No such thing as a genetic epidemic

15 May

Since the Autism Omnibus started up again, I’ve been talking about how the Petitioners have pulled the tablecloth out from under the feet of the mercury militia. Its been a mainstay of the militia that there has been an epidemic of autism since the early 1990’s, caused by vaccines, most notably thiomersal and MMR (hence the strapline of mercury militia bible Evidence of Harm – Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic and the ‘M’ in SafeMinds (Sensible Action For Ending Mercury -Induced Neurological Disorders).

In fact, lets be clear, SafeMinds believe in an Autism Epidemic, Generation Rescue believe in an Autism Epidemic, the NAA believe in an Autism Epidemic, Jenny McCarthy believes in an Autism Epidemic.

And yet this week, we had petitioners expert witness (i.e. _for the families_) in the autism omnibus destroying the idea of an epidemic. According to him, the number of children throughout the 1990’s/early noughties was in the hundreds.

That’s ‘hundreds’ from a population of 40 million.

He went on to say:

Q: So if the risk is confined to that group, clearly regressive autism, are you assuming then that there is no elevated risk to any other group – any other cases of autism?

A: In the calculations I made, yes.

This is a deliberate strategy on behalf on Petitioners. They want to destroy the idea that all the epidemiological evidence regarding autism and vaccines has shown thus far – that there is no association between autism and any vaccine. They cannot challenge the quality of the science itself so they have moved the goal posts. They are now saying _not_ that vaccines cause autism, but that _some_ vaccines _may_ cause autism in a population of children so tiny it cannot be detected by epidemiology.

That is in direct opposition to the very idea of an autism epidemic which, by definition, must be large and ‘unmissable’ – a tsunami of autism.

Amusingly, the beloved science editor of the Age of Autism blog decided the best way to deal with _his own sides_ expert testimony was to pretend it had never happened.

‘You cannot have a genetic epidemic’ – that’s another mainstay of the mercury militia. The idea that there has been an epidemic is used to support the idea that genes play a small, negligible role in autism (if they play a role at all) because ‘you cannot have a genetic epidemic’ and as we all know there has been au autism epidemic right? Therefore, genees can’t have played any role _in_ that epidemic.

Except that the families in the Autism Omnibus are now relying almost totally on the idea that there never _was_ an autism epidemic.

The genetic role in autism science came to the fore again yesterday when Yale announced a new study that found Genetic links to impaired social behavior in autism:

With the help of Yale’s Autism Center of Excellence, led by Drs. Ami Klin and Fred Volkmar, and many families of individuals with ASD, we have registered a possible association between some of the genes identified in animal studies as controlling affiliative behaviors in ASD.” The strongest statistical findings of the study implicate the prolactin gene, the prolactin receptor gene, and the oxytocin receptor gene in these affiliative behavior deficits.

I haven’t read the paper yet (and I’ll probably need help to understand all the highly technical gene talk) but I’ll probably have nore to say once I have. For now, its interesting that in the week that expert witness for the families in the Autism Omnibus gutted the epidemic hypothesis, yet another study was released linking genes to autism.

10 Responses to “No such thing as a genetic epidemic”

  1. Joseph May 15, 2008 at 14:44 #

    The idea that there can’t be a genetic epidemic is actually quite debatable.

  2. Esteleth May 15, 2008 at 18:27 #

    I’ve been reading this blog for awhile now, and I just want to thank you for all you’ve been doing to refute the woo-tastic nonsense that the anti-vaxxers have been spewing. As an autistic person, I find most of what they say to be mind-bogglingly offensive, short-sighted and naive, and it is nice to know that there are neurotypicals who agree with me and are willing to step up and be heard. Keep it up!

  3. Regan May 15, 2008 at 18:53 #

    Kev,
    Thanks for keeping up with this.
    I am still trying to wrap my mind around the breath-taking turnaround that yesterday’s tsunami is today’s slowly dripping tap, with no break in stride. I mean, I follow what is being put forth, but the contrast is still boggling.

