NIH funded research includes search for possible vaccine-autism link

11 Jun

Much time is spent discussing whether a study of autism and vaccination status could or should be undertaken. Generation Rescue has been trying to get funding for such a study, but their proposal is weak and vague. The question arises, why doesn’t any group with real strong credentials consider this project?

Would you be surprised to find out that it is already ongoing? And that the principle researcher is someone with mainstream credibility?

It turns out that potential environmental causation of autism, including vaccines, are a part of a study which (if all went according to schedule) just finished the data collection phase. The NIH funded project, GENE-ENVIRONMENT INTERACTIONS IN AN AUTISM BIRTH COHORT, was headed by Prof. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University. The project started in 2003 and was prospectively monitoring a cohort of children diagnosed with ASD’s and another cohort of controls.

The project is discussed below:

Reports of increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), a set of highly genetic conditions, are intensifying interest in the role of environmental exposures, including infectious, immune, and toxic factors. Retrospective studies exploring associations between environmental factors and ASDs are compromised by selection bias, small sample sizes, possibly invalid diagnosis, and absence of biologic measures. This prospective study will employ an unselected birth cohort of 75,500 in which cases are ascertained through screening of the entire population, diagnoses established using uniform procedures, extensive histories and clinical data obtained, and biologic samples collected serially throughout pregnancy and early childhood. The application of high throughput laboratory assays to derive maximal information from developmentally-influenced, finite, and nonrenewable biologic samples, and inclusion of early screening and diagnostic assessments, will permit an unprecedented, rich view of the longitudinal trajectory and nascent signs and symptoms of ASDs, facilitate discovery of biomarkers, and afford unique insights into the role of gene:environment interactions in ASD pathogenesis. Specific aims are to: (1) establish the autism Birth Cohort (ABC) through ascertainment of cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD, N=150-233) and selection of controls (N-1000) from the Norway Mothers and Child (MoBa) cohort; (2) examine biologic pathways that may predispose to ASD, through evaluation of immune, endocrine, and neuroregulatory factors in mothers during early gestation or at birth and in children, at birth or 30 months postnatal; (3) identify environmental factors that may be directly or indirectly associated with ASD, including pre- or postnatal infection, vaccination, very low birth weight or other obstetric risk factors in which infections are implicated, dietary and/or environmental exposure to methylmercury; (4) describe the natural history of clinical, anthropometric, and neurobehavioral features of ASD; and (5) explore genotypic influences that may be directly or indirectly associated with ASD by testing associations of ASD and/or its endophenotypes with family history of autoimmune disease or selected candidate genes, and investigating conditional gene-environment effects using antecedent factors found to influence ASD risk.

Emphasis added.

Prof. Lipkin was a member of the team which looked at children with gastrointestinal disorders, Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study. Amongst other findings, they found that (a) regression was not correlated with MMR vaccination and (b) persistent measles infections are not present in the guts of autistic kids more than in non-autistic kids. Basically it was the study that most closely replicated some of Mr. Wakefield’s team’s efforts and showed that Mr. Wakefield’s results were not reproducible.

Another study, THE CHARGE STUDY: CHILDHOOD AUTISM RISKS FROM GENETICS AND THE ENVIRONMENT, includes “vaccines” in the project terms. This study has been funded to the tune of about US$5,000,000 and is headed by Prof. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, who has stated that vaccines should be considered for research into autism causes.

If you are wondering if mercury is being investigated, AUTISM IN A FISH EATING POPULATION continues study on methyl mercury exposures in the Seychelles. Also, the University of Washington has a study ongoing, NEUROIMMUNOTOXICOLOGY OF MERCURY. Johns Hopkins has a study now going on 4 years, GENETIC SUSCEPTIBILITY TO MERCURY-INDUCED IMMUNE DYSFUNCTION IN AUTISM & ASD. Also, the University of Texas has a study, EPIDEMIOLOGICAL RESEARCH ON AUTISM IN JAMAICA, which also is monitoring heavy metal exposures.

I have two questions. First, why do groups like Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, the National Autism Association and TACA claim that vaccine-autism and mercury-autism research isn’t being done? They are represented on government committees. Second, what do they hope to learn from doing their own study that isn’t going to be done better and sooner by other groups?

12 Responses to “NIH funded research includes search for possible vaccine-autism link”

  1. Rogue Medic June 11, 2010 at 02:55 #

    I have two questions. First, why do groups like Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, the National Autism Association and TACA claim that vaccine-autism and mercury-autism research isn’t being done?

    They have not shown an ability to be truthful before, so why start now?

    They are represented on government committees.

    Are you suggesting that they cannot claim ignorance?

