By Teresa Conrick
"SINCE 1938 there have come to our attention", is becoming a famous introductory description about autism. Written by psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Kanner, it began the narrative that described those first eleven children, all born in the 1930's, that he diagnosed as having "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact." Kanner made it clear that autism was new and very different, and he offered this suggestion:
"..each case merits---and, I hope will eventually receive a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities."
Here at Age of Autism, we are kind of doing that. In searching and finding eight so far of those Kanner 11, we have seen mercury, especially the then-new ethyl mercury of the 1930's, in lumber treatments, fungicides and vaccines, show up as a common denominator in those families. Fascinating and telling as we look back in history. Kanner had no idea but we do today.
Looking now, as he suggested, more closely at children with an autism diagnosis, can we see signs of this ethyl mercury connection today? Let's see what the research shows:
Mitochondrial dysfunction has become a viable research avenue in autism especially as it was shown to cause regression into autism:
Developmental Regression and Mitochondrial Dysfunction in a Child With Autism
"Within 48 hours after immunizations to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis; Haemophilus influenzae B; measles, mumps, and rubella; polio; and varicella (Varivax), the patient developed a fever to 38.9°C, inconsolable crying, irritability, and lethargy and refused to walk. Four days later, the patient was waking up multiple times in the night, having episodes of opistho-tonus, and could no longer normally climb stairs. Instead, she crawled up and down the stairs. Low-grade intermittent fever was noted for the next 12 days. Ten days following immunization, the patient developed a generalized erythematous macular rash beginning in the abdomen. The patient’s pediatrician diagnosed this as due to varicella vaccination. For 3 months, the patient was irritable and increasingly less responsive verbally, after which the patient’s family noted clear autistic behaviors, such as spinning, gaze avoidance, disrupted sleep/wake cycle, and perseveration on specific television programs. All expressive language was lost by 22 months."
The studies on "autism and mitochondrial" currently number 158 via Pubmed.
Can mercury or Thimerosal be involved in mitochondrial issues?
According to Pubmed, 344 studies are available to investigate.
"Mercury induces mitochondrial dysfunction with reduction in adenosine triphosphate, depletion of glutathione, and increased lipid peroxidation. Increased oxidative stress and reduced oxidative defense are common."
Many children with an autism diagnosis also have those exact biological markers:
Increased excretion of a lipid peroxidation biomarker in autism.
Children With Autism Have Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Study Finds
"less capability to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate)"..."Giulivi and her colleagues found that hydrogen peroxide levels in autistic children were twice as high as in normal children. As a result, the cells of children with autism were exposed to higher oxidative stress."
Evidence of oxidative damage and inflammation associated with low glutathione redox status in the autism brain
"Biomarkers of oxidative stress, including reduced glutathione (GSH), oxidized glutathione (GSSG) and glutathione redox/antioxidant capacity (GSH/GSSG), were measured....Together, these results indicate that decreased GSH/GSSG redox/antioxidant capacity and increased oxidative stress in the autism brain may have functional consequence in terms of a chronic inflammatory response, increased mitochondrial superoxide production, and oxidative protein and DNA damage."
And back to mercury : Thimerosal-Derived Ethylmercury Is a Mitochondrial Toxin in Human Astrocytes: Possible Role of Fenton Chemistry in the Oxidation and Breakage of mtDNA.
" We find that ethylmercury not only inhibits mitochondrial respiration leading to a drop in the steady state membrane potential, but also concurrent with these phenomena increases the formation of superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and Fenton/Haber-Weiss generated hydroxyl radical"
Coincidence or causation?
Let's look at the immune system and autism: 340 studies on Pubmed - a sample:
Evidence for a Dysregulated Immune System in the Etiology of Psychiatric Disorders.
"There is extensive bi-directional communication between the brain and the immune system in both health and disease. In recent years, the role of an altered immune system in the etiology of major psychiatric disorders has become more apparent... Emerging evidence suggests that altered immune parameters may also be implicated in the neurobiological etiology of autism spectrum disorders."
Cytokine dysregulation in autism spectrum disorders (ASD): possible role of the environment.
"Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental diseases that affect an alarming number of individuals...Cytokines act primarily as mediators of immunological activity but they also have significant interactions with the nervous system. They participate in normal neural development and function, and inappropriate activity can have a variety of neurological implications. It is therefore possible that cytokine dysregulation contributes directly to neural dysfunction in ASD. Further, cytokine profiles change dramatically in the face of infection, disease, and toxic exposures. Imbalances in cytokines may represent an immune response to environmental contributors to ASD."
Autoimmunity in autism.
"Increasing evidence of autoimmune phenomena in individuals with autism could represent the presence of altered or inappropriate immune responses in this disorder, and this immune system dysfunction may represent novel targets for treatment."
In Pubmed - mercury and the immune system: 980 studies
Immunosuppressive and autoimmune effects of thimerosal in mice.
" In conclusion, the organic mercury compound thimerosal (EtHg) has initial immunosuppressive effects similar to those of MeHg. However, in contrast to MeHg, thimerosal treatment leads in genetically susceptible mice to a second phase with strong immunostimulation and autoimmunity, which is T-cell dependent, H-2 linked and may at least partly be due to the inorganic mercury derived from the metabolism of ethyl mercury."
