fever."
Finally, I also brought up Dr, Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who recently said that, "If we can show that individuals of a certain genetic profile have a greater propensity for developing adverse events, we may want to screen everyone prior to vaccination (for) undetectable diseases like a subclinical mitochondrial disorder." Chris said he was interested in the idea of small groups of children being genetically vulnerable to vaccine injury, and in researching ways to identify them and, as I suggested, create an alternative vaccine schedule for them.
Perhaps Chris did contact some of these experts but did not find their remarks as compelling as mine, which seems doubtful.
I am sure that he and Discover Magazine have their reasons for not including comments from any of these professionals. Also for the record, I also spent over an hour on the phone with a fact checker at Discover, discussing much of the above information. Perhaps the magazine will let us know why their reporter chose not include any comments from Doctors Gellin, Pavia, Mason, Herbert, Vargas, James, Burbacher, Poling, Kelley, Bauman, Zimmerman, Wallace, Healy, Dawson, Alexander or Fauci.
My two emails to Chris can be read here:
From: David Kirby [mailto:
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 11:16 AM
To: 'Chris Mooney'
Subject: RE: interview request
Friday is ok, but can we make it early evening? My days are jammed.
(I don’t need to tell you what a book deadline feels like)
- usually around 6 or so (EDT) I emerge from my cave - DK
PS: You may have seen all this below, but I thought I would send it.
What it doesn’t include is some of the most interesting work coming out of Harvard (Herbert et al) and Johns Hopkins (Vargas et al) in terms of autistic brain tissue and oxidative stress, chronic neuroinflammation, autoimmunity, microglial activation, etc.
Herbert has also been looking at the role that glutathione depletion and mitochondrial dysfunction might play in the above symptoms – a new study from Stanford says that glutathione depletion is probably a marker for mitochondrial disorders.
Most kids with ASD have very low glutathione levels, according to Jill James et al at the University of Arkansas. Glutathione is a powerful detoxificant and antioxidant, it binds with heavy metals to eliminate them from the system, and it protects mitochondria from toxins – mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, pesticides, etc are very harmful to mitochondria.
Kids with insufficient glutathione, then, are already at risk for oxidative stress, heavy metal accumulation, mitochondrial damage (and more).
From the work of Herbert and Vargas, it would appear that many autism cases may represent some form of chronic neuro-immune inflammatory disorder – possibly acquired. That doesn’t mean vaccines are implicated, necessarily, but it does provide for new avenues of research, in my opinion anyway. My goal was always to find out why these kids got so sick after (more or less) two years of normal development. This work points to a potential combination of susceptibilty genes and environmental triggers.
I believe in the vaccine program, I just think it should be as safe as possible for every child. Hence the need for more study, as you can see below. In fact, many scientists do believe we need more research into a possible association between vaccination and autistic regression in a subset of children with ASD – as well as other encephalopathies, encephalitis, demyelinating disorders, autoimmune disorders, etc.:
THE NATIONAL VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE (NVAC)
On Friday, February 27, a special group convened by The Keystone Center on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services' National Vaccine Advisory Committee Vaccine Safety Working Group (NVAC VSWG) recommended appointing a panel of experts to explore the strengths and weaknesses of conducting studies on health outcomes in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations. The group, known as the "Salt Lake City Writing Group," said it was "desirable" to include autism as one such health outcome.
