Autism: Does Mercury Modulate The Microbiome?
By Teresa Conrick
It’s a hot topic, the MICROBIOME, defined as: "the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space." I keep reading more and more research connecting the microbiome and autism.
It goes something like this, according to the research below- Mercury exposure, both environmental and via flu vaccination in a pregnant woman, can cause negative ramifications in her baby’s microbiome. The same is true for postnatal infants exposed to Thimerosal. The landscape of that microbiome loses helpful bacteria and instead we see more pathogens. The downstream effects - chronic infections, altered development of the nervous system, molecular mimicry, neuropsychiatric symptoms (tics, obsessive compulsive behaviors, perseveration and repetitive behaviors), and neurologic inflammation. Mitochondrial dysfunction, a more prevalent condition in many diagnosed with autism, seems to be part of this picture as well. Vaccines and their effect on the microbiome are also examined. Each of these studies is a puzzle piece, connecting these facts. The picture is becoming clearer:
An Immune Dysfunction of the Body Affecting the Brain
• Although the study suggested that gut bacteria could affect neurologic inflammation, how that might happen remains unclear. For the most part, Mazmanian says, the microorganisms that colonize the human gut don’t leave the intestine, but the immune cells that contact them do. He explains that, although 70% of the immune cells in the body at any one time can be found in the intestine, they circulate throughout the body, and the microbiota of the gut environment help determine how immune cells will behave elsewhere ……..Other researchers have suggested a link between the gut–brain axis and neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism, depression, and eating disorders. The gut contains microorganisms that share a structural similarity with the neuropeptides involved in regulating behavior, mood, and emotion—a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. The body can’t tell the difference between the structure of these mimics and its own cells, so antibodies could end up attacking both, potentially altering the physiology of the gut–brain axis.12
• The human gut harbors a complex community of microbes that profoundly influence many aspects of growth and development, including development of the nervous system. Advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing methods have led to rapidly expanding knowledge about this gut microbiome.
• Autism-associated Changes in Intestinal Microbial Diversity - Maintaining sufficient bacterial richness and diversity is important for providing gut microbiota with functional redundancy, adaptability, and thus systematic robustness against environmental challenges...... Rarefaction curves showed that neurotypical individuals had a higher number of observed bacterial species than autistic individuals (Figure 1A and Figure S1). ....... Taken together, these analyses suggest that the presence of autistic symptoms and their correlated GI problems are linked with reduced richness and diversity of gut microflora, which results in a decrease in microbial redundancy and alter the physiological functionality and microbial GI robustness in children with ASD.
• The reason for mitochondrial dysfunction in ASD is unknown, but the fact that only 23% of children with ASD and MD have a known mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA) abnormality suggests that MD may be acquired rather than genetic in many ASD cases…… Enteric short-chain fatty-acids, such as propionic acid (PPA),10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 which are fermentation by-products of ASD-associated enteric bacteria (that is,Clostridia, Desulfovibrio, Sutterella and Bacteroidetes), have been suggested as a possible environmental triggers in ASD.18, 19
• Furthermore, the gut microbiome emerges as a major player not only in the maturation of GIT (gastrointestinal tract) tissue and the gut brain axis but also in brain maturation, through its effect on both the immune and endocrine systems. Many toxins,toxicants, infectious agents, diet or stress, affect an individual’s gut microbiome, which may be especially sensitive during the critical developmental period. Disruption of the developing microbiome may have profound consequences on the developing gut-brain axis…..
• The bacteria that live in the human gut may play an important role in immune response to vaccines and infection by wild-type enteric organisms, according to two recent studies… Our research raises the intriguing possibility that the gut microbiota may play an important role in response to vaccines…. Metagenomics, also known as community or environmental genomics, will allow us to look at the function of the gut microbiota and how it is changing under various vaccination schedules. This research provides a fascinating window into the human microbiome, and how the bacteria in our bodies impact our health.
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder and gut microbiota dysregulation.- A hypothesis is presented wherein the root cause of OCD is proposed to be a dysfunction of the gut microbiome constituency resulting in a susceptibility to obsessional thinking…..Suggested treatment for OCD would be the directed, specie-specific (re)introduction of beneficial bacteria modifying the gut microbiome, thereby ameliorating OCD symptoms.
A Closer Look at Mercury and Thimerosal
There is much evidence that the immune system is a big player in mercury exposure. Though we hear much about the dangers of antibiotic use as the culprit for gut dysbiosis, environmental mercury and the manmade vaccine mercury, Thimerosal, appear to be involved as well. Note also the study below indicating that mercury exposure can lead to a condition where bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, even those it’s never encountered.