Mercury induces an unopposed inflammatory response in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro.
"The human immune response to mercury is not well characterized despite the body of evidence that suggests that Hg can modulate immune responses, including the induction of autoimmune disease in some mouse models. Dysregulation of cytokine signaling appears to play an important role in the etiology of Hg-induced autoimmunity in animal models....Low concentrations of HgCl(2) affect immune function in human cells by dysregulation of cytokine signaling pathways, with the potential to influence diverse health outcomes such as susceptibility to infectious disease or risk of autoimmunity."
This one includes all - mercury, the immune system and autism -:
Chronic inorganic mercury exposure induces sex-specific changes in central TNFα expression: importance in autism?
"Mercury is neurotoxic and increasing evidence suggests that environmental exposure to mercury may contribute to neuropathologies including Alzheimer's disease and autism spectrum disorders. Mercury is known to disrupt immunocompetence in the periphery, however, little is known about the effects of mercury on neuroimmune signaling. Mercury-induced effects on central immune function are potentially very important given that mercury exposure and neuroinflammation both are implicated in certain neuropathologies (i.e., autism). Furthermore, mounting evidence points to the involvement of glial activation in autism..."
The brain and mercury: 2312 studies The brain and autism: 5547
Integrating experimental (in vitro and in vivo) neurotoxicity studies of low-dose thimerosal relevant to vaccines.
" Information extracted from studies indicates that: (a) activity of low doses of Thimerosal against isolated human and animal brain cells was found in all studies and is consistent with Hg neurotoxicity; (b) the neurotoxic effect of ethylmercury has not been studied with co-occurring adjuvant-Al in TCVs; (c) animal studies have shown that exposure to Thimerosal-Hg can lead to accumulation of inorganic Hg in brain, and that (d) doses relevant to TCV exposure possess the potential to affect human neuro-development. Thimerosal at concentrations relevant for infants' exposure (in vaccines) is toxic to cultured human-brain cells and to laboratory animals."
Prenatal exposure to organomercury, thimerosal, persistently impairs the serotonergic and dopaminergic systems in the rat brain: implications for association with developmental disorders.
"Here, we investigated whether prenatal thimerosal exposure causes persistent impairment after birth. Analysis on postnatal day 50 showed significant increase in hippocampal serotonin following thimerosal administration on embryonic day 9. Furthermore, not only serotonin, striatal dopamine was significantly increased. These results indicate that embryonic exposure to thimerosal produces lasting impairment of brain monoaminergic system, and thus every effort should be made to avoid the use of thimerosal."
Related to autism -
"Because most biological research in the pathophysiology of autism to date has implicated serotonin and to some extent, dopaming neuronal dysfunction ...."
Neurotoxic effects of thimerosal at vaccines doses on the encephalon and development in 7 days-old hamsters
"It is to point out that, one of the most consistent neurological abnormalities found in post-mortem studies, and in the imaging of autistic people's brain studies, is a significant loss of Purkinje cells and atrophy at cerebellar level.......Also, other recent studies have shown evidence of gliosis associated to Purkinje cell loss and a strong diffuse brain neuroinflammatory process in children with autism (128-131). Precisely, the persistence of inorganic Hg in the experimentation animal brains, after being exposed to methylHg, thimerosal or inorganic Hg, has been associated with a significant microglia cells increase, astrocyte number’s decrease, and compromise of Purkinje cells (52,132-134)."
"glutamate and NMDA receptors may be important in autistic brain regulation"
Connections to mercury:
Mercury-induced toxicity of rat cortical neurons is mediated through N-methyl-D-Aspartate receptors
"Moreover, a large body of recent evidence has also drawn the link between mercury and glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity. For instance, mercury has been shown to affect several aspects of glutamatergic signaling, including the inhibition of glutamate reuptake in astrocyte , inhibition of glutamine synthetase activity , and an enhancement of spontaneous glutamate release from neurons . These effects result in an increase in glutamate concentration at the synaptic cleft. MeHg has also been found to impact postsynaptic N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptors."
Neurotoxic effects of postnatal thimerosal are mouse strain dependent
"Neuronal glutamate transporter immunoreactivity patterns are abnormal in the hippocampi of thimerosal-treated SJL mice."
"It is intriguing to consider that in the context of synaptogenesis, abnormal activation of NMDA receptors may result in the persistence of neurons that might otherwise be selected for developmentally appropriate pruning"
And autism connections? Autism Linked to Excess Neurons
"Children with autism appear to have bigger brains with more neurons than normal for their age, a small preliminary study affirmed....What may be happening is unchecked proliferation of neurons, or a failure of the normal process of neuronal pruning....
These signs and more have become increasingly evident since Kanner's description seventy years ago. We will continue to inform, connect and sound the alarm on mercury, especially Thimerosal in prenatal and postnatal vaccines. Another clue Kanner did not connect from those children exposed to mercury but we can see clearly today:
“Physically, the children were essentially normal. Five had relatively large heads.”