As they stated in a draft "consensus statement":
"(There is) a strong desire to study the health impact of the immunization schedule, potentially through a 'vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study'. Outcomes to assess include biomarkers of immunity and metabolism, and outcomes including but not limited to neurodevelopmental outcomes, allergies, asthma, immune-mediated diseases, and learning disabilities. The inclusion of autism as an outcome is desired" Writing Group members who drafted the statement included Federal and State health officials, Federal vaccine officials, CDC officials, and leaders of autism and vaccine safety advocacy groups. They included the following individuals:
Federal Health Agencies and Panels
Roger Bernier, Ph.D., MPH, Senior Advisor, CDC
Elizabeth Skillen, PhD, MS, Policy Analyst, Immunization Safety Office, CDC
Bruce Gellin, M.D., MPH, Director, HHS National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) and Executive Secretary of NVAC
Dan Salmon, Ph.D., Vaccine Safety Specialist, HHS - NVPO
Ben Schwartz, M.D., former Associate Director for Science, HHS and Medical Director for CARE
Guthrie Birkhead, M.D., MPH Chair, HHS National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) and member of NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group, also Deputy Commissioner, Office of Public Health, NY State Dept. of Health
Andrew Pavia, M.D., NVAC Member & Chair, NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group and with Dept. of Pediatrics, Utah School of Medicine
Chris Carlson, Ph.D., NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group Member, and with Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, Seattle
Lance Gordon, Ph.D., NVAC and member of NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group
James Mason, M.D., DrPH, NVAC Member and member of NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group, former CDC Director and former Assistant Secretary of Health
Tawny Buck, member of NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group, parent of DPT brain injured daughter
State & Local Public Health Agencies and Organizations
Anna Buchannan, MPH, Senior Director, Immunization & Infectious Disease, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
Jim Shames, M.D., Medical Director, Jackson County Health Department, OR
David Sundwall, M.D., Executive Director, Utah Department of Health
Collette Young; Ph.D., MS, Surveillance & Training Manager, Oregon Public Health Division, Immunization Program, OR Public Health Division
Robert Bednarczyk, NVAC Research Analyst, NY Department of Health
Joseph A. Bocchini, Jr., M.D., Professor & Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, Louisiana State University
Margaret Dunkle, Senior Fellow, Center for Health Policy Research, George Washington University and Director, Early Identification and Intervention Collaborative, LA County
Alan Greene, M.D., Clinical Profession, Division of General Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine;
Heather Zwickey, Ph.D., Dean of Research and Associate Professor of Immunology, National College of Natural Medicine, Oregon
Autism or Vaccine Organizations
Peter Bell, Executive Vice President, Programs and Services, Autism Speaks
Sallie Bernard, Executive Director, Safe Minds
Vicky Debold, PhD, RN, Director of Patient Safety, National Vaccine Information Center;
Barbara Loe Fisher, Co-founder & President, National Vaccine Information Center
Members of Public or Other Child Health Groups
Tracy Cron, RN and mother who attended the Birmingham public engagement workshop
Dennis Johnson, MS, Executive VP, Policy & Advocacy, Children's Health Fund, NYC
Debbie McCune Davis, Program Director, Arizona Partnership for Immunization, Arizona State Senator
Meanwhile, there have been many news stories related to this issue coming out of the Federal Court of Claims, Federal agencies, and leading research centers. Many of these stories have not been reported in the media. They include:
FEDERAL COURT CASES:
Bailey Banks vs HHS - February 2009 - Special Master Abell found that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine caused brain damage in this child, which led to his diagnosis of Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) an autism spectrum disorder. Bailey will likely receive over $3 million in compensation to cover a lifetime of autism care and treatment.
Hannah Poling vs HHS - February 2008 - Medical personnel at the Health Resources and Services Administration conceded that this girl's autism (and epilepsy) was caused by "vaccine induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves." Hannah had a mild case of mitochondrial dysfunction, and received nine vaccines in one day at age 19 months. She now has full blown autism and a very serious seizure disorder.
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) & US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - January 2009 - These two agencies have just launched the National Children's Study (NCS), which is now recruiting 100,000 children, among which researchers expect to find 600 to 700 with an ASD by age three. Federal officials will compare these ASD children to controls, to see what impact that vaccines (combined with genetic factors) had on the development of their illness.