    I don’t think that any amount of information is capable of removing the stigma of willful ignorance?

    Second, what do they hope to learn from doing their own study that isn’t going to be done better and sooner by other groups?

    They probably believe that only true believers are capable of recognizing the truth, which is whatever they are claiming at the time, and lasting only as long as they hold that belief.

  2. David N. Brown June 11, 2010 at 06:07 #

    I suspect that this is simply a token gesture to placate “vaccine blamers”. I think that this will only serve to polong the false sense that vaccine causation is even in the realm for serious consideration. What I would prefer to see: no funding for any proposal for an “environmental” study that doesn’t say “vaccine causation is disproved and does not need or deserve any additional research”.

  3. Paul June 11, 2010 at 09:34 #

    While certain genetic alleles might affect the propensity to develop autism, if we accept the CDC’ Morbidity and Mortality Weekly statistics, the incidence of autism has increased some 10 fold in a generation. This can not be due to a generational change in genetics. Therefore we have environmental/infectious etiologies to consider. Seeing as a significant minority of parents of autistic children have stated that their child’s autism developed subsequent to a vaccine inoculation and considering these vaccines often contain preservatives designed to “kill cellular life”, this provides a very reasonable avenue for intense investigation. Or will we just call them the “refrigerator mothers” of the 21st century?

    Paul Maher, MD MPH

    • Sullivan June 14, 2010 at 06:52 #


      can you point to where the CDC MMWR’s discuss “incidence” rather than “prevalence”? Also, can you point to where they discuss a “true incidence”?

      As to the Bettleheim reference (refrigerator mothers), does that actually follow from your comment? I can’t see how it does. I think it’s time to just stop accusing everyone of being the new Bettleheims.

  4. FreeSpeaker June 11, 2010 at 13:57 #

    ACK! You ask: “And that the principle researcher is someone with mainstream credibility?” That is entirely the wrong way to look at this. Correctly asked: “And that the principle researcher is someone with wacko fringe credibility?” Nope. None of the studies fit that. Thus, unless the studies confirm the fringe’s preconceived ideas, the studies will be dismissed, the authoris lives will be placed under a microscope, and the wacko fringe will hold another rally in some park to demonstrate against it.

    You also ask: “why do groups like Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, the National Autism Association and TACA claim that vaccine-autism and mercury-autism research isn’t being done?”

    Simple. GR, SafeMinds, NAA, TACA, and people of that ilk NEED the conspiracy to prove their claims, since they have no other means to do so.

    Cue JB Handley and AoA to start a series of articles slamming these studies and their authors.

  5. Leila June 11, 2010 at 14:40 #

    I don’t think it is an effort to placate anyone. It just sounds like a comprehensive study that is looking at several possible environmental factors.

    I did the CHARGE study along with my son. Part of the study was a long interview where they asked about all kinds of chemicals used in my home and on us during pregnancy and after his birth, from pesticides to cosmetics. I could tell they are looking at a very wide range of possibilities, and it may be hard to narrow them down.

  6. Ed June 13, 2010 at 21:49 #

    In any given vaccine, there are over 40 common ingredients that simply do not belong in the human body. Any of them could be construed as an autism factor. There have been numerous studies that exclude a single vaccine and continue the other 25-35 of them. Then when the statistics show no difference, the medical community says that the vaccine and autism have no relationship.

    I want the unvaccinated population studied for autism levels. And no, nothing else will satisfy me.

  7. Chris June 14, 2010 at 01:22 #

    Ed, that was a fairly evidence statement. Why should we value your opinion?

    • Sullivan June 14, 2010 at 05:41 #


      do you mean “fairly evidence *free* statement”?


      I hope that you would be satisfied with even that study. So far, no study which was supposed to help “satisfy” those promoting vaccine causation has “satisfied”. Horribly designed and executed studies are lauded if they promote vaccine causation, while reasonable studies are discounted.

  8. Chris June 14, 2010 at 16:48 #

    Yes, I do Sullivan. Ed was just pontificating without any evidence. Sorry, about that.

    • Sullivan June 14, 2010 at 17:36 #


      no apologies–I figured that’s what you meant. Pretty clearly follows from his evidence free statement.

  9. Grant P. Writer August 25, 2010 at 19:03 #

    Have you looked at the National Children’s Study? If funding continues, it will be the largest longitudinal sample available that collects environmental and other samples and follows children from preconception through their twenties, I believe. I think that some great information may be gained as we look at children who are diagnosed with autism and can examine a large number of environmental factors, including prenatal factors, that may contribute. Unfortunately, it will be many years before we have this type of data, but I do think it will tell us more than these studies targeted to only vaccines.

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