Comment on: Examination of the Safety of Pediatric Vaccine Schedules in a Non-Human Primate Model: Assessments of Neurodevelopment, Learning, and Social Behavior.

21 Feb

There is a common myth one hears from one group of autism parents: there is no research on autism and vaccines being performed. Usually this is combined with the insinuation that the government is scared of vaccine/autism research. The claims are often made by people who should (and likely do) know better.

One of the few places one can find a discussion of the ongoing vaccine/autism work is here at Left Brain/Right Brain. In a post last year I address the question of Why won’t the government fund vaccine/autism research?, which was really a post about how there is work being funded. In case the title was unclear, I also wrote More of that vaccine/autism research that doesn’t exist. Other articles include What projects are being funded in autism research? Part 1: vaccines and GI issues.

In one of those articles I wrote:

There’s a study by Gene Sackett’s group, A PRIMATE MODEL OF GUT, IMMUNE, AND CNS RESPONSE TO CHILDHOOD VACCINES. This appears to be a follow on project to the Laura Hewitson studies that were discussed a great deal online a few years ago.

And, guess what? A study by Gene Sackett, together with Laura Hewitson and others, has just been published: Examination of the Safety of Pediatric Vaccine Schedules in a Non-Human Primate Model: Assessments of Neurodevelopment, Learning, and Social Behavior. It may not be the study referenced above as that study was government funded, but this new study addresses some of the concerns raised by previous studies published by Laura Hewitson’s team. If you wonder what I mean by “addressed”, here’s the last phrase of the abstract: the study “…provided no consistent evidence of neurodevelopmental deficits or aberrant behavior in vaccinated animals.”

No evidence of harm.

Gene Sackett was a collaborator on one of those previous studies by Laura Hewitson: Delayed acquisition of neonatal reflexes in newborn primates receiving a thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccine: influence of gestational age and birth weight. This study was discussed a great deal by those promoting the vaccine/autism link (say here, here, here and elsewhere. It was called a “blockbuster” study by Mark Blaxill (then of SafeMinds, now of the Canary Party, both groups who promote the failed idea that the rise in autism diagnoses was caused by thimerosal in vaccines) on the Age of Autism blog. Dan Olmsted (of the same blog) called the results “explosive”. They both downplayed the preliminary nature of the study and the small sample size and way overplayed the importance of the results.

And as this new study clarifies, both were wrong. Both spread guilt and fear: one can still find parents talking online about how their child was delayed in one of the reflexes discussed in the study and, thus, was harmed by thimerosal in vaccines. Just an example of the harm the people pushing the idea that vaccines and autism are linked have caused.

As noted above, this new study clears up the concerns raised by the earlier studies. If history is any guide, Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Blaxill will not demonstrate the courage needed to admit their mistakes nor try to correct the damage they have caused. I would love to be wrong and have to write an apology to them.

Here is the abstract to Examination of the Safety of Pediatric Vaccine Schedules in a Non-Human Primate Model: Assessments of Neurodevelopment, Learning, and Social Behavior.

In the 1990s, the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal, was used in most pediatric vaccines. While there are currently only two thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs) recommended for pediatric use, parental perceptions that vaccines pose safety concerns are affecting vaccination rates, particularly in light of the much expanded and more complex schedule in place today.
The objective of this study was to examine the safety of pediatric vaccine schedules in a non-human primate model.
We administered vaccines to 6 groups of infant male rhesus macaques (n=12-16/group) using a standardized thimerosal dose where appropriate. Study groups included the recommended 1990s pediatric vaccine schedule, an accelerated 1990s primate schedule with or without the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the MMR vaccine only, and the expanded 2008 schedule. We administered saline injections to age-matched control animals (n=16). Infant development was assessed from birth-12 months of age by examining the acquisition of neonatal reflexes, the development of object concept permanence (OCP), computerized tests of discrimination learning, and infant social behavior. Data were analyzed using ANOVAs, multi-level modeling, and survival analyses, where appropriate.
There were no group differences in the acquisition of OCP. During discrimination learning animals receiving TCVs had improved performance on reversal testing, although some of these same animals performed poorer in subsequent learning set testing. Analysis of social and non-social behaviors identified few instances of negative behaviors across the entire infancy period. While some group differences in specific behaviors were reported at 2 months of age, by 12 months all infants, irrespective of vaccination status, had developed the typical repertoire of macaque behaviors.
This comprehensive five-year, case-control study, which closely examined the effects of pediatric vaccines on early primate development, provided no consistent evidence of neurodevelopmental deficits or aberrant behavior in vaccinated animals.

Let’s repeat that conclusion for emphasis: This comprehensive five-year, case-control study, which closely examined the effects of pediatric vaccines on early primate development, provided no consistent evidence of neurodevelopmental deficits or aberrant behavior in vaccinated animals.

