Note: This post is part of an on-going series by Teresa Conrick. You can read more about the Microbiome in our "Exclusives" pull down menu.
By Teresa Conrick
On August 29th, 1931, Vivian Murdock was born in Maryland. She was to become Case 6, Virginia S. , the eldest diagnosed of those unique childrenas reported by Dr. Leo Kanner in his famous paper from 1943 . He changed her name and birthday as he knew her father, Dr. Harry Murdock, a fellow psychiatrist, and presumably wanted to keep the family anonymous.
Here is her Social Security death notice:
Last Residence: 21838 Marion Station, Somerset
Maryland, United States of America
Born: 29 Aug 1931
Died: Jan 1987
State (Year) SSN issued: Maryland (1975)
On April 14th, 2012, I “found” Virginia S. after years of searching. Her life of institutionalization since 1936 was horrific and compelled me to keep up my search through volumes of documents. Virginia S. was my Titanic, a monumental and historic tragedy of both mind and body that had clues to MAN as the culprit. I needed to find her and thought of it as a rescue mission. I have a daughter, like Virginia S., who has been nonverbal since regression into an autism diagnosis after her vaccinations. State mental hospitals and institutions were the options for autism in the days of Kanner and since. In present day, we now see that the majority of cases involve REGRESSION, with increasing numbers of parents reporting VACCINATION as the cause. I have always been intrigued by the fact that Virginia S. was born in Baltimore right when, “The city health department reported in 1931 that 'during the year the Department began the distribution of diphtheria toxoid on a large scale. ’ ” These would have been the first well-baby vaccines containing mercury. Her family and the other seven discovered so far from those Kanner 11, each had a history of mercury exposure. Both mercury and vaccination can alter the microbiome. NOTE: Antibiotics were not yet in use when those first eleven children were identified.
Since 1938, when Kanner first met those children, autism has become an epidemic and a top fear for expecting parents. Some may try to paint autism as an increasing diagnosed disability, where each individual needs to be treated with dignity. I agree with that but we need to also add that autism is increasing due to environmental, not genetic factors and that for most, autism is a DISEASE, with true, medical markers. It is becoming increasingly clear that the social, language and perseverative behaviors of autism are a consequence of a microbiome that is sick and that in turn affects the brain:
A new and growing area of research is finding that the bugs, especially the ones in our guts, play a critical role in human health and the development of our immune system.
Scientists say that a host of health problems, including autism, cancer, obesity, diabetes, malnutrition, Crohn's disease, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, seem to appear when the human microbial community gets out of whack.
And this one:
Similarly, a 2013 study from Mazmanian’s lab found that a mouse model with some features of autism had much lower levels of a common gut bacterium called Bacteroides fragilis than did normal mice3. The animals were also stressed, antisocial and had gastrointestinal symptoms often seen in autism. Feeding B. fragilis to the mice reversed the symptoms. The group also found that the mice with these symptoms had higher levels of a bacterial metabolite called 4-ethylphenylsulphate (4EPS) in their blood, and that injecting that chemical into normal mice caused the same behavioural problems..
…. 4-ethylphenylsulfate, was 46 times as abundant in the mice with autism symptoms as in normal mice .
ASD is a collection of neurodevelopmental changes in children where they exhibit complex behavioral changes in their abilities in social interaction and communication, as well as presence of behaviors similar to obsessive–compulsive disorder, including repetitive and narrow interests. While the disease impacts the brain, gastrointestinal symptoms are commonly described in children with ASD (234, 235), and studies have identified the presence of inflammatory infiltrate and histopathology in biopsies of children with ASD, including increased numbers of cytotoxic T cells, CD19+ B-cells, and increased enteric IgG1/4 (236, 237). Possibly related to these GIT immune changes and dysfunction, some studies have demonstrated an altered composition of intestinal microbiota in young children with ASD compared to healthy control children with typical neurological function (238–242)……
….. When identifying a role for the microbiota in ASD, rather than making predictions based on taxonomic sequence data, recent studies have been studying the metabolite secretions of gut microbes and the impact of these microbiotas on host serum metabolites. A potential mechanism behind ASD symptoms could be neuro-active metabolites mediated by or produced by the microbiota, which could disseminate systemically and penetrate the blood–brain barrier.
So, we see more and more research implicating the microbiome in autism and the clues keep also hinting towards vaccines. Here we read “infections” yet those “first days, months, and years of life” are inundated with vaccinations.
Therefore the timing of exposure to flora-altering agents (antibiotics, infection, diet) is important to understanding how and why certain autoimmune and allergic diseases develop, particularly since the interactions between flora and host are occurring on the background of an immune system that is still maturing during the first days, months, and years of life.
Here is a mention of vaccines:
In the second keynote, Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello (New York University) (Figure 2B) spoke about the modern versus ancestral microbiome [29,30]. She described how modern practices including hygiene, antibiotics, and limited exposure to livestock have likely affected the composition of the human microbiome. She showed that people living more ancestral lifestyles, without antibiotics and vaccines, such as a previously uncontacted group of the Yanomamö Amerindian tribe in Venezuela, have a profoundly different microbiome as compared to western peoples. Their microbiomes exhibit high diversity not just in the gut, but at all body sites surveyed.
Not surprisingly, the microbiota in children under 3 years of age fluctuates substantially and is more impressionable to environmental factors than the adult microbiota (9). Modern changes in lifestyle, including improved sanitization, cesarean sections, antibiotic usage, and immunizations are among some of the factors that can shift the microbiota, and are being studied as potential drivers of the sudden increase in immune-mediated diseases in the developed world. It has been hypothesized that there is a “critical window” early in life during which the microbiota can be disrupted in a way that may favor the development of disease later in life (10).
And finally, to my relief, the dots are being connected:
Using antibiotics, vaccination and even dietary supplements has the potential to cause changes in the microbiome with significant implications for health, either by killing off useful bacteria or by creating conditions which allow damaging bacteria to flourish…. We are investigating how some of the vaccines and micronutrient supplements routinely given to young children to prevent disease may cause unwanted changes in the nasopharyngeal microbiome…. The pneumococcus bacterium which colonises the back of the nose of up to 90 per cent of children in The Gambia is a leading cause of pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. However, because the pneumococcus is so common in this country, we would like to know what the effects of eliminating or reducing its populations by vaccination are among young children. Imagine a forest with several animals such as lions, cheetahs, zebras and buffalos; what would happen if the number of lions was suddenly reduced?
If changes do occur in the microbial communities of vaccinated children, the next step will be to determine whether they are clinically important. If adverse effects are found, we may need to start finding ways to protect ourselves from disease, without changing the natural balance of our microbial communities.
I think we have to work towards finding that elusive and intricate balance between controlling the few microorganisms that cause disease without disturbing the trillions of friendly bacteria we need to function.
“Protecting ourselves from disease without changing the natural balance of our microbial communities” is a perfect plan. There is much evidence showing that autism could be a consequence of exactly that.
From Virginia S. in 1931 to Megan Conrick in 1993, and so many children since, it’s time we put money and research into exactly that.
Teresa Conrick is Contributing Editor to Age of Autisml.