Autism & Vaccines:
A New Look At An Old Story
By Barbara Loe Fisher
This report on vaccines and autism was published in 2000 in The Vaccine Reaction newsletter published by NVIC between 1995 and 2005 and mailed to NVIC supporters . This report was the first major review of evidence that vaccines can cause acute and chronic brain inflammation leading to neurological dysfunction associated with regressive autism.
The connection between vaccination and autistic behavior, first reported in DPT: A Shot in the Dark (Coulter & Fisher, 1985) fifteen years ago and now being discussed in the medical literature, has finally entered the U.S. public arena after simmering for more than a decade. This enhanced public awareness has been fueled by persistent reports by parents in the U.S., Canada and Europe that their children were healthy, bright and happy until they received one or more vaccines and then descended into the isolated, painful world of autism marked by chronic immune and neurological dysfunction, including repetitive and uncontrollable behavior. Conservative estimates are that about 500,000 Americans are autistic but that number is growing daily, with new evidence that perhaps as many as 1 in 150 children are suffering from autism spectrum disorder that can include a range of neurological, behavior and immune system dysfunction.
In 1999, as states revealed skyrocketing rates of autism spectrum disorder among children and a congressional hearing was held in the U.S. Congress, the media began to explore the medical controversy in print and broadcast reports. At the heart of the debate stand a few courageous physicians whose independent, multi-disciplinary approach to investigating the possible biological mechanisms of vaccine-induced autism is serving as a counterweight to the steadfast denials by infectious disease specialists and government health officials defending current mass vaccination policies. As scientific evidence reveals that a portion of autism lies on the vaccine injury spectrum, parents determined to find help for their children are turning to doctors exploring diet and immune modulating therapies.
The Past Is Prologue
Parents of now grown vaccine injured children, who warned pediatricians and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials in the 1980’s that their once healthy, bright children regressed mentally, emotionally and physically after reacting to DPT vaccine with fever, high pitched screaming (encephalitic cry), collapse/shock, and seizures, are grieving with a new generation of parents whose healthy, bright children suddenly regress after DPT/DTaP, MMR, hepatitis B, polio, Hib and chicken pox vaccinations. The refusal two decades ago by vaccine manufacturers, government health agencies and medical organizations to seriously investigate reports of vaccine-associated brain injury and immune system dysfunction, including autistic behaviors, is reaping tragic consequences today.
Now parents of old and young vaccine injured children in the U.S. and Europe are joining with enlightened doctors in a rejection of the unscientific a priori assumption that a child’s mental, physical and emotional regression after vaccination is only coincidentally but not causally related to the vaccines recently given. They are calling for credible basic science research into the biological mechanism of vaccine adverse events to develop pathological profiles which will separate health problems caused by vaccines from those that are not; the development of screening techniques to identify children at genetic or other biological risk of developing vaccine-induced health problems; the institution of informed consent protections in vaccination laws; re-examination of vaccine licensing standards; and an end to one-size-fits-all vaccination policies.
This, while the U.S. government, the pharmaceutical industry and international corporate interests announced on March 2, 2000 the creation of a new multi-billion dollar alliance called the Millennium Vaccine Initiative (MVI) to vaccinate all of the world’s children with existing and new vaccines, including those being targeted for accelerated development for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. According to the annual NIH Jordan Report, there are more than 200 vaccines in various research stages. Dozens are under consideration for childhood use. Even as the race to add new vaccines to the routine child vaccination schedule rushes forward, parents, whose children became autistic after receiving existing vaccines, are changing the direction of autism research and the vaccine safety debate.
Increase in Autism Reflects Real Increases in Childhood Chronic Diseases and Disability
The incidence of autism, like that of learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma, diabetes, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune and neurological disorders, has risen dramatically in the U.S. and other technologically advanced countries, while high vaccination rates have caused the incidence of childhood infectious diseases to fall just as dramatically in these countries. Instead of epidemics of infectious disease, there are now epidemics of chronic disease.
A University of California study published by the U.S. Department of Education in 1996 found that "The proportion of the US population with disabilities has risen markedly during the past quarter-century . . . this recent change seems to be due not to demographics, but to greater numbers of children and young adults reported as having disabilities." The study concluded that "these changes may be partly accounted for by the increases in the prevalence of asthma, mental disorders (including attention deficit disorder), mental retardation, and learning disabilities that have been noted among children in recent years."
After heart disease and cancer, autoimmune disease has become the third leading cause of illness in the United States and in many technologically advanced countries. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), the autoimmune disease, asthma, is now "the most common disorder in children and adolescents, affecting nearly five million children under the age of 18, including an estimated 1.3 million children under the age of five. Fifty to 80 percent of children affected with asthma develop symptoms before they are five years old." (http://www.aaaai.org).
A 1997 study published in Science found that asthma has doubled in prevalence in Western societies during the past 20 years and in the United States causes one-third of pediatric emergency room visits. A 1995 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that between 1982 and 1992, asthma increased 52 percent for persons between 5 and 34 years old and asthma deaths increased 42 percent.
Another autoimmune disorder, arthritis, is also "on a steady rise" according to the CDC in 1998, which estimated that arthritis now plagues more than 40 million Americans and projected that the number will grow to 60 million by 2020. Cases of diabetes, yet another chronic autoimmune disorder, have tripled in the U.S. since 1958, now affecting nearly 16 million Americans and ranking fourth in the leading causes of death in America. The CDC concluded in 1997 that "the number of newly diagnosed cases of diabetes was almost 50 percent higher in 1994 than in 1980" and did not appear to be a result of the aging of the population.
In Europe, a new report issued by the EURODIAB study group (Lancet-2000), evaluated the incidence rate of diabetes from 1989 to 1994 in Europe and Israel and found a 63 percent increase in children under 5 years old; a 31 percent increase in children five to nine years old; and a 24 percent increase in children 10 to 14 years old. They said, "The rapid rate of increase in children under 5 years old is of particular concern." There is no explanation for why adult-onset diabetes, once extremely rare in children, has become more prevalent in American children in the past ten years.
In addition to an unexplained increase in autoimmune disorders during the past three decades, there also has been an unexplained dramatic increase in the numbers of minimally brain damaged children who are filling special education classrooms in schools across America.
Minimal Brain Damage Epidemic
A disability survey of U.S. children under 17 years old in 1991–1992 published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (August 25, 1995) stated that the "6 to 14 year old age group had the greatest number of disabled people." Learning disability led the way, occurring in nearly 30 percent of all disabled children. A total of 1,435,000 children were listed as learning disabled with another 1,446,000 children reported as suffering from speech disorders, mental retardation, mental or emotional disorders, epilepsy and autism.
The 1997 Digest of Education Statistics looked at children 0 to 21 years old served in federally supported programs for the disabled between 1976 and 1996 and found that the numbers of children with specific learning disabilities more than tripled in those years; those with serious emotional disturbances nearly doubled; and the numbers of autistic children served rose from 5,000 in 1991–92 to 39,000 in 1995–1996 to produce a staggering 680 percent increase.
About five percent of U.S. school children (at least two million children) are now estimated to have attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to Sears and Thompson (1998), a 1990 survey of 2,400 practicing physicians showed there were about two million patient visits associated with the diagnoses of ADD and by 1994, it had increased to 4.7 million, with 90 percent of the visits resulting in drug therapy. By 1995, there were 1.5 million children taking Ritalin and in a recent study (Zito, JAMA) it was reported that the number of two to four year olds taking prescription drugs like Ritalin and Prozac rose 50 percent between 1991 and 1995.
According to one NIH official, 40 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD have learning disabilities and "anywhere from 20 to 70 percent of children who have ADHD also have conduct disorder" often involving delinquent behavior (www.intelihealth.com). The growing numbers of children with an ADHD diagnosis is cause for concern because, as one researcher observed in 1988: "Adults with a history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder appear to be over represented in the ranks of felons." (Cowart, JAMA).
In his 1990 book Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality, medical historian Harris Coulter, Ph.D., expands on the evidence he and Barbara Loe Fisher first presented in DPT: A Shot in the Dark and draws parallels between the residual learning disabilities and hyperactive/abnormal behavior caused by complications of disease or vaccine-induced encephalitis and the hyperactive/abnormal behavior and learning disabilities being exhibited by more and more American children.
Many children with learning disabilities, ADHD and developmental delays exhibit signs of autoimmune dysfunction, with severe allergies to foods, drugs, and environmental toxins. (Geschwind, 1982; Geschwind & Behan, 1982; Colgan & Colgan, 1984; Boris & Marvin, 1994). In her book, Is This Your Child’s World?, Doris Rapp, M.D. documents compelling evidence for the association between allergies, learning disabilities and ADHD.