The full paper is available online. In it you can read this:

This data is in contrast to our previous pilot study in which a delay in the acquisition of the root, suck, and snout survival reflexes were reported for primate infants following exposure to the birth dose of the thimerosal containing Hep B vaccine (Hewitson et al. 2010a). This discrepancy is most likely due to the larger number of animals in the present study providing more accurate estimates. Furthermore, in the present study reflexes were examined from birth to 21 days of age, during which some animals received multiple TCVs (not just a single Hep B vaccine as was used in the previous 23 study), and yet no detrimental effects on the acquisition of survival reflexes were reported for these animals.

Hewitson 2010a is Delayed acquisition of neonatal reflexes in newborn primates receiving a thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccine: Influence of gestational age and birth weight. This is the “blockbuster” study according to Mark Blaxill. Ironically, Mr. Blaxill’s article links to the first publication of the “blockbuster”, the version that was retracted.

The first thing that people who promote the vaccine/autism link would do with a study like this, one that doesn’t find a link between vaccines and harm, is claim that it isn’t “independent” and the authors and/or funding agencies are too biased. So, let’s look at the authors

Britni Curtis,1 Noelle Liberato,1 Megan Rulien,1 Kelly Morrisroe,1 Caroline Kenney,1 Vernon Yutuc,1 Clayton Ferrier,1 C. Nathan Marti,2 Dorothy Mandell,3 Thomas M. Burbacher,1,4 Gene P. Sackett,1,5 and Laura Hewitson1,6,7

1Infant Primate Research Laboratory (IPRL), Washington National Primate Research Center, and Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD), Seattle, Washington, USA; 2Abacist Analytics, LLC, Austin, Texas, USA; 3Independent Consultant, Austin, Texas, USA; 4Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA; 5Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA; 6The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development, Austin, Texas, USA; 7Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas, USA

Laura Hewitson was the lead researcher in the previous macaque studies, the ones often quoted as providing evidence of a link between thimerosal and autism. Her organization (The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development) was formerly referred to as Thoughtful House and was directed in that time by Andrew Wakefield. Thomas Burbacher and Gene Sackett have also been involved with previous animal studies on thimerosal, including this one often cited again as evidence of a link between vaccines and autism.

The funding?

This work was supported by The Ted Lindsay Foundation, SafeMinds, National Autism Association, the Vernick family, and the Johnson family. This work was also supported by WaNPRC Core Grant RR0166 and CHDD Core Grant HD02274.

Both SafeMinds and the National Autism Association are strong proponents of the idea that vaccines cause autism.

Under competing financial interests we read:

Competing financial interests: Drs. Marti and Mandell provided consulting services as independent contractors in regards to the data analyses. Neither person has provided services to pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines or their representatives, nor have they been an expert witness in thimerosal, or similar suits. The other authors declare they have no actual or potential competing financial interests.

I will leave you with the final paragraph of the new study

In summary, we did not find evidence of an adverse impact of vaccination status on early neurodevelopmental measures, including the acquisition of neonatal reflexes and the development of object permanence. This was true for animals receiving TCVs, as well as animals in the 2008 group, which received the expanded pediatric vaccine schedule that remains very similar to the currently recommended schedule. Although some animals receiving TCVs performed better in the reversal phase of discrimination learning compared to controls, this association was not consistent across all study groups with thimerosal exposure. Furthermore, learning set performance appeared to be poorest for animals in the TCV group but this observation was not mirrored in the 1990s Primate group. Finally, all infants, irrespective of vaccine status, developed the typical social behaviors for this age of animal, with very few instances of negative behaviors reported. While the data as a whole does not support a consistent adverse effect of TCVs on primate development, factors that may modulate the toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics of thimerosal, such as genetics, gender, birth weight, gestational age, maternal health, and chemical co-exposures, should be thoroughly investigated.

By Matt Carey

54 Responses to “Comment on: Examination of the Safety of Pediatric Vaccine Schedules in a Non-Human Primate Model: Assessments of Neurodevelopment, Learning, and Social Behavior.”

  1. Goldy February 21, 2015 at 06:28 #

    This comment is worth noting:
    “Supplementary Figure 5 clearly shows a drastic reduction in learning in the thimerosal exposed group. The authors discussion: “”In the present study animals in the TCV group appeared to perform poorer than controls in learning set testing but showed little evidence that their responses had organized into a strategy that was different from that of the control group.In fact, the reported difference was only found in the overall mean averaged across all of the blocks and trials, not in their learning across trials or blocks, which is the outcome needed to indicate a strategy difference.” These striking results are then left out of the conclusion. Perhaps Supplemental Figure 5 results should have been the title of the study instead: “Ethylmercury from vaccines reduces learning capacity.”