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) & National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) - January 2009 -These two Federal health groups announced their desire to collaborate on research designs and methods for investigating the potential links between vaccines and autism, including the feasibility of doing a large study of vaccinated vs. vaccinated children. The move by these officials grew out the process set forth by the Combating Autism Act of 2006, whose authors, Senators Kennedy, Dodd and Enzi stated that vaccines should be included in research of the causes of autism.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) CADDRE Network - November 2008- The CDC is conducting and planning several vaccine-autism investigations. One such effort is The National CADDRE Study. This 5-year project of the CDC's Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE) Network will "identify what might put children at risk for autism," says the CDC, which will study "specific mercury exposures, including any vaccine use by the mother during pregnancy and the child's vaccine exposures after birth."
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network - April 2008- The CDC's CISA Network includes leading autism researchers and America's health insurance companies. Last April, CISA and the CDC announced support for studying, "Immunization associated with increased risk for neurological deterioration in children with mitochondrial dysfunction," after learning that mitochondrial disorders are not uncommon in ASD cases. And the CDC also announced that, "CISA has formed a working group to study methods related to mitochondrial disorders and immunization."
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Immunization Safety Office - April 2008- As part of its draft research agenda for vaccine safety, the CDC added a section on studying severe chronic conditions potentially linked to childhood vaccines, including "Autoimmune diseases; central nervous system demyelinating disorders; encephalitis/ encephalopathy; and neurodevelopmental disorders including autism."
National Institute of Childhood Health and Human Development (NICHD) - February 2009- Dr. Duane Alexander, Director of the NICHD -an agency of the NIH - recently stated that he supports autism-vaccine research, saying that, "Genetic variations exist that cause adverse reactions to specific foods, medications, or anesthetic agents -- it is legitimate to ask whether a similar situation may exist for vaccines." Why? Because there may be, "subpopulations unable to remove mercury from the body as fast as others, or some adverse or cross-reacting response to a vaccine component, or a mitochondrial disorder increasing the adverse response to vaccine-associated fever."
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) - December 2008- Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of this NIH agency, told US News & World Report: "If we can show that individuals of a certain genetic profile have a greater propensity for developing adverse events, we may want to screen everyone prior to vaccination (for) undetectable diseases like a subclinical mitochrondrial disorder."
LEADING U.S. CENTERS OF RESEARCH:
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions - The Kennedy Krieger Institute - January 2009 - The nation's premiere autism research outfit is sponsor of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN). Its new questionnaire deals with autism and vaccines. Thousands of families are describing their experiences with autistic regression following vaccination. Top scientists will then use this information, "to conduct additional vaccine-focused studies."
Cleveland Clinic, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University - November 2008- Some of the nation's leading experts in autism and/or mitochondrial disorders published a study showing that children with mitochondrial disorders are at greater risk for autistic regression. They found that vaccine reactions could possibly trigger autistic regression in kids with mito disorders, adding that, "There might be no difference between the inflammatory or catabolic stress of vaccinations and that of common childhood diseases." And these very mainstream scientists wrote that: "Large, population-based studies will be needed to identify a possible relationship of vaccination with autistic regression in persons with mitochondrial cytopathies."
University of California, Irvine - Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine in Genetics - April 2008 - Children with mitochondrial disorders are not only at greater risk for autistic regression, but they are also more likely to suffer from vaccine injuries, Dr. Douglas Wallace, Professor of Molecular Medicine and Director of the Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine in Genetics at UC Irvine, testified at the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. A member of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation's scientific board, and father of a son with autism, he stated, "We advocate spreading vaccines out as much as possible. Each time you vaccinate, you're creating a challenge for the system, and if a child has an impaired system, that could in fact trigger further clinical problems."
University of California, San Diego - 2008- Researchers from this school published a preliminary study in the journal Autism stating that children given Tylenol after the MMR vaccine were several times more likely to develop autism. Tylenol can reduce levels of glutathione - a powerful antioxidant and detoxifier. "Tylenol and MMR was significantly associated with autistic disorder," the authors wrote. "More research needs to be completed to confirm the results of this preliminary study."