Responding to the concern of a Dad, whose healthy son became autistic following a series of DPT, Hib and MMR vaccinations, in 1998 the California Legislature decided to analyze the history of autism in the state. Rick Rollens, father of two, former Secretary of the California Senate, and co-founder of F.E.A.T. (Families for Early Autism Treatment — (http://www.feat.org) and the University of California-Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, persuaded the legislature to fund an investigation by the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) into state autism statistics after he concluded his son, Russell, now 9, was not the victim of a rare disorder but one that had become quite common in children.
California Autism Rates Soar
Sure enough, in an April 1999 report (http://www.dds.ca.gov) DDS found a 273 percent increase between 1987 and 1998 in the numbers of new children entering the California developmental services system with a professional diagnosis of autism. The report concluded that "the number of persons with autism grew markedly faster than the number of persons with other developmental disabilities (cerebral palsy, epilepsy and mental retardation)" and "compared to characteristics of 11 years ago, the present population of persons with autism are younger (and) have a greater chance of exhibiting no or milder forms of mental retardation. . . ."
Although autism has been cited by public health officials and autism researchers to occur in 2 to 10 in 10,000 children nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control in a report released in April 2000 found the incidence of autism in Brick Township, New Jersey in 1998 was 1 in 150 children (the incidence in the Granite Bay, California public elementary school district is 1 in 132 children), which may be more reflective of the true rate of autism in the U.S. today. The Autism Society of America estimates that "more than one-half million people in the U.S. today have autism or some form of pervasive developmental disorder," making autism one of the most common developmental disabilities. (http://www/autism-society.org)
After the California report documented the dramatic increases in autism in the past decade, the California legislature voted to appropriate one million dollars to the UC-Davis M.I.N.D. Institute to look for environmental and biological factors, including vaccine use, that could have contributed to this autism increase. At the same time, parents began to check autism statistics in other states.
Other States Report Similar Increases
The story is the same in other states. The 1998 Maryland Special Education Census Data revealed that the state experienced a 513 percent increase in autism between 1993 and 1998, while the general Maryland population from 1990 to 1998 increased just seven percent. A comparative analysis of the 16th and 20th Annual Reports to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) conducted by Ray Gallup, President of Autism Autoimmunity Project (http://www.gti.net/truegrit) and father of Eric, who has vaccine-associated autism, showed increases of more than 300 percent in autistic children served under IDEA between 1992 and 1997 in the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
New Behavior Disorder Blamed On Bad Parenting
The brain and immune system dysfunction diagnosed in previously healthy children after viral and bacterial infections or vaccination complications, documented in the medical literature, parallels the brain and immune system dysfunction suffered by previously healthy children who become autistic. But it took nearly forty years for the medical profession to agree that the cause of a child’s autistic behavior was not to be found by putting Mom on the psychiatrist’s couch but by looking in the microscope at the cells, molecules and genes — by evaluating the biological basis for the constellation of physical, emotional and mental symptoms which were first called childhood schizophrenia and now have come to be known as autism.
In 1943, when child psychiatrist Leo Kanner first described 11 cases of a new mental illness in children he said was distinguished by self absorbed detachment from other people and repetitive and bizarre behavior, he used the word "autistic" (from the Greek word auto, meaning "self.") Pointing out similarities with some behaviors exhibited by adult schizophrenics, Kanner and other psychiatrists assumed autistic children were exhibiting early-onset adult-type psychoses.
Education, I.Q. and "Refrigerator Moms"
Kanner’s young patients came from well-educated middle and upper class families in Baltimore with mothers and fathers who were doctors, lawyers and professors. In 1954, Kanner said, "we have not encountered any one autistic child who came of unintelligent parents." This concentration of autistic children in educated and professionally successful families led Kanner to develop the "refrigerator Mom" theory as the cause of autism, theorizing that the warm maternal instincts of educated working mothers was absent or diminished. Embracing the popular psychiatric, Freudian themes echoed by Kanner, for decades pediatricians were persuaded to blame mothers of autistic children for being cold and emotionally rejecting, causing the children in turn to coldly reject contact with other people.
By 1954, Kanner had started to modify his "Blame the Mother" stance in recognition that the brothers and sisters of autistic children were often well adjusted, high functioning children and suggested that the development of autism was also a result of genetic or "constitutional inadequacies" as well as bad parenting. By 1971, Kanner admitted Mom was not to blame.
But the damage had already been done. The rejecting parent theme was taken up by psychoanalyst Bruno Bettleheim in various books and articles, such as The Empty Fortress (1967). Bettleheim insisted the autistic child was behaving in abnormal ways in retaliation against a rejecting mother who had traumatized the child by failing to provide enough love or attention.
A Father Shows The Way
But even as Bettleheim’s influence was growing, a California psychologist and father of an autistic child, Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., already had taken on the psychiatric establishment which had dominated autism research and treatment. In his landmark book Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior published in 1964, Rimland methodically dismantled the psychoanalytic theory of autism and argued for a biological, specifically a neurological, basis for autistic behavior. He documented the similarities between brain injured children and autistic children, liberating parents from the destructive guilt associated with having an autistic child and pointing autism research in the direction it should always have taken: investigation into the biological mechanisms underlying the brain and immune dysfunction symptoms and their possible causes.
After founding the Autism Society of America (ASA) in 1965 and establishing the Autism Research Institute (ARI) in 1967, Rimland began distributing a questionnaire to parents of autistic children. Some 33 years later, his databank includes information on more than 30,000 cases of autism from around the world. In analyzing the data for age of onset of autism, he discovered that before the early 1980’s, most of the parents reported their children first showed signs of abnormal behavior at birth or in the first year of life. But after the mid-1980’s, there was a reversal of this pattern. The numbers of parents reporting that their children developed normally in the first year and a half of life and then, suddenly, became autistic, doubled. Today, said Rimland, "the onset-at-18 months children outnumber the onset-at-birth children by 2 to 1." (http://www.autism.com/ari)
Class, Vaccines and Autism
Rimland, like Kanner, noticed early in his research that autistic children often came from intelligent, well-educated parents who were successful professionals in their communities. Upper middle class families in America have always sought out and received quality medical care. Children, whose parents are well educated are the most likely to take full advantage of the latest developments in medicine. This would have been especially true in Kanner’s day as two miracle drugs of the 20th century — antibiotics and new vaccines — elevated trust in and reliance upon pharmaceuticals to a new plateau.
In the early 1940’s, state-of-the-art pediatric medical care would have included a smallpox vaccination plus a separate dose of diphtheria vaccine. In 1944, pertussis vaccine was recommended for all babies. By 1947, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended routine use of the new combination DPT vaccine. By 1958, Kanner’s case files contained more than 100 cases of autism.
In 1969, M.S. and W.C. Goodwin reported a dramatic upsurge of autism cases in their pediatric psychiatric practice after 1964. By 1964, the well-cared-for American child was getting simultaneously vaccinated with DPT as well as polio vaccine at two, four, six and 18 months of age (the inactivated polio (IPV) was licensed in 1955 and the live virus oral polio (OPV) vaccine was licensed in 1963). After 1959, more than three million children were injected with the combination DPT-IPV shot (Quadrigen) before it was pulled off the market in 1968 for safety and efficacy reasons. By the mid-1960’s, many state-of-the-art pediatric practices were also giving babies the new live virus measles vaccine, which had been licensed in 1963 and was routinely used by 1965.
More Vaccines and More Vaccinations
By 1979, a combination live virus measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which was licensed in 1971, had been added to the routine child vaccination schedule and given to children at 12 to 15 months of age; federal grants were being given to states to provide free DPT, polio and MMR vaccines to children in public health clinics; and the CDC was encouraging states to enforce mandatory vaccination laws to raise national vaccination rates. By 1979, rubella vaccine, which had been licensed in 1969 for use in children also began to be routinely administered to mothers in hospitals after giving birth (Preblud, 1985; Tingle, 1986).
In 1988, the CDC added haemophilus influenza b (Hib) vaccine to the child vaccine schedule; in 1991 the CDC recommended the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine be used by all newborn infants and children; in 1993 the combined DPTH vaccine was licensed; and in 1995, the live varicella zoster (chicken pox) vaccine was put on the market.
Almost Three Dozen Doses By Age Five
In 1999, the average American child regardless of the parent’s educational level or ability to pay was being injected with hepatitis B vaccine at 12 hours of age and 1 month; with DPT or DTaP, Hib, OPV or IPV at two and four months; with DPT/DTaP, Hib, OPV/IPV and hepatitis B at six months; with live varicella zoster at 12 to 18 months; with MMR and Hib at 12 to 15 months; with DPT/DTaP, OPV/IPV at 18 months; and with DPT/DTaP, MMR, OPV/IPV between four and six years for a total of 33 doses of 10 different viral and bacterial vaccines by the age of five. National vaccination rates for children under age three have climbed from between 60 to 80 percent in 1967 for DPT, polio and measles vaccine to 90 percent in 1999 for DPT, polio, MMR, and Hib vaccines. Vaccine coverage rates with core vaccines for five-year-old children entering kindergarten have reached 98 percent plus in many states.