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 21, 2015 at 15:19 #

      I wondered how long before someone would cherry pick something out of this study and say, “Ignore everything else..ignore evne

      So, let’s ignore the paper and take a comment left on pubmed commons (your link is missing, but the comment is with the abstract

      Here’s the actual caption to figure S5

      Figure S5. Learning Set data showing mean latency (choice reaction times) in seconds for the
      Block X Trial interaction by each study group. All groups except TCV and 1990s Pediatric had
      the general pattern of high trial 1 reaction times with leveling or decreasing reaction times over
      trials. For these two groups, reaction times increased over trials and blocks. This may indicate a
      lack of motivation by animals in the TCV and 1990s Pediatric groups, although that was not
      reflected in their percent correct responses in any obvious way. A, Control; B, MMR; C, TCV;
      D, 1990’s Primate; E, 1990’s Pediatric and F, 2008

      So. no difference in the number of correct answers? How does that fit int the “ethylmercury from vaccines reduces learning capacity”? That’s right, it doesn’t. Hence the fact that this point is left out of the comment you quote. So, with all due respect to Mr Laks, no, I don’t think that’s an appropriate title for this study.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 21, 2015 at 15:21 #

        Ironic, isn’t it, that the study is being critized by someone who has worked with one of the funding agencies?

        Dan Laks, author of this report for SafeMinds:

        Click to access SM%20Env%20Mercury%20Exposure%20and%20Risk%20of%20Autism.pdf

      • brian February 21, 2015 at 16:07 #

        The authors noted that the poor learning performance was NOT seen in the “1990s primate” group–that is, in the group that received the highest level of exposure to thimerosal and at the most accelerated schedule.

        If you want to cherry-pick results, you might say that an accelerated vaccine schedule and much higher than current exposure to thimerosal protects against learning deficits.

        Or, I suppose, you could begin to understand that a battery of multiple tests can be expected to produce apparently significant results by chance alone, as when “Whistleblower” Thompson’s results suggested

        (1) that “increased cumulative exposures [to thimerosal-containing injections] in the age ranges from birth to 7 months and birth to 20 months were both associated with decreased risk of all 3 ASD outcomes.” [Pediatrics. 2010 Oct;126(4):656-64.]

        (2) that increased exposure to mercury was associated with better performance on a measure of language performance, a measure of fine motor coordination, and on a measure of attention and executive functioning. [N Engl J Med. 2007 Sep 27;357(13):1281-92.]

  2. Brian Deer February 21, 2015 at 13:52 #

    Isn’t that interesting? You may recall the same phenomenon with the claims of O’Leary that measles virus is associated with autism. Once Wakefield is removed, the story changes.

  3. brian February 21, 2015 at 20:34 #

    It should be noted that this study examined the effects on young macaques of exposure to levels of vaccine antigens, adjuvants, and other constituents (e.g., thimerosal) that are much HIGHER than are administered to human children. This paper is clearly not an effort to examine in a primate model the effects of the human vaccine regimen. Instead, it shows that exposure to high levels of vaccine constituents does not produce negative effects in a primate model.

    FDA guidance related to such comparisons are generally based on body surface area and not by body weight: although young macaques are smaller than young children, the authors did not follow the guidance–which would have suggested that the macaques should have received a dose several-fold LOWER than the dose given to children in order to provide a functional “human equivalent dose.”

    Instead, the authors chose to INCREASE exposure by using as their baseline a dose that would be exceptionally high for a child (10th percentile for growth) and then upped that by providing doses to macaques as if all the animals in their study were exceptionally large (90th percentile for growth.) That’s not how I did it when I planned toxicology experiments in macaques, and that really isn’t the way that it’s done.

    Toxicology experiments commonly involve high doses of test compounds. However, even casual readers should understand that, even at increased exposure levels, the pediatric vaccine regimens did not cause adverse effects.

  4. drlaks9 February 22, 2015 at 17:01 #

    Supplemental Fig 5 shows an increase in latency – a detriment of learning. The authors rational to ignore these findings makes no sense. Adverse response to EtHg wouldn’t be expected to be uniform since it is only a small % with adverse reactions, perhaps a genetic susceptible group. Therefore, even small differences in learning as those found in this study should be interpreted as significant. Even if some monkeys improve in one area, and are deficient in another, that is akin to autism savants. This study is also wrong in that it compares the means of groups rather than look for outlier responders as would be expected for exposure to this toxin. This study is way too small to draw any big conclusions, 12 monkeys/group when there is a 1/68 chance of getting autism (and obviously not all would be caused by thimerosal). You do the math. Unlikely to find an outlier with so few monkeys. But they didn’t eve report outlier responders. The design of this experiment is flawed. However, the effect in learning deficiency that they did detect and buried in Supplemental Fig 5 is all the more significant and warrants serious concern. Unfortunately, those who turn the science into a political circus are obfuscating this important issue. The conclusions drawn by this study defy reason, as does the author of this blog or whatever this sort of tripe is called these days.

