By Teresa Conrick
I do a lot of research and writing about Autism and the Microbiome. A rising issue that encompasses this area of research is ANTIBIOTICS. I have a daughter who regressed into AUTISM and subsequently developed an AUTOIMMUNE disorder. Her blood testing showed a positive antinuclear antibody response. Right now, it is called PANS/PANDAS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome), like many other children both with and without Autism, who develop these horrific symptoms. Megan was on ANTIBIOTICS frequently as a toddler but it was not until AFTER VACCINATION that antibiotics came into the picture. She began to receive numerous VACCINES in 1993 and after that, her body seemed to change and become a sponge to pathogens. Her doctors note when Meg was 15 months old, ten days after her MMR vaccine, "6/28/94 - Fever- rash on body - ear infection - antibiotics". Many vaccines in-between antibiotics, most with Thimerosal, and regression into Autism. My daughter did not suffer an acute reaction, ie seizures immediately after a vaccine that led to the emergency room, but suffered continual regression and a very evident reaction after her MMR. The doctor's office told me this was normal... a viral infection, but then came the symptoms - loss of eye contact, inability to climb stairs, loss of language as the weeks went by. The severe GI issues then followed. Seizures came years later. Then autoimmunity. Her condition could best be described as being a type of encephalitis that at times seems to be an autoimmune encephalitis. Could it be that combining VACCINES, MERCURY and ANTIBIOTICS in a short time period is just too much for the MICROBIOME to handle? -- The effect of sole antibiotics on an infant has been studied but not with vaccinations, or environmental sources, ie mercury/Thimerosal:
...when early fecal samples from antibiotic-exposed infants were compared with a later post-weaning sample, antibiotic resistance was reduced, and overall diversity had increased . This may have been due to the plasticity and rapid rate of change within the gut microbiota in the first year of life, suggesting that effects of early antibiotic usage in infants may be diminished over time ....
...In two studies, a large fraction of healthy, non-antibiotic-treated infants in the first 3 months of life harbored resistant and multiply resistant bacterial strains [59,60], perhaps through maternal transmission . Although it has yet to be evaluated epidemiologically, the growing presence of resistant microbes may be due in part to more widespread contaminant exposures from foods and the environment. For instance, several studies demonstrated that individuals exposed to mercury were more likely to possess resistance to multiple antibiotics, suggesting a coselection mechanism . Children are regularly exposed to arsenic, which can be found in well water and foods, such as rice and baby formula [63,64,65]. Metals, such as arsenic, which was used historically as an antibiotic in humans  and is currently added to animal feed, have contributed to the emergence of metal/antibiotic coresistant strains arising in livestock, including MRSA isolates  transmittable to humans via the environment and food supply. These multiresistant pathogens heighten risk of adverse outcomes, especially in young children. Once antibiotic resistance genes are selected for, they may persist within the microbiota for years .
Then add these facts into Megan's regression and there may be a pattern that emerges:
- facets of innate and adaptive immune response to viral infection are well described, evidence is emerging that components of the microbiome, both at the local respiratory mucosa and in the gastrointestinal tract, may influence these host responses to viral infection.
- viruses can be viewed as a component of the microbiome, and interactions with commensal bacteria and other microbial agents influence their behavior...Viral immunomodulation can disrupt the balanced co-existence between the host and the bacterial microbiome.
So here we are in 2016 and childhood illnesses have been changing. Increasing numbers of children have neuro/immune-mediated diseases such as Autism, PANDAS/PANS, Asthma, Diabetes, and severe Allergies. Why is this happening?
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.
I have always been interested in the fact that the first children identified with AUTISM were born NOT after the mass production of ANTIBIOTICS in the 1940's but instead, after the earlier, mass production of VACCINES in the 1930's :
Vivian was directly in the path of at least three mercury vectors:
-- the first use of mercury-preserved vaccines in Baltimore -- a drive to vaccinate every infant with those shots began the month she was born;
-- her parents' avocation of orchid growing and breeding, which required intensive application of chemicals including mercury;
-- and her father’s psychiatric career, which brought him – and probably his family through second-hand exposure – in contact with mercury treatments for a common form of insanity.
Mercury is no longer used in agriculture or mental health treatment. But each year, 100 million children worldwide get vaccines containing thimerosal, the ethylmercury preservative first used in those shots in Baltimore. In the United States, flu shots, most of which contain mercury, are recommended for pregnant women and for infants beginning at 6 months of age.
I need to continue to sound the alarm that the evidence of MERCURY and other heavy metals, as being very capable of damaging the MICROBIOME, continues to mount - for example:
More on that later.