Vaccination today is not just a medical intervention afforded by the rich and taken advantage of by the well educated but an equal opportunity extended to the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated alike, and enforced in the U.S. by state mandates. Although cases of autism in the 1940’s and 1950’s were concentrated in the upper and upper middle classes, today the growing numbers of children affected with autism come from all social classes.
Encephalitis: From Disease and Vaccines
Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, encephalomyelitis, encephalopathy) has been documented for more than 200 years in the medical literature to be caused by viral and bacterial infections as well as the vaccines containing altered viruses and bacteria. Smallpox infection can involve brain inflammation with symptoms ranging from fever, vomiting, drowsiness, and convulsions which progress over a period of one to four weeks, sometimes ending in coma and death.
The vaccinia virus used by Edward Jenner in 1796 to prevent smallpox was found to cause acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) within one to six weeks of smallpox vaccination estimated to occur in 1 in 5,000 persons. Smallpox vaccination has also been reported to cause a slow, subacute persistent viral infection that can emerge years after vaccination (Adams et al, 1972) and end in death. (The myelin sheath that encloses many nerve fibers helps the transmission of neural impulses and if the myelin sheath is damaged through traumatic injury, metabolic disorders, toxic insult, viral or bacterial infection or vaccination, it can cause degeneration or demyelination).
Pasteur’s Rabies Vaccine
Rabies, a viral disease of the central nervous system (CNS), can take 10 days to a year for the virus to reach the brain but, once it does, encephalomyelitis symptoms include excessive motor activity, excitation, agitation, confusion, combativeness, bizarre aberrations of thought, seizures and other CNS dysfunction. After Pasteur began to inject patients with rabies vaccine in the 1880’s, it became obvious that brain inflammation was a side effect. Encephalitis and polyneuritis has been estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 400 vaccinated individuals, with Hemachudha, Griffin, et al in 1987 presenting evidence for an immune-mediated mechanism involving antibodies to myelin basic protein.
Measles and EEG, Behavior Changes
Within three weeks of even a mild measles infection, one in 1,000 cases can develop encephalomyelitis with signs including fever, headache and drowsiness. Residual brain damage from measles encephalitis ranges from mental and behavior changes, including subtle changes in performance, to seizure disorders and mental retardation. Changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG) have been demonstrated in half of those who have had measles but do not show other signs of CNS dysfunction.
Measles virus infection has long been known to be associated with demyelinating disorders. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) has been reported following measles disease (Lidin-Janson, 1972) and after measles vaccination (Grose and Spigland, 1976). Optic neuritis and multiple sclerosis in children has also been reported after measles disease and measles vaccination (Riikonen, 1989). In 1973, Landrigan and Witte described 45 cases of encephalitis occurring between 6 and 15 days following measles vaccination.
Persistent Measles Virus Infection
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a rare subacute encephalitis complication of measles infection which causes slow demyelination of the brain over a one to two year period and ends in death. It has also been reported after measles vaccination (Schneck, 1968). In 1994, the Institute of Medicine concluded that the live measles virus vaccine can cause death from measles vaccine strain viral infection.
In 1998, officials of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, Public Health Service (Pediatrics; March 1998) found that a causal relationship exists between live measles vaccine and encephalopathy after analyzing cases of children who received measles vaccine alone or in the combination MMR shot and, within 15 days of vaccination, suffered neurologic signs that progressed to death or mental regression, retardation, chronic seizures, motor and sensory deficits and movement disorders.
An outbreak of aseptic meningitis in Brazil has been linked to the MMR vaccine (Am J Epidmiol, 2000). A research team found there was a sharp increase in the number of cases of aseptic meningitis three weeks after a 1997 mass MMR vaccination campaign in northeastern Brazil. The researchers "conservatively estimated" that the risk of aseptic meningitis is 1 in about 14,000 MMR vaccine doses. (A type of brain inflammation involving the meninges, aseptic meningitis can be caused by viruses and bacteria as well as stroke, lead poisoning, and vaccine reactions (Berkow, 1987). Most people recover from aseptic meningitis without damage but some are left with muscle weakness or other motor dysfunction).
Mumps, Rubella and Brain Inflammation
Mumps has been known to cause meningitis and encephalitis since the eighteenth century. Russell and Donald, observed in 1958 that "the clinical resemblance between mumps
encephalitis and the encephalitis which may follow measles, varicella and rubella, and the fact that the histological appearance of perivascular demyelination are common to them all, suggest that they arise from the same pathological process. The nature of this process is unknown, but it may be a non-specific allergic reaction to virus protein (Miller and Evans, 1953) and similar lesions have been produced experimentally by the injection of brain material with adjuvants (Lumsden, 1949)."
There have been many case reports and studies documenting meningitis within three weeks of mumps vaccination (Brown, 1991), and after MMR vaccination (Sugiura and Yamada, 1991), primarily with the Urabe vaccine strain virus. There have also been reports of meningitis after vaccination with the Jeryl Lynn mumps vaccine strain (Ehrengut and Zastrow, 1989) now used in MMR vaccine.
Rubella disease is caused by an RNA virus and, although mild in children, it can be transmitted from mother to fetus in utero and cause enchephalitis and devastating harm to the unborn child, including mental retardation, hearing and vision loss, heart and neuromuscular deformity. In the rubella epidemic that swept the U.S. in 1964, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 children whose pregnant mothers were infected with rubella were born severely damaged and a high rate of classic and "partial" autism was observed in those children by Chess in 1971. In 1977, Chess reported that the rate of autism in children born with congenital rubella from the 1964 epidemic was equivalent to a rate of "412 per 10,000 for the complete syndrome of autism and 329 for the partial syndrome, giving a combined rate of 741 per 10,000" compared to the rate of autism in children without congenital rubella syndrome (estimated in 1966 to be 2.1 cases of autism per 10,000 children (Lotter, 1966).
Encephalitis and Mild Brain Damage
In the 1920’s, when a mini-epidemic of "von Economo’s encephalitis" swept through Europe and America, doctors found that some of those who recovered were left with minimal brain damage including changes in behavior, restlessness, insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns, irritability, short attention span, emotional disorders and seizures. In 1934, Kahn and Cohen described a group of children with the inability to sit still or concentrate, which they attributed to exposure to von Economo’s encephalitis.
Japanese encephalitis can cause permanent CNS changes including personality and behavior problems featuring emotional lability and irritability, speech disorders, hemiplegia, mental retardation and seizures. Chicken pox and mumps infections can, in rare cases, progress to encephalitis and brain inflammation has also been reported to follow chicken pox and mumps vaccines.
Polio and CNS Damage
Poliomyelitis is caused by an enterovirus in which one to two percent of infected individuals develop disease in the central nervous system, and fewer go on to have residual paralysis or die. Likewise, within one to six months of receiving the live attenuated polio vaccine, complications can occur which, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1994, can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome as well as vaccine strain viral infection ending in paralysis and death. In both cases, the polio virus invades the CNS and destroys neurons. (Since 1979, the only cases of paralytic polio which have occurred in the US have been caused by the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) and it is no longer recommended by the CDC or AAP, having been replaced by the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) which cannot cause polio in the person vaccinated or a person who comes into contact with that person’s body fluids).
Bacteria Also Cause Brain Inflammation
But brain inflammation is not only caused by viruses and viral vaccines. Bacterial infections and bacterial vaccines also can cause brain inflammation ending in permanent CNS damage.
Encephalitis has always been the most dreaded complication of pertussis or whooping cough, with endotoxin and pertussis toxin in the B. pertussis bacteria responsible for most of it. Pertussis toxin is one of the most lethal toxins in nature and can cross the blood brain barrier when conditions are right. It has long been known that a severe case of whooping cough accompanied by brain inflammation symptoms such as fever, lethargy, vomiting and seizures can be fatal or cause permanent brain damage ranging from seizure disorders and mental retardation to learning, personality and behavioral disorders (Lurie & Levy, 1942).
Pertussis Toxin Lethal
Since the 1950’s, scientists conducting experiments have added pertussis toxin to a solution of nerve tissue and injected it into sensitized mice to deliberately induce brain inflammation. However pertussis toxin is also thought to be involved in acquiring immunity to the disease, both after natural infection and after vaccination (Pittman, 1979).
Vaccine developers continue to have a problem making a pertussis vaccine that contains pertussis toxin inactivated enough to be safe but active enough to be immunogenic, which is why the purified DTaP vaccine is associated with the same CNS complications as the whole cell DPT vaccine, although they are reported to occur at a much lower rate with DTaP. (The more reactive whole cell DPT vaccine has not been taken off the market and it is still being used by some pediatricians, especially in the combination DPTH (DPT plus Hib). Parents who want the purified DTaP for their children must ask for it by name.)