    • Lawrence February 22, 2015 at 17:11 #

      Interestingly enough Dr. Laks – this study was done by people who were looking for a link between vaccines & autism….so are you now eating your own?

      • drlaks9 February 22, 2015 at 17:17 #

        People like you who defy logic always resort to ethos. I am concerned with the science and its interpretation, not with the mud slinging which is best left to the monkeys…… and obviously to you as well.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 22, 2015 at 20:10 #

        It’s hard to claim that you have the high road when you refer to the other person in your conversation as a mud slinging monkey. Your careful phrasing doesn’t distance you from that attack. Perhaps you would like to be pedantic and we can just say that you claim that Lawrence is on the same level as a mud slinging monkey. Either way, you surrendered the moral high ground you were trying to claim.

      • Lawrence February 22, 2015 at 17:38 #

        Except that the people who did this study had a vested interest in finding a link between vaccines and autism…..and they didn’t.

        That says volumes, don’t you agree?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 23, 2015 at 02:32 #

        And, in a more mundane fashion, people who were trying to replicate their own previous work.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 22, 2015 at 20:13 #

      The study is much larger than the previous study, which is often touted as proof of vaccines causing autism. So the study is large enough to let us know that the preliminary studies were incorrect.

      You do the math. Or not. But that’s a very clear conclusion.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 22, 2015 at 20:22 #

      Does this study demonstrate that thimerosal in vaccines don’t increase autism risk? No. Other studies, very large studies, do that. And one would have to be quite intellectually dishonest to claim that there is good evidence for a risk in light of those studies.

      • Dan Laks February 22, 2015 at 21:27 #

        Those epi studies you refer to can not prove a negative and more importantly, they do not even address the hypothesis of a genetically or otherwise susceptible subgroup within the population. You are drawing inferences from those studies that are un-scientific in nature. I presume you never took an epidemiology course because otherwise you would understand them better. The hypothesis of a susceptible sub-population, which is the only tenable hypothesis given that not everyone develops autism, can not be addressed until that subpopulation is defined. That has not been done and therefore those epi studies are pointless in addressing the only real hypothesis of outlier responders to exposure. Therefore, you need to re-evaluate your understanding of these studies and what it means for your unstated belief that all children should be given mercury.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 22, 2015 at 23:18 #

        By which you must accept the fact that thimerosal was not behind the rise in autism in the 1990’s. If we are going to talk about a subgroup of hypothetically susceptible individuals, too small to be detected in epidemiological studies.

        The problem then becomes that the main argument that autism was caused by thimerosal was the idea that the 1990’s represented true rise in autism and this was thimerosal driven. In other words, the linchpin for the thimerosal hypothesis was the idea that it caused an epidemic of autism.

        Then we can take the idea of biological plausibility. The “autism as a novel form of mercury poisoning” idea was bogus from the start. Patricia Rodier, whose expertise was in both mercury toxicity and autism discussed this in great detail, most notably in her testimony before the Omnibus Autism Proceeding.

        We can always claim that any condition includes a susceptibility group that is too small to be picked up in epidemiological studies. It doesn’t mean that the idea is worth pursuing.

        “Therefore, you need to re-evaluate your understanding of these studies and what it means for your unstated belief that all children should be given mercury”

        Please continue with these attacks. The very fact that you can pull such illogical statements out of thin are speak more about you than me. Besides the fact that your comment doesn’t follow from what I say, it is clearly baiting.

      • Lawrence February 22, 2015 at 21:56 #

        Dan – please explain why the study authors, who have vested interests in proving the vaccine / autism link stated the following conclusions:


        This comprehensive five-year, case-control study, which closely examined the effects of pediatric vaccines on early primate development, provided no consistent evidence of neurodevelopmental deficits or aberrant behavior in vaccinated animals.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 23, 2015 at 00:35 #


        He’s well aware of the potential bias that can be involved in mercury studies. See the “bias” section here

        One can also look for terms like “funded” and other keys to potential bias. Why he misses the point that the potential bias here goes the other way is unclear.

      • Chris February 22, 2015 at 23:30 #

        Dan Laks: “Therefore, you need to re-evaluate your understanding of these studies and what it means for your unstated belief that all children should be given mercury.”

        Please tell us which vaccine on the American pediatric schedule is only available with thimerosal. Do not mention influenza because there are several versions of that vaccine that do not contain thimerosal.