• As TM (Thimerosal) exposure during the postnatal phase coincided with lactation, some of the TM was delivered through the milk to the GIT and may have had an effect on the developing gut microbiome known to be sensitive to heavy metal exposure (Lapanje et al., 2007). This effect may be in part due to competition with zinc resulting in a disturbance in metallothionein function and general chelating capacity for other metals. Thus, at least part of the neonatal impact of TM/mercury could be mediated via its action on the gut microbiome.
•Increased mercury levels were detected in stools after vaccination, suggesting that the gastrointestinal tract is involved in ethylmercury elimination.
• Thousands of studies have shown that mercury affects many metabolic processes and organ systems in humans and experimental animals. Silbergeld says research by her laboratory and others indicates inorganic mercury can also impact the mucosal immune system, for instance by increasing the production of proinflammatory cytokines and serum levels of biomarkers of immune alteration related to autoimmunity.[23-26] On top of that, contact between mucosal cells of the immune system and the intestinal microbiome means each will affect the other, she says. To Silbergeld, this suggests interactions between environmental contaminants and the microbiome may be bidirectional.
• Scientists agree that re-examining environmental exposures through the lens of the microbiome is likely to yield more insights into bacterial impacts. For instance, the ability of intestinal bacteria to demethylate methyl-mercury is important because the process could result in unexpected exposure to toxic inorganic mercury.
• Antibiotic-treated rats given [203Hg]-labeled methylmercuric chloride orally had significantly more mercury in their tissues, especially in kidney, brain, lung, blood, and skeletal muscle, and also excreted less mercury in the feces than conventional rats. Furthermore, in the kidneys of the antibiotic-treated rats, the proportion of mercury present as organic mercury was greater than in the kidneys of the conventional rats. The results suppport the hypothesis that the metabolism of methylmercuric chloride by the gut flora reduces the tissue content of mercury. When rats were administered 10 mg methylmercuric chloride/kg . day for 6 days, four of five of those given antibiotics developed neurological symptoms of toxicity.
• Summers says bacterial exposure to metals such as mercury can contribute to antimicrobial resistance because many transferrable plasmids carry genes for multiple types resistance. In other words, in the process of developing metal resistance, a bacterium may also become resistant to an antibiotic it hasn’t even encountered.
• It has been suggested that the environmental load of mercury, including that released from amalgam fillings, may promote and maintain antimicrobial resistance together with mercury resistance in human normal flora (20). The threat of pathogens acquiring this resistance is always present; one example is the transfer of penicillin resistance genes from oral streptococci to Streptococcus pneumoniae (3).
• …..raising the question of whether changes in the human chromatin, induced by mercury, in a parental generation could allow adaptation of their descendants to mercury……..in Australia the mercury sensitivity of paternal grandparents who had pink disease as infants, affected their grandchildren [autism]…… In humans the microbiome is also closely linked to physiology and disease. Mercury resistant bacteria have been well recognized . Since one route of entry of mercury in humans is through the gut, the microbiome might be the first to encounter the toxin and the bacteria adapt to increasing levels of ingested mercury……
The constant parade of genetic research over decades has given nothing of value. NIH, National Institutes of Health though, is spending millions on the Human Microbiome Project. There are hints that autism is included but to what extent? This from NIH Director, Francis S. Collins: “Realizing that the immune system interacts closely with normal microbes, Hsiao is now focused on how gut bacteria influence immunity, brain function, and behaviors in mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders. In a just-published study, she reveals that when mice that display core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are given bacteria-laden treatments called probiotics, many of the mice’s behavioral abnormalities disappear .” It’s a step in the right direction yet their culprit in all of this is not mercury or Thimerosal. It is mothers getting sick during pregnancy, “maternal immune activation.” There has been little research in the use of flu shots and Thimerosal with pregnant women and the development of activating the immune system. It is an area that needs more research. So here are studies showing how it is the microbiome, not genes, that will lead the way in helping so many stricken with these symptoms:
• That veil is only very recently being lifted with respect to a potential role for autoimmunity in neuropsychiatric disorders. This shift has occurred as evidence accumulates to support the idea that dysregulated cross-talk between the brain and the immune system is an important contributor to the pathogenesis of conditions as diverse as schizophrenia, mood disorders, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette syndrome and other tic disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anorexia nervosa, narcolepsy, posttraumatic stress disorder and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).[4,5] In addition, intriguing new evidence lends support to the possibility that not only the microbes associated with infectious episodes but also the bacteria of the gut microbiome can foster the production of brain-reactive autoantibodies, and that these microbe-induced antibodies provide the critical link between infection and neuropsychiatric disorders.