DPT Vaccine Causes Brain Inflammation
By 1947, the first reports of brain inflammation and chronic brain damage, including death, after pertussis vaccination were published (Brody, 1947; Byers and Moll, 1948). In 1955, Niels Low showed that the EEG (electroencephalogram) of infants sometimes was altered by the DPT shot. He concluded that "mild, but possibly significant, cerebral reactions occur in addition to the reported very severe neurological changes."
By 1982, numerous reports of CNS dysfunction following DPT vaccination had appeared in the medical literature (Berg, 1958; Strom, 1960, 1967; Dick, 1967, 1974; Kuhlenkampff, 1974; Stewart, 1977, 1979). In 1981, Pediatrics published a UCLA/FDA study by Cody et al revealing that 1 in 875 DPT shots in the U.S. is followed by a convulsion or collapse/shock reaction.
Finally, after more than 40 years of evidence in the medical literature that the DPT vaccine was causing brain inflammation and CNS damage in previously healthy children, this fact was confirmed by medical science in the 1981 National Childhood Encephalopathy Study (NCES) and in 1991 and 1994 by the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences (IOM).
Brain Damage On A Continuum
Signs of brain inflammation within seven days of DPT vaccination can range from high fever, irritability, high pitched screaming, prolonged crying for hours, drowsiness, and vomiting to seizures, collapse and unresponsiveness (altered state of consciousness) followed by immediate frank regression or progressive changes in mental, emotional and physical health ending with a diagnosis of mental retardation, seizure disorders, learning disabilities and other chronic neurological damage. DPT vaccine-induced brain inflammation, the IOM noted in 1994, is associated with a "broad range of long term dysfunctions (neurological, behavioral, educational, motor, sensory, and self care dysfunctions)" that are similar to those experienced by children after serious acute neurologic illnesses due to other causes.
[A child, who had been healthy and bright before he reacted within four hours of his DPT shot at 19 months of age with a convulsion followed by days of fever and screaming and was left mentally retarded with autistic behaviors, was awarded compensation in 1996 under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act despite protests by federal health officials that he was autistic and there is no proof that DPT vaccine causes autism. The U.S. Court of Claims made the award, agreeing with the plaintiff’s lawyer that autistic behaviors can be the result of brain injury, including brain injury caused by DPT vaccine.]
A Shot in the Dark
One of the sources of information reviewed by the IOM and included in references in their 1991 report on pertusiss vaccine was original research documenting more than 100 case histories of DPT vaccine associated immune mediated neurological dysfunction contained in Coulter and Fisher’s DPT: A Shot in the Dark (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985; Warner, 1986; Avery, 1991). Their book was the first to undertake an extensive examination of the history of pertussis and the pertussis vaccine within the larger context of the medical, scientific, legal, social, and political issues involving mass vaccination policies.
In their book, Coulter and Fisher described numerous case reports in more than 50 years of medical literature and in new case studies they presented of children, who had been developing normally (and in many cases were of above average intelligence), and then received a DPT shot (often simultaneously with live oral polio vaccine) who then exhibited symptoms of brain inflammation, including high fever, extreme drowsiness, vomiting, high pitched screaming, seizures, and alterations of consciousness. Many of these children were subsequently diagnosed as mentally retarded, epileptic, learning disabled, hyperactive, or autistic.
In a good number of cases, the children who had reacted neurologically to DPT were allergic, particularly to milk, or had been vaccinated while they were sick with a coinciding viral or bacterial infection. In addition to neurological damage, many were also left with chronic gastrointestinal dysfunction and severe allergies, as well as autoimmune disorders such as asthma. The personal or family history of autoimmune disorders appeared to outweigh a history of neurological disorders in terms of being a high risk factor for reacting to DPT, although a history of convulsions in the family was also a high risk factor.
Tetanus, Hib Affects The Brain
The tetanus bacillus produces one of the most potent toxins in nature which can severely damage the brain. In 1991, the Institute of Medicine concluded that tetanus vaccine can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), which begins one to four weeks after vaccination and takes up to four weeks to progress. The tetanus vaccine was also found to cause brachial neuritis, a neuropathy that usually appears within three weeks of vaccination involving painful nerve inflammation in the arm and shoulder which can progress over a period of many months.
Hib disease, a type of bacterial meningitis, is known to have a direct effect on the CNS and can involve seizures and profound brain damage. Although reports of demyelination (transverse myelitis and GBS) have been reported after children receive Hib (haemophilus influenza B) vaccine, which contains the Hib organism’s capsular polysaccharide, a causal relationship has not yet been confirmed. The combination DPTH vaccine has been given to children since 1988.
Autoimmunity: From Disease and Vaccines
In 1935, scientists investigating the neurological complications of rabies vaccine discovered they could deliberately induce brain inflammation in lab animals by injecting them with brain myelin, causing an autoimmune reaction whereby the animal develops antibodies to its own brain tissue, causing demyelination. (Rivers & Schwenker, 1935).
The autoimmune diseases diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, for example, involve chronic inflammation that causes tissue destruction including central nervous system damage. It is thought that these diseases may be triggered by an infection that activates autoreactive T-cells and, in individuals genetically susceptible to developing autoimmunity, results in chronic inflammation and/or autoantibodies that selectively destroy organs in the body such as the brain.
Hepatitis B and Autoimmunity
During the past decade, there have been persistent reports in the medical literature that, within weeks of recombinant hepatitis B vaccination, some children and adults are suffering recurring fevers, severe joint pain, vision and memory loss, muscle weakness, debilitating fatigue and other chronic immune and neurological dysfunction which can involve demyelination of the brain. The virus that causes hepatitis B disease attacks the liver and can cause such severe joint pain, fatigue and weakness that the disease is sometimes mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Rare complications of hepatitis B disease include demyelinating disease, such as transverse myelitis, and neuropathy.
Likewise, clinical symptoms that follow hepatitis B vaccine complications are similar to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as optic neuritis and multiple sclerosis (Guiserix, 1996; Pope & Bell, 1998; WHO, 1990;Berkman, 1996). GBS, chronic fatigue and vascular disorders have also been reported (Shaw, 1988; Salit, 1993; Granel, 1997). Tourbah et al described CNS inflammation within 10 weeks of hepatitis B vaccination (Neurology, 1999) and concluded that "The persistent inflammatory activity observed clinically and on MRI in these patients is comparable to that usually observed in multiple sclerosis," hypothesizing a triggering role of hepatitis B vaccination in CNS demyelination.
Burton Waisbren, M.D., began writing and speaking about molecular mimicry and hepatitis B vaccine reactions in 1996. Bonnie Dunbar, Ph.D., Professor of Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine; Ronald Kennedy, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and William Hildebrand, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center are three scientists working to clarify the role that genetic predisposition may play in the development of immune mediated neurological dysfunction following hepatitis B vaccination.
They are studying families with several members who have reacted severely to hepatitis B vaccine and are investigating autoimmune mechanisms involving molecular mimicry and epitope spreading. Dr. Hildebrand made a presentation at the October 26-27, 1998 Institute of Medicine Vaccine Safety Forum Workshop on the correlation between major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes and autoimmune diseases.
Dunbar, an award winning vaccine developer, whose brother suffered a severe, disabling reaction to several hepatitis B vaccinations, is particularly concerned that race may be a factor in both normal and abnormal immune responses to vaccines. She said, "There may be variations in the way that different genetic populations respond to different vaccines and this needs to be carefully evaluated before new vaccines are licensed and recommended for use by everyone."
Hepatitis B vaccine has also been associated with diabetes (Poutasi, 1996). A 1996 report by Barthelow Classen, M.D. in the New Zealand Medical Journal noted a 60 percent increase in juvenile diabetes following a massive hepatitis B vaccine campaign for babies from 1988 to 1991. In 1997, U.S. federal health officials acknowledged that one of their own studies showed that "the possibility that hepatitis B vaccination, particularly at older ages, may increase insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) risk cannot be ruled out and will require larger more detailed studies."(Classen has also published studies which show an increase in diabetes in children after the addition of Hib and MMR vaccine in Finland (Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice, 1997).
Pertussis, DPT and Autoimmunity
The pertussis toxin, sometimes referred to as islet-activating protein, has been shown in laboratory animals to provoke excess production of insulin by the pancreas and diabetes in mice. In 1970, Pittman talked about DPT "vaccine-induced hypoglycemia" and a report in 1982 (Champsaur et al, Journal of Pediatrics) concluded that the administration of the DPT vaccine to a 16 month old child with a coinciding viral infection and a genetic predisposition may have lead to "insular damage and anti-islet autoimmune reactions, leading to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus."