        Also, several states like California and Washington have made law prohibiting children and pregnant women from getting vaccines with thimerosal. Has that affected rates of autism in either of those states?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 23, 2015 at 00:16 #

        Mr. Laks should be well aware that California banned thimerosal not only from the main infant schedule, but also from the influenza vaccine and vaccines given to pregnant women. And he should be well aware that the administrative autism prevalence here, both by CDDS and by special education data, continues to rise.

      • madcapfeline February 23, 2015 at 16:14 #

        I was under the impression that thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines ~fourteen years ago, and is currently only found in multi-dose vials of the seasonal flu vaccine, which can be exchanged in favor of a single dose flu vaccine if desired. So why is there even debate regarding a “belief that all children should be given mercury” when children are very rarely, if ever, given vaccines containing the compound?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 23, 2015 at 17:44 #


        More to the point, in California even the flu vaccine given to infants and toddlers doesn’t contain mercury. And autism rates continue to rise.

      • Science Mom February 24, 2015 at 16:44 #

        Those epi studies you refer to can not prove a negative and more importantly, they do not even address the hypothesis of a genetically or otherwise susceptible subgroup within the population. You are drawing inferences from those studies that are un-scientific in nature. I presume you never took an epidemiology course because otherwise you would understand them better.

        Mr. Laks, I’m an epidemiologist and I can safely say that it is you who are lacking in what is un-scientific and what is not. You are criticising studies which have captured hundreds of thousands of children yet no signal was detected. If you want a clinical study then go perform one based upon your dead hypothesis with no biological plausibility. But to sit here and denigrate others’ scientific knowledge is pathetic albeit true to form for those still beating the vaccine-causation hypothesis drum.

    • reissd February 23, 2015 at 19:53 #

      That claim was actually addressed above, in response t the first comment here.

  5. drlaks9 February 22, 2015 at 17:49 #

    “Lawrence”, your rhetoric is irrational. “Vested interest” – What evidence do you have to support that besides your own imagination? “They didn’t” – Yes, they did. It was merely downplayed to prevent you from breaking out in hysteria.

    • Lawrence February 22, 2015 at 19:51 #

      Read the actual article…..they were trying to prove a link between autism and vaccines.

      That they didn’t, does say something.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 22, 2015 at 20:21 #

        They were funded by groups trying to get fodder for their campaign to convince people that vaccines cause autism. Were the study funded by “Big Pharma”, the funding source would certainly be a part of the conversation. “Of course they found that there’s no evidence of harm, they were funded by Big Pharma(tm)!”

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 22, 2015 at 20:07 #

      The anchor author had been a petitioner to the vaccine court. She believes or believed that her child was injured by vaccines. That counts as a vested interest to me.

    • Chris February 23, 2015 at 00:07 #

      About one of the author’s earlier lack of stating a conflict of interest:

      It appears that perhaps I was too easy on Dr. Hewitson. I really, truly wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. However, it turns out that she appears to have a very serious and seemingly undisclosed conflict of interest, as a commenter has informed me. Not only is she married to Dan Hollenbeck, a regular contributor to the Age of Autism website, but she and her husband are listed as litigants in the Autism Omnibus proceedings. She did not, as far as I can tell, disclose that conflict of interest. At least, it is not appended to the abstract.

      And there is more: Too much vaccine/autism monkey business for me to be involved in–but apparently not Laura Hewitson.

  6. Christine Vara February 24, 2015 at 16:54 #

    I want to sincerely thank you for your ongoing discussion of this important topic. While the study findings could be reassuring to many parents out there who are hesitant about the vaccine schedule, especially if they came from some of the biggest vaccine critics, the majority of people who claim there is a vaccine/autism link will probably never hear of it. So why is it that the community that demanded such a study isn’t willing to loudly proclaim the findings? What was the purpose of doing the study if not to inform and educate the public through full disclosure, right? Perhaps they could start using the hashtag #SafeMindsFindsVaxScheduleSafe in place of #CDCwhistleblower. I bet then they would finally see one of their hashtags trending.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 24, 2015 at 18:40 #

      The thanks go to a commenter here who alerted me to this study.

      I find that the individuals and groups who promote vaccines causation of autism lack courage. They are quick to raise fear, but slow to acknowledge mistakes. Raising an alarm is only a courageous act if one is willing to admit just as loudly that one was wrong.

  7. K diaz February 25, 2015 at 03:06 #

    Couldn’t there be a link between vaccines and autism in children with family history of autoimmune diseases? Vaccine injury is possible perhaps more so than previously thought

    • Julian Frost February 25, 2015 at 05:57 #

      There could.
      Just as an asteroid large enough to cause an extinction level event could strike Earth in the next ten years, but both scenarios are vanishingly unlikely.
      If you read some of Matt’s earlier comments, you’ll see that the vaccine-autism link has been investigated in huge samples. In fact, one meta-analysis looked at over 14 million individuals. No link was found. If you want to argue that vaccines can provoke autism in children from “families with a history of autoimmune diseases”, you have to show that there is a link between vaccines and autism. In short, you are trying to find an explanation for a phenomenon that not only hasn’t been shown to exist, but that has been demonstrated to almost certainly not exist.