• ….Eventually, as more pathogens are incorporated into the microbiome and levels of dysbiosis increase, people begin to present with symptoms characteristic of an autoimmune or inflammatory diagnosis......There is increasing evidence that autoimmune diseases run in families due to the sharing of common microbes.... The microbiome a child develops is a direct reflection of those harbored by the mother and close relatives. Microbes are introduced by a multitude of sources including the placenta, sperm,egg, breast milk, and vaginal canal. …. Autoimmune diseases are more likely passed in families due to inheritance of the familial microbiome than inheritance of Mendelian genetic abnormalities.”
• Lisa Helbling Chadwick, the NIEHS liaison for the Human Microbiome Project, says the institute is increasing its focus on the impact of microbiomes on toxicology. "One thing we are really interested in at NIEHS is understanding how individuals respond differently to exposures, what makes one person more susceptible to adverse health outcomes from an exposure than another," she says. "Genetics only partially explains this." Birnbaum adds, "We recognize the enormous implications of the growing awareness of interactions between chemical exposures and the microbiome, and we have begun exploring these issues."
• Existing therapies targeting the gut microbiome include diet, antibiotics, and probiotics. Dietary restriction, including the removal of dairy casein-containing products, wheat and gluten sources, sugar, chocolate, preservatives, and food coloring have all been found to be therapeutic in autism….. . Gastrointestinal problems in autism appear to respond to antimicrobial agents. Treatments targeting Candida, and probiotics have been used to reduce disbiosis and control gut permeability (Kidd, 2002). Other strategies include the removal of heavy metals (including mercury) by chelation and sulfur-sulphydryl repletion. Supplementation with dimethylglycine, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin B3, C, folic acid, calcium and zinc, cod liver, digestive enzymes, all appear to be beneficial in a number of autistic children (Kidd, 2002). Immune therapies, including pentoxifyllin, immunoglobulin, transfer factors and colostrums appear to work in a limited number of cases.
• Increasing evidence indicates that the complex microbial ecosystem of the human intestine plays a critical role in protecting the host against disease. This review discusses gut dysbiosis (here defined as a state of imbalance in the gut microbial ecosystem, including overgrowth of some organisms and loss of others) as the foundation for several diseases, and the applicability of refined microbial ecosystem replacement therapies as a future treatment modality..... 'Microbial Ecosystem Therapeutics' (MET) would entail replacing a dysfunctional, damaged ecosystem with a fully developed and healthy ecosystem of 'native' intestinal bacteria. Its application in treating Clostridium difficile infection is discussed and possible applications to other diseases such as ulcerative colitis, obesity, necrotising enterocolitis, and regressive-type autism are reviewed.
Note that the above study refers to "regressive-type" autism as a disease. I have watched my own daughter suffer for years -- infections, pain, neuropsychiatric symptoms related to PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) and an autoimmune diagnosis shown by antinuclear antibodies. Since 1938, those with the symptoms called “autism” have been put on a spectrum, from low functioning to high functioning. It is very possible that their functioning had everything to do with a dysfunctional microbiome.
As mentioned in the above study, it is possible our grandparents exposed to blankets, bedding, clothing, food stores, body armor webbing, etc. soaked with DDT have passed an altered gene to the grandchildren generation, resulting in autism.
Posted by: katesisco | July 03, 2014 at 03:35 PM
I have had candidasis for years only just self diagnosed.
As to why? Stress, the more stress, the more compromised the immune system, the more candida surges.
I wonder if 'colic' was and correctly is the fungal candidasis. That would mean that the baby whose immune system should be self sufficient wasn't or was attacked immediately upon birth.
That would mean any toxins were offloaded onto the fetus as science says is normal. The mother could have much stored mercury and not know it. If the mother had dental mercury amalgams then the child would acquire a load of mercury. Science tells us that bacteria and yeasts (candidasis) preferentially pick up mercury. That would also be offloaded onto the fetus, fungus rich in mercury. Which would explain 'colic.'
That would explain the witch hunt for mercury in vaccines. The child had already received mercury and the additional, tho small, pushed the child over the limit.