University of California, Davis - M.I.N.D. Institute - January 2009- The authors of this new study say that genetics alone cannot explain the ASD rise in California. "We're looking at the possible effects of metals, pesticides and infectious agents on neurodevelopment," said Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor at UC Davis. She had also noted that epidemiological studies done by CDC and in Denmark, showing no evidence of a vaccine-autism link, were seriously flawed. Meanwhile, Dr. Isaac Pessah, Chair of Molecular Biosciences and Director of UC Davis's Center for Children's Environmental Health, is also a member of the ASD Strategic Planning Workgroup at the Inter-Agency Autism Committee, where he supports vaccine research into the causes of autism.
The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation - August 2008 - Mitochondrial disorders are probably not rare in the general population. They were thought to affect just 1-in-5,000 people. But new research suggests that genetic mutations that might confer mitochondrial dysfunction might be found in 1-in-400 to 1-in-50. Another study by the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) found mitochondrial DNA mutations that might cause disease in up to 1-in-200 people.
Autism Speaks - 2008 -The world's largest, most respected and most mainstream autism foundation firmly supports and funds research into possible connections between vaccines and ASD. Autism Speaks recently authorized three studies on thimerosal, vaccines and autism, and the foundation will fund more highly significant research projects on the issue.
DRAFT CONSENSUS STATEMENT OF THE NVAC WORKING GROUP:
(SOURCE: The Keystone Center)
Based in part on data from the community meetings in AL, OR, and IN as well as the IACC request for collaboration with the National Vaccine Program Office the writing group drafted a consensus recommendation to be considered by stakeholders at the March 16th meeting of the NVAC Safety Working Group. This recommended charge is for an expert panel to evaluate study designs for research on the impact of the standard schedule of vaccination on an array of health outcomes of significant public interest.
Public and stakeholder engagement activities have identified a strong desire to study the health impact of the immunization schedule, potentially through a "vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study". Additionally, the IACC has requested the NVAC consider the feasibility of such a study. This idea raises a number of methodological, technical and other issues.
The draft ISO scientific agenda includes several elements of this question, including simultaneous vaccination (e.g. the vaccine schedule) as well as specific outcomes that have been discussed regarding the vaccine schedule and simultaneous vaccination. Well designed studies in this area would add substantially to our knowledge.
Given public and stakeholder interest in this topic, we recommend an external expert advisory group with broad expertise assess this issue. This expert panel should be convened under the auspices of a well-respected independent body. Particularly:
• This review should consider strengths and weaknesses, ethical issues and feasibility including timelines and cost of various study designs and report back to the NVAC
• Consideration should be given to broad biomedical research including laboratory studies, and animal studies.
• Consideration should also be given to study designs comparing children vaccinated by the standard immunization schedule with unvaccinated children (by parental intention), and possibly partially vaccinated children or children vaccinated by alternative immunization schedules
• Outcomes to assess include biomarkers of immunity and metabolism, and outcomes including but not limited to neurodevelopmental outcomes, allergies, asthma, immune-mediated diseases, and learning disabilities.
• The inclusion of autism as an outcome is desired. This review should also consider what impact the inclusion of ASD as an outcome would have on study designs and feasibility, as referenced in the IACC letter to NVAC.
• This review should be conducted expeditiously, in a transparent manner, and involving broad public and stakeholder input.
• Specific attention should be paid to the potential roles or synergies with National Children's Study.