      • Roger Kulp February 25, 2015 at 17:00 #

        In both the metabolic/mitochondrial and autoimmune types of autism,family history plays a big part,but vaccines do not.There are a number of autoimmune types of autism or autism with autoimmune markers being investigated.PANDAS/PANS being the most obvious one,especially where there are tics and OCDs that go along with autism.

        But there are other autoimmune abnormalities in autism being found all the time.One example of many being this recent study out of Clarkson University.

        Using nano liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, we found statistically significant differences in several salivary proteins, including elevated prolactin-inducible protein, lactotransferrin, Ig kappa chain C region, Ig gamma-1 chain C region, Ig lambda-2 chain C regions, neutrophil elastase, polymeric immunoglobulin receptor and deleted in malignant brain tumors 1. Our results indicate that this is an effective method for identification of salivary protein biomarkers, support the concept that immune system and gastrointestinal disturbances may be present in individuals with ASDs and point toward the need for larger studies in behaviorally-characterized individuals.

        I suspect as with the metabolic/mitochondrial model of autism,the autoimmune model involves multiple processes and pathways working together.Autism is a complicated condition.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 25, 2015 at 17:52 #

        A study just out reports that autoimmune disorders are more common in autistics, but still are present in only 1% of the autistic population.

        Immune mediated conditions in autism spectrum disorders.
        Zerbo O1, Leong A2, Barcellos L3, Bernal P4, Fireman B5, Croen LA5.
        Author information
        We conducted a case-control study among members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) born between 1980 and 2003 to determine the prevalence of immune-mediated conditions in individuals with autism, investigate whether these conditions occur more often than expected, and explore the timing of onset relative to autism diagnosis. Cases were children and young adults with at least two autism diagnoses recorded in outpatient records (n=5565). Controls were children without autism randomly sampled at a ratio of 5 to 1, matched to cases on birth year, sex, and length of KPNC membership (n=27,825). The main outcomes – asthma, allergies, and autoimmune diseases – were identified from KPNC inpatient and outpatient databases. Chi-square tests were used to evaluate case-control differences. Allergies and autoimmune diseases were diagnosed significantly more often among children with autism than among controls (allergy: 20.6% vs. 17.7%, Crude odds ratio (OR)=1.22, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.13-1.31; autoimmune disease: 1% vs. 0.76%, OR=1.36, 95% CI 1.01-1.83), and asthma was diagnosed significantly less often (13.7% vs. 15.9%; OR=0.83, 95% CI 0.76-0.90). Psoriasis occurred more than twice as often in cases than in controls (0.34% vs. 0.15%; OR=2.35, 95% CI 1.36-4.08). Our results support previous observations that children with autism have elevated prevalence of specific immune-related comorbidities.

      • K Diaz February 26, 2015 at 15:15 #

        But whose to say that in order to have a currently unknown auto immune/metabolic disorder resulting in autism, you must also have additional coexisting autoimmune disorders?

      • K Diaz February 26, 2015 at 14:54 #

        I am not here to argue. I am passionate about the causes of autisms (plural on purpose) because I am mom to a beautiful 10 year old nonverbal daughter with autism who has a family history of many autoimmune disorders. Vaccines “work” by causing an immune system response. Can we agree that if an individual has an unrecognized immune system/metabolic disorder shooting them full of vaccines per the CDC schedule just isn’t a great idea?? I wish my daughter’s pediatrician had simply asked me if we had a family history of autoimmune disease before beginning to administer vaccines to her per the schedule..I would have said yes and perhaps he would have suggested a different schedule. Would it have made a difference in my daughter’s case? Unfortunately we may never know. …My daughter goes to CHOP. They treat children’s behavioral symptoms with various medications such as SSRIs. I was just told one week ago at CHOP “We give our kids with autism very very low doses of medication because we have found that they metabolize medications differently than NT children do”. Just another indication in my mind that *some* kids with autism may ultimately be found to have a currently unknown type of autoimmune or metabolic disorder.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 26, 2015 at 19:11 #

        “Can we agree that if an individual has an unrecognized immune system/metabolic disorder shooting them full of vaccines per the CDC schedule just isn’t a great idea?? ”

        No, we can not. First off, “shooting full of vaccines” indicates a certain bias. On a more important note, the metabolic specialists I have communicated with are clear that preventing diseases is a critical goal for the management of their patients. They work hard to vaccinate their patients and, should they feel that a specific patient can not be vaccinated, they work to vaccinate those around the patient to prevent the spread of diseases.