From the earliest days of pertussis vaccine use, it has been associated with development of asthma in previously healthy children (Koeng, 1953; Halpern & Halpern, 1955; Hopper, 1961; Hannik, 1969). In a 1997 issue of Epidemiology, New Zealand researchers reported that of 1,265 New Zealanders born in 1977, 23 received no childhood vaccinations and none suffered childhood asthma. Among the 1,242 who got DPT and polio shots, 23 percent later had episodes of asthma, 23 percent had asthma consultations and 30 percent had consultations for other allergic illness.
In a recent study (Hurwitz & Morgenstern, 2000) reviewing data from the National Center for Health Statistics from 1988 to 1994 and, comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated children, it was found that a child who received DPT or tetanus vaccination was 50 percent more likely to experience severe allergic reactions, more than 80 percent more likely to experience sinusitis and twice as likely to experience asthma as those children who were not vaccinated. The authors concluded that "asthma and other allergic hypersensitivity reactions and related symptoms may be caused, in part, by the delayed effects of DTP or tetanus vaccination."
Rubella and Autoimmunity
The primary complications of rubella disease and live rubella vaccine are autoimmune. There is evidence that persistent rubella viral infection in congenital rubella victims can cause diabetes (Menser, 1978; Rubenstein et al, 1982). And chronic arthritis has been confirmed to be caused by both the disease and vaccine. In 1991, the Institute of Medicine found a causal relationship between rubella vaccine (RA 27/3) and the development of acute and chronic arthritis. Symptoms of severe joint pain most often occur within two to three weeks of vaccination, which has been noted to be the incubation period of natural rubella and the time period in which the vaccine strain virus can be isolated.
Mumps, Measles, MMR and Autoimmunity
Since the late 1800’s, the development of Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM) after mumps infection has been persistently reported (Harris, 1899; Otten et al, 1984). There also have been case reports of diabetes following mumps vaccination (Sinaniotis, 1975; Otten, 1984) and after measles-mumps vaccination (Quast, 1979) and MMR vaccination (Taranger, 1987).
A gastrointestinal disorder thought to be caused by infectious or immune mechanisms is Crohn’s disease, which has been linked to measles infection (Ekbom, 1994) and measles vaccine (Thompson, 1995). Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both thought to be autoimmune disorders, have also been reported to occur at a high rate in persons who had measles and mumps infections in the same year of life (Montgomery et al, 1999). Evidence has been documented that measles infection as well as the MMR vaccine may be involved in the development of a syndrome involving both inflammatory bowel disease and regressive developmental disorder in children (Wakefield et al, 1998).
Autism, The Brain, and The Immune System
In the year 2000, the controversial hypothesis that autism is somehow linked with vaccination has set the stage for a long overdue examination of the interaction between the brain and the immune system and the evidence for both disease and vaccine-induced immune and brain dysfunction, which has been documented in the medical literature for more than 200 years.
After Rimland in the 1960’s persuaded researchers to investigate the biological rather than psychological cause for autism, DeMyer and her colleagues wrote in a 1973 Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia that the findings of their study "in conjunction with other investigations, support the biological cause theory of autism." The authors noted that a high number of autistic children have "gross EEG abnormalities" and are neurologically handicapped with learning and behavior disorders that range from mild to severe mental retardation. They concluded that "viral disease during or after gestation, birth trauma, malnutrition, oxygen lack or generally any of the events known to damage the brain may be the cause of the autistic syndrome."
Seizures and Autism
In 1975, Mnukhin and Isaev also found a high incidence of epileptic seizures in autistic children, indicating autism has an organic, neurological basis. They were soon joined by other autism researchers who asserted that the symptoms of autism are grounded in dysfunction of the nervous system (Ornitz & Ritvo, 1976). Deykin and MacMahon in 1979 (American Journal of Epidemiology) agreed that the high rate of abnormal EEG’s and seizures in autistic children suggested neurologic damage. They pointed out that the central nervous system is not fully developed at birth and may be at special risk for brain damage from viral infections in the first year of life. They concluded that "viruses with encephalitic potential, especially those occurring during gestation or during the first few months of life might be associated with the development of certain childhood mental illnesses."
Autoimmunity Affects Vaccine Responses
In 1982, Weizman and his colleagues reported that some autistics have abnormal cell-mediated immune responses to myelin basic protein, (a component of brain myelin) suggesting that an autoimmune mechanism may be involved in the development of autism. That report reinforced observations by Stubbs in 1976 that some autistic children have defective antibody responses to rubella vaccine and, in 1977, that autistic children have depressed T-cell responses.
In 1984 in Pediatric Annals, Ritvo and Freeman described the medical model of autism and concluded, "The symptoms are due to neuropathology which, in turn, may have a variety of etiologies," observing that there is a high rate of abnormal EEG’s, seizures, severe allergies, and significant differences in brain metabolism patterns and brain chemistry in autistic children compared to those who are not autistic.
The autoimmune connection was made again by Reed Warren and his associates in 1986 when they presented evidence that confirmed Stubb’s studies in the 1970’s indicating that autism is associated with immune system dysfunction. Warren stated, "The lack of suppressor cells in the autistic patients may be consistent with an autoimmune process underlying the development of autism." He added, "Our findings in the autistic patients are quite similar to those observed in a study of patients hospitalized for major depressive disorder."
In 1987, Rutter and Schopler writing in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, discussed the clear differences between adult schizophrenia and childhood autism, particularly the high rate of seizures and mental retardation in autistic children. They pointed out that there were two groups of autistic children: those babies who have abnormal behavior at birth and those who develop normally and then regress and added "There is no one basic deficit because the disorder reflects varying patterns of organic brain dysfunction rather than any single disease state."
IOM Weighs In
By 1991, when the Institute of Medicine published Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines confirming that pertussis and rubella vaccines can cause brain and immune system damage, there were increasing numbers of parents reporting that their previously normal children were regressing into autism after DPT or MMR vaccination. However, the IOM physician committee charged with analyzing the medical literature for evidence of cause and effect rejected the reported link between pertussis vaccine and autism based on the fact that in the medical literature "no data were identified that address the question of a relation between vaccination with DPT or its pertussis component and autism."
The lack of evidence in the medical literature directly connecting autism to vaccination is not surprising given the forty year debate in autism research about whether the disorder was psychiatric or biologically based. The question of whether rubella vaccine could be causally linked to development of autism was not discussed in the 1991 IOM report. The subsequent 1994 IOM report, Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines, also did not address the question of whether there was biological plausibility that any of the components of MMR vaccine or other vaccines could cause autism.
A Mom Cures Her Son
She was a California Mom whose first-born, a son named Garrett, was a happy, healthy and bright toddler until he got his MMR vaccination in 1990 when he was 13 months old and, within two weeks, began exhibiting autistic behavior. "It was so gradual," said Cindy Goldenberg, "I barely noticed it. He began to avoid eye contact. He lost language skills. He didn’t see or respond to us and would only line up the toys in front of him."
At age 18 months, Garrett got a haemophilus influenzae B (Hib) vaccination and his autistic symptoms worsened. "He started flapping his arms, twirling and spinning. Noise terrified him. He stopped talking. He gagged on his food. He exhibited autistic, compulsive and hyperactive behaviors."
Cindy took Garrett to doctors specializing in learning disabilities, psychology, hearing and speech disorders, desperately trying to find an answer to why her little boy had changed so dramatically. Cindy was convinced Garrett’s symptoms were connected to a biological cause and finally found a pediatrician who performed diagnostic testing, including blood tests.
All tests came back negative except for one – a blood test showing Garrett had a borderline high rubella titer. Cindy wondered why Garrett’s rubella titer would be above normal a year after getting vaccinated. That one clue prompted Cindy to delve into the medical literature on autism, rubella, vaccines and the immune system. What she found convinced her that, just as rubella infection can cause autistic behaviors in children with congenital rubella, so could the live rubella vaccine in the MMR shot cause autistic behaviors. She also suspected that because vaccines were injected directly into the bloodstream, they were capable of interfering with the body’s primary immune system, affecting the immunoglobulin (IgG) levels that facilitate the absorption of nutrients by the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal system.
Autism Ends With Lower Rubella Titers
Holding fast to her conviction that the MMR vaccine had caused her son’s autistic behaviors and that intravenous immune globulin intravenous infusions (IGIV) could help boost his IgG levels, heal his primary immune system and lead to reduced autistic symptoms, she contacted Sudhir Gupta, M.D., Ph.D., University of California professor of medicine and immunology for help. Gupta confirmed that Garrett had elevated rubella titers as well as very low IgA and low levels of IgG subclasses. After discussing options with Cindy, Dr. Gupta agreed to give Garrett IGIV infusions which, because of the known interaction between the immune and neurological system, might have a restorative effect on his immune and brain dysfunction. (IGIV therapy has been given to patients with immunoinflammatory disorders, including demyelinating multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barre syndrome, with the same hope and has been successful in some patients).