Posted by: katesisco | July 03, 2014 at 03:30 PM
To Leslie Weed, Im a little sad to read your story. Im glad it turned out well, but the informatiion I have is late for you.It appears that there may be a very easy way of demolishing candida- and that is by the use of an Indian/Tibetan herb called Haritake. (In India this dried fruit of a tree is called Harar, and it is sold alone and in a combination called Trifula, which is well- known to most Indians) Here is my story in brief: A three year old girl in my school had severe constipation apparently from birth. Notably , she was unable to suck milk at birth, a sure sign that she had been given a mercury-laden Hep B vaccine. She had a BM only once in four days and her parents saw many doctors, many of whom suggested a surgery !!! After they told me this, I put the information together with a symptom that had been noticed in school and told the parents that it might be candida. About the same time I began to suspect that I too had candida for the first time in my life. I didnt really bother about my suspicion, but I took several tablets of Haritake when I went to the dentist, and for the next 36 hours I had the most horrible die off symptoms. Now, back to the little girl- Her parents arrived at school one day, simply beaming. Their story was this: Their doctor gave Diflucan and they gave her the course, but to no effect. Being fond of ayurvedic meds, they tried giving her Trifula. she didnt like to take it and some other person told them that a safer med is "Udarkalp", which also contains Haritake. The little girl enjoyed taking that and soon she became normal for the first time in her life. And, as you mention, we notice that her behavior and confidence and sociability has improved. There was even a time, many months ago when I said to the father, "You know, I cant say just why I think this, but I feel that your daughter is just one mercury -vaccine away from being autistic" That was not a nice thing to say to someone, but I was a bit scared that they might encounter a doctor who might give her another mercury-laden vaccine on some pretext. This often happens.
Im not trying to imply here that candida is a cause of autism- far from it- But the mercury that causes autism, also paves the way for candida. I believe that we do not yet know the exact biological relationship between candida and mercury .
Posted by: Cherry Sperlin Misra | April 24, 2014 at 03:05 PM
To Not an MD, Good points made. And all the mercury toxicologists know that what you say is true and no one listens to them.Some of them are afraid, for various reasons, to speak out directly about autism. . Our friends at the CDC aren't going to ask for their opinion or their data. I look forward to the day when they are older and dont give a damn any more and join Boyd Haley in speaking out against the evil-doers
Posted by: Cherry Sperlin Misra | April 24, 2014 at 02:40 PM
Hi All and thanks for your comments.
Linda, I did see that PANS article and do know that mother and her situation. I plan on writing about it more.
Posted by: Teresa Conrick | April 24, 2014 at 01:33 PM
Your article is eye opening, Teresa. This especially hit home:
"Autoimmune diseases are more likely passed in families due to inheritance of the familial microbiome than inheritance of Mendelian genetic abnormalities.”
I saw an article today on Pans - story of how a little girl was misdiagnosed as having bipolar:
Posted by: Linda | April 23, 2014 at 08:26 PM
Excellent article, Theresa. One of my legislators would argue that one should just "believe" whatever their doctor says about vaccines, but I don't think she gets it that sometimes doctors are completely wrong about what they advise for their patients.
I wanted to share a new TV show with you. It is called Cosmos, and this wonderful, intelligent man named Neil deGrasse Tyson is the host. I just watched it for the first time last night, and he spoke about lead and lead poisoning, and all of the conflicts of interest that arose from industry, and the lack of concern for the poor, and their exposure to lead, dating back to Ancient Rome. It was really something, to hear the truth about lead poisoning spoken by a scientist. When it was said how lead is a poison, no matter the concentration, it resonated with me, and I immediately thought of the massive quantities of aluminum, and the allegedly smaller quantities of mercury, we so indiscriminatorily give via vaccines to babies and children. How can there not be an effect on the brain, on the microbiome, when mercury is injected, in any amount down to the nanomolecular level into a human being? Of course there is! One would have to be an idiot, or an indoctrinated zombie, or a paid industry shill, or paid thought leader like Art Caplan or Paul Offit, to think otherwise. Here is a link to the show:
My jaw actually dropped when I watched the April 21st episode.
Posted by: Not an MD | April 22, 2014 at 07:13 PM
Your commment reminded me of something I read about Melanin.
My husband has vitialigo and the skin doctor said he is seeing tons of this de pigmentation when it was once rare.
Tereasa wrote an article back of this.
But it turns out that melanin is a nerve transmitor too and deep inside our bodies in the brain stem -- had to do with Parkisnon disease.
Red heads melanin is made slightly different than the regular brown type and transmits pain less - as in cuts, blows, or hits.
But because of the make up of the red melanin -- ophoids have a stronger effect on red heads than the regular brown.
So it is not all depending on different sexes but that was interesting.
Posted by: Benedetta | April 22, 2014 at 05:31 PM
"The constant parade of genetic research over decades has given nothing of value"
Understandable .. considering recent "60 Minutes" segment:
"Sex-matters: Drugs can affect sexes differently"
Apparently .. research clearly indicates gender plays a distinct role in how the human immune system reacts to drugs .. and .. according to this stunning report .. drugs are just the beginning as sex differences have been found in pain receptors, liver enzymes .. even the wiring of the brain.