  4. mayfly May 15, 2008 at 19:00 #

    I was at my daughter’s psychiatrist today, and she said that she needed to monitor her prolactin. I asked what that was and she said it was a hormone controlling development and milk production. Of course I thought PRO*LACT*in I should have known. I expected autistics to have less than the normal amount of the hormone, but the opposite is true.

    Also of note was the mention of a hypothesis, not proven that oxytocin given during delivery may overwhelm its receptors in the child.

  5. Ms. Clark May 15, 2008 at 23:00 #

    Prolactin is in human tears,
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0826/is_n6_v8/ai_12930434

    “Diagnostic use

    Prolactin levels may be checked as part of a sex hormone workup, as elevated prolactin secretion can suppress the secretion of FSH and GnRH, leading to hypogonadism,….

    Prolactin levels may be of some use in distinguishing epileptic seizures from psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. The serum prolactin level usually rises following an epileptic seizure.

    Conditions causing elevated prolactin secretion

    Hyperprolactinaemia is the term given to having too-high levels of prolactin in the blood.

    * Prolactinoma;
    * Excess thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), usually in primary hypothyroidism.
    * A side effect of many anti-psychotic medications”

    If your daughter is on some medications (maybe other than anti-psychotics, I don’t know) they might be wanting to monitor her for prolactin.

  6. isles May 16, 2008 at 01:53 #

    I wonder how many of the Omnibus petitioners realize they’ve just been thrown under the bus. I suppose they all think they can show “clear regression,” but then, so did the Cedillos.

    We’re really back to the “small subset” thing from the 2004 IOM report. The committee noted they couldn’t say for certain that T didn’t cause A in some small subset of cases, although there was also no evidence that this *had* occurred, and ever since, the mercury moms and dads have clung to that phrase like a life raft.

    I sure hope the court demands that they come up with some kind of evidence that this subset actually exists. If not, maybe I could go to court and claim that my inability to throw a fastball is due to the flu shot I got this year. I might be in the very small subset of people who experience diminution in their ball-throwing skills as a result of influenza vaccine. Can anyone prove otherwise?

  7. Joseph May 16, 2008 at 02:12 #

    “Clearly regressive” autism is defined as regressive autism without signs of developmental delays pre-regression, I believe. Isn’t this the same as CDD, which is extremely rare?

    I wonder if the researchers from the CHARGE study could tell us if “clearly regressive” autistic children existed before and after removal of thimerosal from vaccines.

  8. Ms. Clark May 16, 2008 at 03:36 #

    I think CDD has some traits that are significantly different than autism. For one thing the regression can occur much past 3 years old. Occurs fairly suddenly and is marked by a lot of agitation, and the kids pretty much never progress much more after the regression. They may lose the ability to walk, too.

    I’d like to know how many “clearly regressive” autistic kids have shown up in the last 2 or 3 years (past the age of getting the 187.5 mcgs that some kids got), and if people in clinics noticed that they stopped showing up, or that the numbers dropped off in half or something. I would bet that someone at the MIND could comment on a dearth of “clearly regressive” kids now if there was one.

  9. Ms. Clark May 16, 2008 at 03:45 #

    Isles, if you can get someone to testify that you had a budding career in baseball before your shot you might get a big payment and as I understand it, you wouldn’t have to share any of it with a lawyer.

    Some people are using bogus lab tests to show “mercury intoxication”, then you should be able to use doctored photos of you previously throwing fast balls like a pro.

  10. Sharon May 16, 2008 at 08:28 #

    It so ridiculous. They are just making it up as they go along.

    Here’s another dollop of nonsense from the Times, Pyrethrin chemicals in pet shampoo may increase autism risk. The Times thinks it’s worth reporting on a few mums who were a bit more likely to remember using a chemical when they were about 13 to 28 weeks pregnant. The comment section has been invaded by MMR blamers. It makes me want to weep.

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