At the same time, Cindy changed Garrett’s diet, limiting milk and wheat, and gave him vitamin and nutritional supplements such as acidophilus and globulin protein from whey to enhance the optimal functioning of his immune and gastrointestinal system. Within weeks of the IGIV and nutritional supplement therapy, Cindy saw dramatic improvement in her son’s behavior. As Garrett’s rubella titer levels came down and his IgG and IgA levels stabilized, Garrett became less and less autistic. He was eventually weaned off the IGIV but Cindy continued to give him globulin protein from whey.
By age four, gone were the repetitive behaviors and refusal to make eye contact or speak. Cindy also worked round-the-clock using behavioral, sensory integrative, speech and auditory training therapies to help Garrett "catch-up" to his peers in development. Today, Garrett is in a regular classroom in the public school system getting A’s, playing in sports and looking forward to junior high when he can "date girls." Cindy, who spoke out in the mid-1990’s in the print and broadcast media about the role of vaccination in Garrett’s autism and how he was cured, gave new hope to a generation of parents of autistic children who had been told there was no cause or cure for autism.
In 1996, Dr. Gupta published a study on the beneficial effects of IGIV in children with autistic behaviors who have immune deficiency.
Maternal Antibodies and Autism
Two reports in 1999 by F. Edward Yazbak, M.D., investigated the possibility that mothers may transfer maternal antibodies to rubella either transplacentally or through breast milk to their babies and, when the babies are vaccinated with MMR, some develop an autoimmune reaction with pre-existing rubella antigen that leads to autistic behaviors.
Yazbak evaluated the rubella or MMR vaccination history of 240 mothers of autistic children. He described cases of mothers re-vaccinated with rubella or MMR vaccine in adulthood before, during or after pregnancy whose children became autistic after MMR vaccination. Many of these mothers breast-fed their babies. Publication of the complete data is pending.
Brain Autoantibodies and Autism
In 1993, Vijendra Singh and associates published a study in which 58 percent of autistic children tested positive for auto-antibodies to myelin basic protein compared to 9 percent of age-matched controls with normal health, idiopathic mental retardation, Down syndrome and normal adults of 20 to 40 years of age. They concluded "it is possible that autoimmunity may explain a subset of autism" and hypothesized that "if an immunological assault perhaps secondary to a virus infection were to occur prenatally or postnatally during infancy or early childhood, it could possibly result in poor myelination or abnormal function of the neuro-axon myelin."
In 1998, Singh and his colleagues presented further evidence that a virus-induced autoimmune response involving autoantibodies to myelin basic protein (MBP) is linked to some cases of autism. Published in Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology, their study compared autistic children to normal controls and found that, although both normal and autistic children had antibodies to measles and human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6), many of the autistic children had auto-antibodies to MBP and auto-antibodies to neuron-axon filament protein while none of the normal controls did. (Neuron-axon filament protein is a component of nerve fibers).
The higher the antibody titers to measles and HHV-6 in the autistic children, the greater the likelihood that the autistic children also showed brain autoantibodies. The strongest link found in the autistic children was between measles virus antibodies and antibodies to myelin basic protein (MBP). The study results suggest that in some individuals exposure to the measles virus may trigger an autoimmune response that damages or interferes with the development of myelin.
Singh and his colleagues observed that "although there is no research data, parents of autistic children quite commonly report onset of the disorder shortly after immunization with MMR or DPT" and concluded that "it is quite possible that measles infection is an earlier event in autoimmunity to myelin (MBP) whereas HHV-6 infection may exist as a co-infection or reactivation mechanism."
Measles, MMR, The Gut and Autism
Considering the mounting scientific evidence that viral and bacterial infections and the vaccines used to prevent them are capable of producing a wide range of immune and neurological dysfunction, it is somewhat strange from a scientific (although not a political) standpoint that a young British gastroenterologist would have been subjected to personal attacks by the medical community when he and 13 colleagues at Royal Free Hospital in London presented evidence in 1998 (The Lancet, Feb. 27, http://www.thelancet.com) that measles infection and measles vaccine may be linked to the development of inflammatory bowel disease and autism in previously healthy, normally developing children.
Andrew Wakefield, M.D. and his team had inadvertently stumbled upon the connection while studying Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in children. The mother of one of Wakefield’s young patients, Rosemary Kessick, urged him to look for the biological mechanism for simultaneous development of IBD and autistic behavior in previously normal children. The Wakefield report reviewed the medical factors common to eight out of 12 previously normal children who simultaneously developed severe intestinal disorders and autistic behaviors. Previously, five of those eight children had reacted adversely to vaccinations. All reported onset of symptoms of IBD and autism after MMR vaccination.
In their discussion of the interaction between the immune, nervous and gastrointestinal systems of the body, Wakefield and his associates remarked that Asperger in 1961 had observed that there was a high rate of gastrointestinal (celiac) disease in those suffering with autism. (In 1944, Asperger had identified a subgroup of high functioning "borderline" autistics.) The authors hypothesized that persistent viral infection, either from natural disease or live virus vaccines, can cause chronic inflammation of the bowel and damage to the central nervous system development in some children.
They pointed to the "opioid excess" theory of autism, first suggested by Panksepp in 1979 and then by Shattock (1991) and Reichelt (1993) that autistic disorders result from the incomplete breakdown and excessive absorption of gut-derived peptides from foods, including barley, rye, oats and casein from milk and dairy products leading to disruption of normal brain functioning and development. As these gut-derived peptides get into the blood and cross the blood brain barrier, where they are not supposed to be, they negatively affect the ability of the body to maintain appropriate endorphin, serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.
Science Meets Politics
The study authors emphasized that they had not proved a cause and effect relationship and simply called for more studies to explore the hypothesis. Their report was immediately met with charges by CDC officials that "vaccine safety concerns such as that reported by Wakefield and colleagues may snowball" when the public and the media "confuse association with causality and shun immunization." A Reuters newswire story quoted Neal Halsey, M.D., of John’s Hopkins and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, as saying it was "highly inappropriate" for Wakefield and his colleagues to discuss a possible connection between the children’s health problems and measles or MMR vaccines. British government health officials were also displeased and, in 1999, published a small retrospective cases series analysis (Taylor et al, The Lancet) that they said proved MMR vaccine is not associated with regressive autism but British and U.S. parent groups and independent physicians have criticized the study as methodologically flawed. (http://www.909shot/autismto.htm)
Digging In and Speaking Out
However, Wakefield and his associates have pressed on, continuing research into several hundred cases of normal children who suddenly develop gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression. At the First International Public Conference on Vaccination sponsored by the National Vaccine Information Center in September, 1997, Wakefield spoke about his concerns that most of the original studies in the 1960’s and 1970’s evaluating the safety of live measles and MMR vaccines only included a three week follow-up.
And at the Second International Autism Conference sponsored by Allergy in Autism (AIA) in London in March, 1999, Wakefield commented that children with a pre-existing immune abnormality may be predisposed to sequestering the measles virus in the gut and the MMR vaccine prompts them to develop autoimmunity leading to immune mediated CNS damage. One of the most compelling regressive autism cases he had recently reviewed in his practice was reminiscent of the days when autism was thought to be "early-onset" schizophrenia: it was that of a normal, healthy 14 year old boy who got an MMR shot and, within one week, developed bizarre behavior that was diagnosed as schizophrenia.
Autoimmunity Family History and Autism
The link between autism and autoimmunity was further strengthened when a study published in the Journal of Child Neurology in 1999 (Comi et al) found a statistically significant correlation between a family history of autoimmune disorders and autism. When comparing the medical histories of families of 61 autistic patients and 46 healthy controls, the authors discovered "that the subjects who reported two or more family members with autoimmune disorders were twice as likely to have autism, those with at least three family members with autoimmune disorders were 5.5 times more likely to have autism, and those whose mothers had autoimmune disorders were 8.8 times more likely to be affected."
Comi and her associates added, "the percentage of family members with adult rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, and the category of connective tissue autoimmune disorders were greater in the autism group than in controls and approached statistical significance in these cases." They suggested that perhaps "individuals with autism inherit a genetic predisposition for autoimmunity that, in conjunction with medical triggers or other environmental factors, results in developmental and neurologic pathology."
The Cells, Molecules and Genes Don’t Lie
It is known that some autoimmune disorders are associated with genes of the major histocompatability complex (MHC). The MHC is made up of hundreds of genes, some of which are involved in helping cells of the immune system work together to resist infection and recognize the body’s own tissue. If these genes become damaged or abnormally rearranged from exposure to viruses, bacteria or chemical toxins, they can cripple the body’s defenses against some infections or cause the immune system to mistakenly attack the body’s own tissues. For example, this is the genetic autoimmune mechanism involved in diabetes when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas.
In 1991, Reed Warren, Vijendra Singh and others published a study in Clinical Experimental Immunology which found that a null allele (deficient form) of the complement C4B gene, located in the class III region of the MHC complex, occurred more than twice as often in autistic individuals as in those who are normal. The products of the C4B and other similar genes are critical to the activation of a mechanism that protects the body against invading microorganisms.