Indeed, more and more, scientists are realizing that the differences are dangerously understudied and that pervasively and fundamentally, sex matters.
The obvious question: What .. if any .. role does gender play in metabolizing mercury?
Perhaps gender alone will explain why autism affects more boys than girls???
Posted by: Bob Moffitt | April 22, 2014 at 04:27 PM
Thank you again. I'm not very proficient at utilizing pubMed, but there also seems to be at least some research showing gut flora alterations caused by aluminum compounds as well.
I don't know how it came about that testing for titer response became the official measure of vaccine efficacy, but it seems to me that we may have only been damaging the immune system/immune response of vaccine recipients in short-sighted attempts to enhance the outcome of that one measurement. Are there going to be extensive adverse multi-generational effects from widespread thimerosal/dental amalgam/+ use?
Posted by: Jeannette Bishop | April 22, 2014 at 02:53 PM
Not malaria kind, but things like Cryptosporidium that caused the outbreak in Milwaukee back in the 90s - and they thought so long it was run off from cow manure in the area -was in fact a human variety. - DNA studied in 2004 showed it was in fact not bovine -- but human, and probably came from a leaking sewage pipe near a water supply pipe that caused the outbreak. Even so; it only caused problems in those that were immune compromised. . Giardia thought to come from beavers and other mammals --it seems that we humans have our own type of that protozoan too.
HIV patients that have compromised immune systems; kind of makes it obvious we have these protozoan in our micobiome that are kept in check by our immune systems.
So that leads again to the hypothalamus, thymus - endocrine system and the immune system -- something damaged the immune system so a cascade effect I suppose.
Posted by: Benedetta | April 22, 2014 at 01:17 PM
For a long time - heavy metals in fungus has been rather confusing too. Fungus unlike bacteria is more complicated.
Heavy metals slow their growth, but at the same time some fungus takes in heavy loads of mercury and stores it. So much so that some environmentalist have thought it would be a good idea to use these species of fungus to absorb mercury into a biomass to get it out of our water systems. However: it might also be a good way to turn inorganic mercury into organic and make it more dangerous.
Fruiting bodies of fungus on honey of the bees have been found to be heavy with mercury. Hmmmmm
As for the types of fungus; the American diet has but one kind -- all in those packages of yeast we buy to make home made rolls -- that is not natural - humans use to just mix up flour and water put it out for the air and what ever fungus comes floating along to make (hopefully) something that was eatable.
As for Candidis the yeast/fungus that is suppose to grow in our gut and keeps the bacteria and protozoan in their place in our gut --- It too has been reported to store mercury. One of the theories of why we hurt so much in our muscle and joints after going on a carb free diet is from The fungus die off is releasing mercury it has been holding. Just a theory though.
Posted by: Benedetta | April 22, 2014 at 12:41 PM
I find it interesting that they are discovering the DNA content between bacteria can be exchanged as easily as one's changes clothes. So you have a species of bacteria and it runs into another species and changes --species!
What this could mean just boggles the mind. So many questions - such as - are there any regulations within the bacteria to help them decide what gets exchanged that might help the bacteria survive the environment?
And how could this type of change in a species of bacteria in our gut mean as a human race?
Posted by: Benedetta | April 22, 2014 at 12:38 PM
So we have entire families walking around with abnormal bacterial -- hmmmmm.
Will it spread ----
Sounds like Star Wars -- Darth Vader had a high count of the things that were described as "The Force", so much that his mother proclaimed he had the same beginnings as Jesus - a virgin birth. That would be good -- except -- we are having problems like autism instead. Well there is that very rare Brain man Tammet-- but for a species to survive - it does have to reproduce and sexually is better than asexually - esp the more complicated and bigger ----
Oh but I am off subject and getting silly.
Posted by: Benedetta | April 22, 2014 at 12:34 PM
Fascinating. Thank you for such an informative article and for providing the links to many important articles.
Posted by: ChrissyD | April 22, 2014 at 09:21 AM
Thank you for doing all of this extensive research! This makes perfect sense of what happened to my daughter. She had horrific gut dysbiosis with three different types bad yeast/bacteria in her gut. It literally took us 10 solid years to heal and restore her gut flora and as her gut began to heal many of her "behavioral Autism symptoms" began to fade. I truly believe the behaviors were a manifestation of the pain she was enduring, but since she is no-verbal she could not communicate to us.
THANK YOU for piecing this very intriguing and critical information together for us, Teresa.
Posted by: Leslie Weed | April 22, 2014 at 08:04 AM