From: David Kirby [mailto:]
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:21 PM
To: 'Chris Mooney'
Subject: Jon Poling in AJC
In case you have not seen this, it’s an interesting take – I can get you contact info for Dr. Poling, if you like. I also think you should try to speak with Andrew Zimmerman (it’s not John, the AJC got it wrong below) – Another great person to talk to would be Dr. Margaret Bauman at Harvard – ask her why she withdrew her name as a government witness in the vaccine court trials (as did mercury experts Drs Magos and Clarkson), and signed on to the Cleveland Clinic paper – which included a recommendation for large-scale population studies of vaccines, autism and mitochondrial dysfunction. - DK
Blinders won’t reduce autism
By Jon Poling
For the Journal-Constitution
Friday, March 13, 2009
For the million plus American families touched by autism, like mine, there is real urgency to find scientific answers to help loved ones and prevent future victims. Unfortunately, some doctors still fail to even accept the increasing autism rate as real, rather than their own better diagnosis.
The collateral damage of “better diagnosis,” the idea that we are simply better at detecting autism, is the abandonment of families coping with autism by the medical establishment, government and private insurance companies.
Beyond the high emotional toll autism takes on a family, many have been financially ruined. Public school systems are drowning in the red ink of educating increasing numbers of special-needs students.
Fortunately, the ‘better diagnosis’ myth has been soundly debunked. In the 2009 issue of Epidemiology, two authors analyzed 1990 through 2006 California Department of Developmental Services and U.S. Census data documenting an astronomical 700 to 800 percent rise in the disorder.
These scientists concluded that only a smaller percentage of this staggering rise can be explained by means other than a true increase.
Because purely genetic diseases do not rise precipitously, the corollary to a true autism increase is clear —- genes only load the gun and it is the environment that pulls the trigger. Autism is best redefined as an environmental disease with genetic susceptibilities.
We should be investing our research dollars into discovering environmental factors that we can change, not more poorly targeted genetic studies that offer no hope of early intervention. Pesticides, mercury, aluminum, several drugs, dietary factors, infectious agents and yes —- vaccines —- are all in the research agenda.
An inspiring new text, “Autism-Current Theories and Evidence,” has successfully navigated the minefield of autism science without touching the “third rail,” as Dr. Sanjay Gupta aptly describes the vaccine-autism debate.
Dr. John Zimmerman, who has studied autism for decades, prophetically writes, “The clinical heterogeneity of this disorder, together with the inherent dynamic changes during children’s growth and development, confound static, linear models and simplistic, unilateral approaches.”
Zimmerman’s book is dense with cutting-edge science on cell biology, metabolism, oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, auto-immunity and brain pathology. That’s right —- autism isn’t simply a genetic program for brain development gone awry. Dr. Martha Herbert, of Harvard Medical School, writes the final chapter defining autism in the larger framework of a multiple organ system disease with potentially reversible impairments.
As an affected parent, I am left with a sense of hope that these professionals will produce results to stem the tide of new autism cases and ameliorate symptoms of those currently suffering.
On the other hand, Dr. Paul Offit, the vaccine inventor whose Rotateq royalty interests recently sold for a reported $182 million, has written a novel of perceived good and evil called “Autism’s False Prophets.”
The tome is largely a dramatic account of why Offit, who self-admittedly is not an autism expert, feels vaccines should be exonerated in the autism epidemic. In the story, Offit takes no prisoners, smearing characters in the vaccine-autism controversy as effortlessly as a rich cream cheese.
“False Prophets” has curiously garnered support from several senior physicians in respected medical journals.
After Offit’s drama is complete, these cheerleaders fail to realize they have traveled the road labeled “Dead End —- No Through Traffic.” In his epilogue, Offit credits autism parents who have likewise gone down the dead end path to autism acceptance, without search for cause or cure.
As both parent and doctor, I cannot fathom turning my back on a child nor science, in order to avoid inconvenient questions about vaccine safety or any other reasonable environmental factor.
President Obama has recognized that “we’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate” and plans to appoint an “autism czar” to coordinate his policy efforts. Science is moving forward to connect the three dots of environment, genes and plasticity of a developing child’s brain circuitry. In the end, logic and reason will prevail over politics and profits.
> Dr. Jon Poling, an Athens neurologist, is an assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia. His daughter, Hannah Poling, has been a successful petitioner in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.