In a 1994 study, Warren and his colleagues hypothesized that "human subjects inheriting one or two C4B null alleles may not be able to clear certain viruses completely before the viruses infect the central nervous system. In 1995, they suggested that "a total or partial C4B deficiency contributes to the development of some cases of autism by allowing a virus or bacterial infection to persist and eventually chronically activate clones with reactivity to tissues of the CNS. Previous findings of immune reactivity against myelin basic protein and the serotonin brain receptors in autism are consistent with this hypothesis as well."
Vaccines, The Gulf War and Genetic Change
In 1995, THE VACCINE REACTION reported that California microbiologist Howard Urnovitz, Ph.D., criticized the Defense Department for administering multiple vaccinations to soldiers heading for the Gulf War, including cholera, live oral polio, typhoid fever, meningitis, pertussis, tetanus, diphtheria, yellow fever, recombinant hepatitis B, influenza and two experimental vaccines, anthrax and botulinium, as well as an experimental drug, pryridostigmine bromide. Urnovitz maintained that the multiple vaccinations weakened the soldiers’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to environmental toxins and opportunistic infections encountered in the Gulf War, causing tens of thousands to become chronically ill with "Gulf War Syndrome" which includes symptoms such as chronic muscle and joint pain, rashes, headache, disabling fatigue, memory loss, inability to concentrate, personality changes, diarrhea, hair loss, and sleep disturbances.
Genotoxic Events and Chromosome Damage
Urnovitz, who is also an expert on contamination of polio vaccines with adventitious agents such as SV-40 (simian virus 40) and SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus), published a study in 1999 in Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology that found abnormal RNA in the blood of 50 percent of sick Gulf War veterans and none in the age and sex matched healthy non-military controls. The presence of abnormal RNA in the blood can indicate that chromosomal change has occurred.
The RNA found in the sick Gulf War veterans is encoded by genetic material that occurs only in regions of chromosome 22 (22q11.2), wch is uniquely susceptible to genetic rearrangements and mutations. Damage to chromosome 22q11.2 has been linked to autoimmune diseases such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, thrombocytopenia pupura and multiple myeloma cancer. Urnovitz is especially concerned about the effect of "genotoxic events" on the integrity of the human chromosome.
He said, "When the body is subjected to toxic events such as exposure to viruses, bacteria, drugs, chemicals, or radiation, there appears to be molecular memory. The human chromosome may be able to take just so many toxic exposures before it begins to break down. Certain genotypes may be particularly at risk for sustaining chromosomal damage after exposure to toxic events. This makes it important to limit exposures, including being more selective with vaccine use and finding ways to identify and pre-screen for those who may be at high risk for chromosomal damage."
Mercury Ordered Out of Vaccines
The goal of limiting toxic exposures was advanced on July 7, 1999 when a joint statement was issued by the U.S. Public Health Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supporting the FDA’s directive to the vaccine manufacturers to eliminate mercury (in the form of Thimerosal, a preservative) from vaccines. Mercury is a known neuro-toxin which can cross the placenta and blood brain barrier and concentrate in the blood and brain but can also affect the immune system, kidneys and lungs.
DPT, DPTH, tetanus, DT, Td, influenza, meningococcal, and most DTaP, Hib and hepatitis B vaccines contain Thimerosal (live virus vaccines do not). The total amount of mercury that babies under six months old have been exposed to in childhood vaccines has exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit. Both the AAP and CDC have recommended that, to limit mercury exposure, newborns born to hepatitis B-free mothers should not receive hepatitis B vaccine at birth unless it is Thimerosal-free. There are thimerosal-free vaccines available but parents must request them.
Aluminum is another additive in vaccines that is a known neuro-toxin (Alfrey, 1976) and may increase the ability of toxins to cross the blood-brain barrier (Banks & Kastin, 1989). Other vaccine additives include antibiotics, formaldehyde, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sulfites (http://www.cdc.gov/nip). Some autistic children have been found to have high levels of mercury in their hair as well as heavy metals, such as aluminum and lead, in their blood and have had detoxification therapy to cleanse the system of these metals, which has led to significant improvements in behavior in some children.
Therapies Target Immune System
With the understanding that regressive autism has biological, particularly immunological, roots and that autistic behaviors sometimes can be eliminated or modified through dietary or other immune modulating therapies, innovative treatment programs are being explored by doctors caring for autistic children. Doctors, who are members of Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!), such as William Shaw, Ph.D., Sidney Baker, M.D., and Stephanie Cave, M.D., have reduced autistic behaviors with individually tailored therapies that may include limiting sugars, casein (dairy), wheat or other foods; using anti-fungal drugs in children with suspected yeast overgrowth of the intestinal tract; and employing nutritional supplements such as vitamin B-6, zinc, niacin, vitamin C, calcium and folic acid to address metabolism and vitamin deficiencies. Kelly Dorfman, M.S., L.N. and others have successfully devised diet therapies to maximize immune and brain function.
Virginia pediatrician Mary Megson, M.D. has treated children injured by the DPT vaccine, who have a G-alpha protein defect, with natural (cis) forms of Vitamin A. Secretin, a hormone derived from pig intestines which stimulates the pancreas to produce gastric juices, has also shown promise for reversing autistic behaviors in some children. Other doctors are using neuro-imaging technology to measure blood flow to different parts of the brain in order to tailor nutritional and drug therapies for children with autism, specific learning disabilities, ADHD and other related disorders.
Parents have also reported improvement in health and behavior with chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathic and naturopathic care. Behavioral modification therapies, such as those pioneered by Ivar Lovaas, and auditory, speech, vision and sensory integration therapy have also been very important interventions for autistic children. What is clear to health professionals using innovative therapies to treat autism is that each individual is different and there are no guarantees.
Parents of old and young autistic children, who for many years were given no hope that a cause and cure for autism could be identified, are becoming proactive rather than resigned to living without hope. In addition to the older established groups such as ASA and ARI, newer groups such as F.E.A.T., Developmental Delay Resource founded by Patricia Lemer, Autism Autoimmunity Project, Southwest Autism Research Institute, National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN) Foundation, headed by Portia Iverson, are having an impact on the direction of autism research.
Unlocking Autism, co-founded by Louisiana Moms Shelley Reynolds, whose son, Liam, developed autistic behaviors after vaccination, and Jeana Smith, whose twin son has vaccine-associated autism, have collected more than 3,500 photos of autistic children from around the country for the "Open Your Eyes" project. The photos were displayed on boards at the "Hear Their Silence" Autism Awareness Rally held April 8, 2000 on the mall near the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.. All of these groups, including the National Vaccine Information Center, which has represented parents of children with vaccine-associated autism for many years, are committed to working with enlightened physicians to find the truth about the causes and cures for autism and ways to prevent it from occurring.
Congress Looks At Vaccines
On August 3, 1999 and April 6, 2000 the U.S. House Government Reform Committee, chaired by Indiana Congressman Dan Burton, examined vaccine safety issues, including vaccine-associated autism (www.gov/reform/hearings/index.htm). Congressman Burton’s two grandchildren reacted to vaccines. Danielle Burton Sarkine’s newborn daughter almost died after a hepatitis B vaccination and her bright, healthy 14-month old son, Christian, became autistic after being injected with 9 different vaccines on the same day. The Government Reform Committee has also held a series of hearings on the safety of the anthrax vaccine, while the subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources has examined hepatitis B vaccine safety questions and the implementation of the compensation portion of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.
NIH Meetings Focus on Research
On March 14, 2000 a meeting took place at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with directors of four of the five NIH health agencies and representatives of national parent organizations, whose members have autistic children. NIH and parent groups discussed public and private autism research efforts and needs, including ways to investigate whether or not some children are genetically or otherwise biologically at risk for suffering vaccine complications that could lead to immune and brain damage, including autistic behaviors.
On April 7, 2000 another meeting with parents and NIH staff took place, which was also attended by Michael
Goldberg, M.D., president of Neuroimmune Dysfunction Syndrome Research Institute (NIDS) and Candace Pert, Ph.D., research professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine. NVIC president Barbara Loe Fisher called for a public-private collaborative research effort to fund basic science research into the biological mechanisms of vaccine-induced autism as well as a large prospective study which would measure biological changes (through blood and urine tests, EEG’s and brain scans, etc.) and monitor cognitive, physical and behavior changes in a genetically diverse population of children as they are being vaccinated in the first 10 years of life. In a subsequent letter to DHHS Secretary Donna Shalala, Fisher, M.I.N.D. co-founder Rick Rollens and ARI founder Bernard Rimland, Ph.D. called for non-governmental researchers with no financial ties to vaccine manufacturers or the CDC to be involved in any government-led investigation into causes for the national autism epidemic, including the one in Brick Township, N.J.
