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."
That is interesting and similar to what I found in my reading, which brings me to the second method identified as a causative factor in producing these maternal antibodies -- toxic chemicals. What else can cause Interleukin 6 (IL-6) a pro-inflammatory cytokine, to be produced?
"Effect of influenza vaccine on markers of inflammation and lipid profile"
Despite wide use of the influenza vaccine, relatively little is known about its effect on the measurement of inflammatory markers....We drew blood from 22 healthy individuals 1 to 6 hours before they were given an influenza vaccination and 1, 3, and 7 days after the vaccination...Our findings show that the influenza vaccination causes transient changes in select markers of inflammation and lipids. Consequently, clinical and epidemiologic interpretation of the biomarkers affected should take into account the possible effects of influenza vaccination.
Inflammatory responses to trivalent influenza virus vaccine among pregnant women
In the U.S., seasonal trivalent influenza virus vaccine (TIV) is currently universally recommended for all pregnant women. However, data on the maternal inflammatory response to vaccination is lacking and would better delineate the safety and clinical utility of immunization.......Significant increases in CRP were seen at one and two days post-vaccination (ps<05). A similar effect was seen for TNF-α, for which an increase at two days post-vaccination approached statistical significance (p=.06). There was considerable variability in magnitude of response; coefficients of variation for change at two days post-vaccination ranged from 122% to 728%, with the greatest variability in IL-6 responses at this timepoint.......Trivalent influenza virus vaccination elicits a measurable inflammatory response among pregnant women. ......further research is needed to confirm that the mild inflammatory response elicited by vaccination is benign in pregnancy.
Can Thimerosal, the mercury used in vaccines as a preservative, be part of this picture? This past year, it was reported by the CDC about the total number of flu shots and then the Thimerosal-free flu shots:
"145 million doses of influenza vaccine .... 62 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine."
Could any of these women, who were part of this study, have had a flu shot? It looks as if Thimerosal in any of those flu vaccines could possibly cause an increase in IL-6, the same IL-6 described above in the study -- "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...."
Thimerosal is shown to have profound effects on the immune system and is in many of the influenza vaccines:
"When thimerosal, at a concentration as low as 20 parts per billion, alters the fidelity of normal calcium signals, dendritic cells show abnormal secretion of IL-6 cytokine - a potent chemical signal that initiates inflammatory responses."
It appears very possible that influenza vaccination, especially with Thimerosal, could start off this inflammatory process in a pregnancy. I need to mention too, that the percent in this study, the 23% who went on and had a child diagnosed with autism -- is in the ballpark of the percent of pregnant women who reportedly get a flu shot -" between 10 percent and one-quarter of women"
Another imperative reason we need this research and precautions is that I met one of the women in this study. She had a flu shot when pregnant.
Teresa Conrick is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.