By Teresa Conrick
The research on maternal antibodies as a cause of some cases of autism continues to grow. From TIME this week: "Mother’s Antibodies May Explain a Quarter of Autism Cases"
In a study published in Translational Psychiatry, researchers report that 23% of all cases of autism may result from the presence of maternal antibodies that interfere with fetal brain development during pregnancy. The work builds on a 2008 study from the same scientists that first described the group of antibodies in mothers-to-be.
This is interesting and important work as we continue to see autism as a disorder with roots to the immune system. It did make me wonder if it was possible that the maternal immune activation discussed here as a cause in 23% of the cases could correlate to immune activation created artifically by influenza vaccination. It seemed a valid point and one worth investigating especially when I saw this, also in that TIME article:
The antibodies belong to a class of compounds called autoantibodies, which are immune cells that the body makes to target — often mistakenly — its own cells. Scientists do not know why or when the mothers produce these antibodies, which appear to monkey with normal nerve development in the fetal brain by interfering with their growth, migration and genetic replication. It is possible that infections during pregnancy — a known risk factor for autism —can prompt the immune system to produce them. Exposure to toxic chemicals can also cause immune defenders to mistake healthy cells for invaders, Van de Water notes.
Note the last two sentences - the first related to infection in pregnancy and the second to toxic chemicals.
Can infection in pregnancy cause autism? I wondered about that and did some background reading and wrote this article in January, "Can Influenza Vaccines Cause Maternal Immune Activation Linked To Autism?
Mothers who get the flu while pregnant could risk affecting their baby's brain, which might lead to 'infantile autism' in their child.
A Danish study shows that children were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with the condition before the age of three if their mother had the flu.
Researchers claim that when the mother's immune system is triggered - for example, when they have an influenza virus - it is possible that the foetus' developing brain could be affected.
But they have clarified that pregnant women and mothers should not be concerned by the findings, as only a tiny portion of those who had influenza gave birth to children with 'infantile autism' and that the research was so limited and early that no concrete findings had been discovered."
Interesting. So why is it then that in 1918, the Great Influenza Epidemic swept the world, but yet autism was not identified nor described until Dr. Leo Kanner diagnosed it with those first eleven children born in the 1930's?:
“Since 1938 , there have come to our attention a number of children whose condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far that each case merits—and, I hope will eventually receive—a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities...."
So let's look at the mechanism described:
"..the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 6, which is known to induce placental inflammatory processes46 and has been shown to mediate the neurodevelopmental effects of gestational inflammation.47 It is possible that such inflammatory processes could be related to the production of maternal antibodies that recognize fetal antigens through maternal-fetal cross talk48 or that maternal antibody to antigen interactions may precipitate inflammation-induced neurodevelopmental alterations similarly to bacterial or viral challenge."