Research Holds the Key
The key to the prevention and cure of autism lies with the scientists and doctors with integrity and vision inside and outside of government, who will conduct the kind of basic science research into the interaction between vaccines, viral and bacterial infections and other biological factors that contribute to development of autism spectrum disorders. Without the will and funding commitment on the part of Congress and federal health agencies that forges an equal and collaborative partnership between government and independent researchers, finding the truth will be left to parents and private foundations.
Private Research Begins
Already, four California Dads with autistic children – a general contractor, an investment advisor, a lobbyist and a cardiologist – have pooled their talents and raised ten million dollars to create the M.I.N.D. Institute (Medical Investigation of Neuro-developmental Disorders) at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center. (http://mindinstitute.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu). M.I.N.D. cofounder Rick Rollens said the Institute "is devoted to funding and conducting cutting edge research into the biological basis for autism and other child developmental disorders. Finding the causes of autism, ways to prevent it, and treatment alternatives is a priority. We welcome grant applications from independent researchers who have novel but well-grounded approaches to investigating all possibilities, including the vaccine connection."
The Neuroimmune Dysfunction Syndrome Research Institute (NIDS) in California is investigating causes of brain and immune system dysfunction and whether co-factors, such as vaccines, can trigger autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, and chronic fatigue in some children. The Autism Autoimmunity Project and Unlocking Autism have given grants to independent researchers investigating vaccine-associated autism, as has the British parent group, Allergy in Autism (AIA), founded by Rosemary Kessick and Meryl Nee, two mothers of children with vaccine-associated autism. NVIC has created the Children’s Fund for Hope and Healing, which is devoted to raising seed money for independent researchers investigating the biological mechanism of and biological risk factors for vaccine-induced autism, arthritis, asthma, learning disabilities, ADHD, diabetes, chronic fatigue and other brain and immune system dysfunction. CAN and NAAR have funded general autism research not specifically vaccine-related.
What Can Be Done Today
In 1991, the physician committee appointed by the Institute of Medicine to examine the medical literature for evidence that vaccines cause injury and death, stated, "In the course of its review, the committee encountered many gaps and limitations in knowledge bearing directly or indirectly on the safety of vaccines. These include inadequate understanding of the biologic mechanisms underlying adverse events following natural infection or immunization, insufficient or inconsistent information from case reports and case series, inadequate size or length of follow-up of many population based epidemiologic studies [and] few experimental studies published in relation to the number of epidemiologic studies published."
The most important action that can be taken today by parents, doctors and public health officials, is to acknowledge the gaps in knowledge about the way vaccines singly or in combination act on the developing immune and neurological system and the role that viral and bacterial infections, environmental toxins and genetics can play in the development of vaccine-associated autism and other learning, behavior, and autoimmune disorders. Doctors should be better educated in medical school about the potential risks, as well as the benefits, of different vaccines so they can become partners with parents in preventing vaccine-induced health problems.
Doctors Should Report to VAERS
Doctors should be required to adhere to the law requiring the reporting of serious health problems such as developmental regression following vaccination to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), as it is estimated that only between one and 10 percent of all doctors do report (even so, between 12,000 and 14,000 reports of adverse events, including hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following vaccination are made annually). Parents, whose children suffer injury or death following vaccination, should be fully informed by their pediatricians about the existence of the federal vaccine injury compensation program, which has awarded more than one billion dollars to families whose children have died or been injured after vaccine reactions.
Federal safety standards for licensing and making policy for new vaccines, particularly combination vaccines, should be re-examined. Vaccine policies must be tailored to the individual and steps taken to minimize vaccine risks such as limiting simultaneous administration of vaccines; screening out children who are sick at the time of vaccination; re-evaluating the benefits and risks of re-vaccinating adult women with rubella or MMR; and carefully monitoring children following vaccination for signs of developmental regression so that re-vaccination does not take place.
Informed Consent to Vaccination
Informed consent protections must be inserted in vaccination laws, widening medical exemptions and strengthening religious and conscientious belief exemptions, and laws implemented in a more humane way. Parents, who believe their children are at high risk of developing immune or brain system problems following vaccination, must be allowed to make informed, voluntary vaccination decisions for their children without facing economic, educational or other sanctions for trying to protect their children from harm.
A bibliography containing more than 125 references supporting information contained in this special report may be viewed on the NVIC website at https://www.nvic.org.
A Shot in the Dark (Coulter & Fisher, Avery), The Consumer’s Guide to Childhood Vaccines (Fisher, NVIC) and Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality (Coulter, North Atlantic Books) are available through NVIC.
Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines (IOM); Adverse Effects of Childhood Vaccines (IOM); DPT Vaccine and Chronic Nervous System Dysfunction: A New Analysis are available for order through the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences by calling 1-800-624-6242.
For exploring treatment options for autistic children, Unraveling the Mysteries of Autism and P.D.D. by Karyn Seroussi (Simon & Schuster); Biological Treatments for Autism by William Shaw; and Special Diets for Special Children by Lisa Lewis are available through: https://www.nvic.org Click on the NVIC Marketplace button and order through Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.
Selected Press Articles:
- State Reports an Epidemic of Autistic Children by Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times (April 16, 1999) – http://www.latimes.com
- Vaccine – Autism Link Feared by Anita Manning, USA TODAY (Aug. 16, 1999) – http://www.usatoday.com
- Necessary Shots? by Claudia Kalb and Donna Foote, Newsweek Magazine (Sept. 13, 1999)
- When Vaccines Do Harm to Kids by Aimee Howd, Insight Magazine (Feb. 28, 2000) http://www.insightmag.com/archive
- Bewildering Increase in Child Autism Cases by Sandy Kleffman, Los Angeles Times (Feb. 26, 2000) – http://www.latimes.com
Selected Broadcast Reports:
- "A Question of Harm?" by Julie Powell, CNN (October 19, 1999; March 26, 2000)
- "Autism and MMR Vaccine," ABC Evening News, August 1999
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), founded in 1982, is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and deaths through public education. NVIC promotes scientific research into the biological causes of vaccine injury and death in order to identify factors which place individuals at high risk for suffering vaccine reactions and advocates the institution of informed consent protections within the mass vaccination system, as well as oversight mechanisms to more effectively monitor the vaccine research, development, regulation and promotion activities of public health agencies.
After launching a national vaccine safety and informed consent movement in the US in the early 1980’s, NVIC’s co-founders worked with Congress to create the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. This historic law set up a vaccine injury compensation program and included vaccine safety provisions such as mandatory recording and reporting of hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following vaccination.
In 1989, NVIC sponsored an International Scientific Workshop on Pertussis and Pertussis Vaccines and, in 1996, one of NVIC’s major goals was realized when a purified pertussis vaccine was licensed for American babies after a decade and a half of advocacy work. In 1997, NVIC held the First International Public Conference on Vaccination and will sponsor the Second International Public Conference on Vaccination on Sept. 8-10, 2000 in Washington, D.C.
Barbara Loe Fisher is cofounder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center. She is co-author of DPT: A Shot in the Dark (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985; Warner, 1986; Avery, 1991) and author of The Consumer’s Guide to Childhood Vaccines (NVIC,1997). She is editor of THE VACCINE
REACTION and The Vaccine Hotline. During the 1980’s, she helped lead a national grassroots effort to bring the issue of vaccine safety to public attention, including leading demonstrations at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and at the White House in 1986. Later that year, Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.
She served on the National Vaccine Advisory Committee at the Department of Health and Human Services for four years, where she was the chair of the subcommittee on adverse events. She was appointed to the Vaccine Safety Forum at the Institute of Medicine in 1995, where she has helped coordinate five public workshops on vaccine safety and is the consumer voting member of the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.
The mother of three children, in 1980 her oldest son reacted within hours of his fourth DPT and OPV vaccinations at the age of two and a half with a convulsion, collapse shock and six hour state of unconsciousness. During the following weeks, he suffered physical, mental and emotional regression including severe gastrointestinal dysfunction, failure to thrive, respiratory and ear infections, personality change, and loss of cognitive, memory, concentration and motor skills. He was eventually diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder.
There is no family history of learning disabilities, ADHD, or neurological disorders, however, there is a strong family history of autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, allergies to foods, drugs and vaccines, ulcerative colitis, migraine, diabetes, and thyroid disease. Her son, who was above average in intelligence, development and health when he suffered his vaccine reaction, was the only one of her three babies with an allergy to milk. He had suffered a severe local reaction to his third DPT shot and was given his fourth DPT shot while he was recovering from the flu.
THE VACCINE REACTION is a publication of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and deaths through public education. All rights reserved.
Barbara Loe Fisher – Co-founder and President
Kathi Williams – Co-founder and Vice President
407 Church Street, Suite Hreet • Vienna, VA 22180
703-938-0342 (phone) • 703-938-5768 (fax)