        For whatever it is worth, one doesn’t need to put “work” in quotes in the phrase “vaccines work”.

      • K Diaz February 26, 2015 at 21:32 #

        There was NO NEED for you to get condescending with me; I will capitalize or put quotes around anything I wish to emphasize. BTW, I am not only a mom. I have a Chemistry degree and, furthermore, I worked in Big Pharma for over 10 years!!! I appreciate your passion but respectfully & wholeheartedly disagree with your conclusions regarding my comments. I know how vaccines work. I know how the immune system works.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 26, 2015 at 22:37 #

        I wasn’t being condescending. I was being polite. Let me be more direct. Putting quotes around “work” in “vaccines “work” ” suggests that you don’t agree with the fact that they do, in fact work. That would give you the opportunity to clarify, “I wasn’t trying to imply that they don’t work” if that is indeed the case.

        In discussions of vaccines the use of scare quotes happens a great deal.

        Next, if you wish to use phrases like “shooting full of vaccines”, yes, that indicates a bias against vaccines. Again, you could calmly respond (or even not so calmly) and point out that you don’t have a bias against vaccines.

        And you can disagree with my conclusions all you want. I’m not here to convince you of anything. But if you make statements suggesting we shouldn’t vaccinate people with metabolic disorders, I will counter that as it is bad advice and not supported by experts in the field.

        Lastly I’ll repeat: no one has stated or acted as though you are “just a mom”. If people say things that I disagree with, I respond. I’ve done this to the VP of research for IBM, at least one Nobel laureate and others who are very well respected.

      • Narad February 26, 2015 at 18:49 #

        Vaccines “work” by causing an immune system response. Can we agree that if an individual has an unrecognized immune system/metabolic disorder shooting them full of vaccines per the CDC schedule just isn’t a great idea??

        No. This is simply empty word association.

      • K Diaz February 26, 2015 at 21:06 #

        I disagree. And I am not just a mom. I have a Chemistry degree so I’m no idiot.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 26, 2015 at 22:28 #

        No one said you were “just a mom” (and I don’t even like the phrase “just a mom” anyway). Nor did anyone call you an idiot.

  8. Chris February 26, 2015 at 17:29 #

    K Diaz: ” coexisting autoimmune disorders”

    Can you be more specific on the type of autoimmune disorder? Diabetes Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder that has nothing to do with vaccines nor autism.

    • K Diaz February 26, 2015 at 17:56 #

      I simply meant that while many people with an autoimmune disorder are affected with more than just one condition (e.g. they have asthma and eczema), you can have just one or the other (e.g. just eczema). So the study that looked at the percent of kids with autism presenting with coexisting autoimmune disorders…I’m not sure that that 1% necessarily means anything??
      I also have read that there is a growing consensus that brain inflammation is present in autism.

      • Chris February 26, 2015 at 18:08 #

        Well, first off this study is on primates. Plus there have been studies on if vaccines affect autoimmune diseases. See:

        Childhood vaccinations and risk of asthma.
        Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002;21(6):498-504

        Recombinant hepatitis B vaccine and the risk of multiple sclerosis: a prospective study.
        Neurology. 2005;64(7):1317.

        Lack of association between receipt of conjugate haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine (HbOC) in infancy and risk of type 1 (juvenile onset) diabetes: long term follow-up of the HbOC efficacy trial cohort.
        Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002;21(6):568-569.

        Since asthma and eczema are fairly common amongh all children (relatively), of course there would be kids with autism who have it.

        My son has an autism like neurological disability, and he also has a genetic heart disorder. They may be genetically related, but I know of lots of “regular” kids who also have obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but I don’t assume that there should be studies seeing if HCM is associated with neurological issues.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 26, 2015 at 18:30 #

        “I also have read that there is a growing consensus that brain inflammation is present in autism.”

        Yep. And there are kids who have been harmed because their parents decided to shut down this inflammation. When the discovery was first made the researchers were careful to point out that they didn’t know if the inflammation was harmful, protective or a long lasting response to a past event. They have since tried to treat autistics to see if reducing inflammation would help–it didn’t. And, as I’ve already noted, people who have taken a more aggressive approach to “treating” inflammation have caused harm.

        The researcher whose group first showed that there was brain inflammation recently stated in a meeting I attended that people should not be messing around with the immune system. I can find the exact quote if you like.

        The brain inflammation idea was taken by those who promote vaccine causation and used to support their claims–without actually taking the time to understand what they were talking about.

        “I’m not sure that that 1% necessarily means anything??”