On 21 September 2016, the President of the UN General Assembly convenes a one-day high-level meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York on “Antimicrobial Resistance“, with the participation of Member States, non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector and academic institutions, in order to provide input.
The primary objective of the meeting is to summon and maintain strong national, regional and international political commitment in addressing antimicrobial resistance comprehensively and multi-sectorally, and to increase and improve awareness of antimicrobial resistance.
Well, this is all very significant as we look at the Microbiome in diseases, including Autism and PANS/PANDAS. Many of these patients rely on the use of antibiotics to ameliorate the numerous symptoms that take over them. As much as it devastates me looking back at Megan's perpetual antibiotic use after vaccines, the use of antibiotics today has been saving her in PANS/PANDAS. Here's a good description:
Azithromycin and penicillin have been utilized in the treatment of PANDAS with observations of improvement in neuropsychiatric symptoms. In a study designed to decrease Group A strep (GAS) infections, researchers at NIMH conducted a twelve-month parallel design comparing prophylactic doses of penicillin and azithromycin. Eleven subjects were maintained on penicillin and 12 were maintained on azithromycin during the 12-month study. During the study year, the mean number of neuropsychiatric exacerbations was reduced as well as the mean number of streptococcal infections. No side effects or reports of any adverse effects from the medications were reported. The authors suggest that both antibiotics may be safe and effective in preventing Group A strep infections and in decreasing the number of neuropsychiatric exacerbations in these children without any significant differences between groups. In a small pilot study of cefdinir at treatment doses (14mg/kg), children with recent onset neuropsychiatric symptoms had improvements in OCD and tics, with the OCD improvement reaching clinical significance (TK Murphy 2015). In addition to these controlled trials, there is a large pool of anecdotal reports from practitioners and parents that antibiotics can significantly reduce the severity of symptoms.
Antibiotics may well be a double edged sword but the science does not yet seem to know why. Now the UN and here, the CDC, are trying to figure it out:
“Understanding the role the microbiome plays in antibiotic-resistant infections is necessary to protect the public’s health,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in the release. “We think it is key to innovative approaches to combat antibiotic resistance, protect patients, and improve antibiotic use.”
I would hope that both the UN and the CDC don't throw out the baby with the antibiotics until they have a full understanding of what is happening with the Microbiome. Here is one fact that needs to be added that has both environmental and medicinal (Thimerosal/merthiolate etc) effect:
...during the last 300 years that the most significant changes are likely to have occurred. Exposure to pollutants and the increasing use of antimicrobial compounds has imposed strong selection directly on all components of the microbiota, in a manner that was unknown in the past. Because of the essentially stochastic nature of antibiotic therapy, and the variation in individual responses , this leads to a series of population, species and genetic bottlenecks within the microbiota of individuals , potentially leading to unique microbial assemblages in every person........Assembly of composite, mosaic resistance elements probably began with exposure to mercury in the 19th and early 20th Century. Environmental or prophylactic mercury exposure may have fixed a mer operon and attendant transposon in the human microbiome.
For more on the fascinating and devastating consequences of MERCURY in history, read Dan and Mark's book, The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic. This may also explain why "the prevalence rate of ASD among the grandchildren of pink disease survivors (1 in 22) to be significantly higher than the comparable general population prevalence rate (1 in 160). The results support the hypothesis that Hg sensitivity may be a heritable/genetic risk factor for ASD."
One thing is for sure, the need to address antibiotics in animals used for human consumption; vaccines in both humans and in farm animals; heavy metals, especially mercury; and pesticides in products used for human consumption. ALL of these have an effect on the HUMAN MICROBIOME but why are they ALL not researched and discussed?
With that in mind, the MMR vaccine, a triple, live, virus vaccine, the one SO many parents witnessed profound changes in their child as regression and then AUTISM developed, is NEVER discussed. THIMEROSAL is mercury and much evidence is showing mercury plays a role in microbiome/antibiotic resistance. As ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE is examined, these two issues need to be explored as these increasing childhood diseases that I listed above are devastating, and a potent link to the MICROBIOME seems well established:
- mercury resistant bacteria in contaminated environments may lead to the co-selection of antibiotic resistance due to the genetic linkage of resistance genes on mobile genetic elements.
- Perhaps the most interesting aspect of human viral communities is the extent to which they can carry gene functions involved in the pathogenesis of their hosts, particularly antibiotic resistance....and altering the microbial community in ways that promote or prevent pathogen colonization.
Science has wanted to PREVENT pathogens from causing harm but it may be that unintended consequences have instead PROMOTED pathogens in too, too many. Discussing ALL of the avenues to microbial resistance needs to happen. The immune system is in peril and THAT should not be ignored.
Teresa Conrick is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.