        It would mean that were there a link between autism and autoimmunity, it could only be in a small fraction of the population. Actually about 0.3%, since there is about 0.7% of the general population with autoimmune issues. Many who have promoted the idea that vaccines cause autism claim that autism is an autoimmune disease. They are wrong.

  9. K Diaz February 27, 2015 at 14:04 #

    I have repeatedly heard Infectious Disease MDs and CDC experts recommend vaccinations for all children WITHOUT compromised immune systems.

    In all cases, inflammation is a result of immune system response.

    Hopefully, time will reveal concrete answers to all of the autisms. Until then, as far as I am concerned, everything remains suspect. Remember the lead paint debates??

    • Chris February 27, 2015 at 15:52 #

      “WITHOUT compromised immune systems”

      Those are often known. Unfortunately sometimes it happens one does not know about it, and then you have the case of Julieanna Metcalf who was almost killed by a vaccine preventable disease.

      “Remember the lead paint debates??”

      One side had scientific evidence, and the other tried to stifle it. So, just provide your actual scientific evidence, and you can start by identifying what particular autoimmune disorder of concern.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 27, 2015 at 17:20 #

      “I have repeatedly heard Infectious Disease MDs and CDC experts recommend vaccinations for all children WITHOUT compromised immune systems”

      I recall one of the experts at the Omnibus discussing giving measles vaccine to HIV infected children in Africa.

      Undervaccination of perinatally HIV-infected and HIV-exposed uninfected children in Latin America and the Caribbean.
      Safety and immunogenicity of 2009 pH1N1 vaccination in HIV-infected pregnant women.

      This paper says there should be a special schedule, but doesn’t suggest not vaccinating: Immune reconstitution and vaccination outcome in HIV-1 infected children: present knowledge and future directions.

      Immunogenicity, immunologic memory, and safety following measles revaccination in HIV-infected children receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy.

      Safety and immunogenicity of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine in 2- to 10-year-old human immunodeficiency virus-infected children.

      “In all cases, inflammation is a result of immune system response.”

      By definition. But response to what? In the case of brain inflammation for autistics, people try to say, “inflammation is an immune response. Vaccines elicit an immune response. Therefore vaccines cause autism”. There are some amazing leaps of logic there. First is the inflammation causal to autism? The fact that autistics have been harmed by anti inflammation treatments says we shouldn’t take that as a given. Second, does a vaccine cause the brain inflammation? Doesn’t look that way. Since the initial study by Pardo’s group at Hopkins on activated microglial cells in autistic brains, they’ve found important roles for these cells in protective processes and in brain development.

      ” Until then, as far as I am concerned, everything remains suspect.”

      Really? Are you leaving the door open for the refrigerator mother theory? I’m good with throwing that on the trash heap of history.

      “Remember the lead paint debates??”

      Remember the vaccines cause autism debates? Remember how some people pushed ideas that were weak to begin with and kept pushing them well past the time that they were proved wrong?

      If you want examples of people making bad science decisions based on political motivations, look no further than the parent groups who have pushed vaccine causation. They are the modern carriers of the tobacco science flag.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 27, 2015 at 17:26 #

      You also should consider immunocompromised vs. severely immunocompromised individuals.

      Here’s one recent study that discusses this in the context of travel:

      “Vaccination with PCV13 is recommended in those <65 years who are immunocompromised or have asplenia, with revaccination at 5-year intervals with PCV13."

      "Inactivated influenza vaccines should be administered annually unless there is profound immunosuppression, such as active treatment for transplant rejection or recent transplant prior to vaccination"

      "Hepatitis B vaccination is essential when traveling to low-resource settings in case medical care is sought. "

      "The acellular tetanus or Tdap vaccines can be given to those who have not received a booster within 10 years. "

      ". The inactivated polio vaccine is recommended for immunocompromised individuals who are traveling to regions with polio outbreaks, in addition to their routine childhood series of vaccines. "

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 27, 2015 at 17:28 #

        An immunocompromised individual should absolutely discuss vaccination with his/her specialist. He/she is in greater need of protection and should also be more aware of the risks.

  10. Roger Kulp February 28, 2015 at 17:53 #

    As far as kids with autism and autoimmune/inflammatory disease is concerned,these kids did not just suddenly acquire inflammatory or autoimmune disease as a result of vaccines.There is usually both a strong family history of such diseases,and a mother that has some kind of autoimmune disorder herself.Autoimmune disorders are passed from mother to child.These kids are immunocompromised before they come out of the womb.


  1. Press Release: New Research Finds No Evidence That Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines Affect Neurodevelopment and Behavior in Infant Primates | Left Brain Right Brain - April 26, 2015

    […] Johnson Center (formerly Thoughtful House). It is about a recent follow-up study they performed (discussed here). I’ll give the press release below with no further comment except to highlight this […]

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