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Comment on: Maternal autoantibodies are associated with abnormal brain enlargement in a subgroup of children with autism spectrum disorder

14 Feb

In 2008 a paper opened up a new area of research in autism risk factors: Autism: maternally derived antibodies specific for fetal brain proteins. The researchers at the U.C. Davis MIND Institute found that for a subset of autistic kids, they could find antibodies in the mothers’ sera that reacted to human fetal brain tissue. Other teams have found similar results, and the MIND researchers have continued to explore this topic.

In the present study, the researchers studied 131 ASD kids and 50 non-ASD controls. 10 of the ASD kids were born to mothers with the brain specific autoantibodies detected in their serum. Autism severity, by their measure, was the same for the two ASD groups. The rate of develpmental regression is the same for the two groups, but strikes me as rather high at 40-50% . Previous studies by this team and others indicated a higher rate of regression in the ASD kids in the maternal-autoantibody group.

Brain volumes were measured via MRI. Most children were tested during sleep. 10 children (all ASD) were tested under anesthesia. Scans were corrected for instrument distortions before volumes were measured. Brain volumes were higher for the ASD kids than the typical kids, consistent with previous results. However, the kids in the maternal autoantibody group had brain volumes even higher than the rest of the ASD kids. The kids in the maternal autoantibody group had brains 12% larger on average than the non ASD kids, while the rest of the ASD group had about 4.4% larger volumes.

The volume differences were not the same over the entire brain:

Furthermore, the frontal lobe was selectively enlarged in the ASD-IgG children relative to other ASD children, and both gray and white matter were similarly affected.

Previous work by the authors indicate the possibility that the autoantibodies themselves might cause brain differences resulting in autism. Their animal model was rhesus monkeys, whose mothers were injected with the autoantibodies.

The authors note there are a number of open questions:

Obviously, several questions remain: What are the brain antigens recognized by the 37/73 kDa maternal IgG autoantibodies, and what is their role normal neurodevelopment? What induces the production of these antibodies in some women but not in others? What is the mechanism by which these maternal autoantibodies alter brain development? Are there processes that could be implemented to block the deleterious effects of the antibodies? Studies are currently underway to address each of these issues and they will undoubtedly shed more light on the role that maternal
autoantibodies may play in ASD and abnormal brain enlargement in ASD.

Another open question they raise has to do with siblings of the autoantibody ASD kids. In specific, since these autoantibodies can persist in the mother’s serum for many years, it is likely that younger siblings are exposed to them as well. If these children do not develop ASD, what is the reason?

The brain volume differences are shown in summarized in this figure:

Antibodies figure

There is a large spread for the brain volumes for the non-autoantibody ASD kids. While on average they are larger, a number are comparable to the average for non-ASD kids. Also, there is a large overlap between the ASD groups from parents positive for the autoantibodies and without the autoantibodies. The kids in the autoantibody group are almost all at the high end of the distribution for the non-ASD kids.

The main thing this paper adds to the autoantibody story is evidence that this may represent a separate group within the ASD population. The work is being performed on members of the Autism Phenome Project. If this is a separate group, so far the evidence is only in brain volume. The authors note: “There were no differences in age, height, autism severity, or DQ between the two ASD groups. Furthermore, the two groups did not differ in the rate of parent reported history of regression.” So on other physical measures, and on autism-based measures, there are no differences. Obviously it would be valuable to see diffrences in autism-specific measures so we could back track how those measures are related to etiology and brain structure. But it is also interesting that this group does not have differences as it could indicate multiple pathways are not always distinct in the end result in autism development.

Nordahl, C., Braunschweig, D., Iosif, A., Lee, A., Rogers, S., Ashwood, P., Amaral, D., & Van de Water, J. (2013). Maternal autoantibodies are associated with abnormal brain enlargement in a subgroup of children with autism spectrum disorder Brain, Behavior, and Immunity DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.01.084

By Matt Carey

Criminal Charges Dropped Against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Researcher Judy Mikovits

15 Jun

Science Insider has been reporting on the research and, well, drama surrounding the idea that XMRV (Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus) and its proposed link to chronic fatigue syndrome.

XMRV has also been proposed as being linked to autism.

This research came out of the Whitemore Peterson Institute (WPI) and former WPI research Judy Mikovits.

There has been a lot of controversy over the research (for example, Science retracting one paper) as well as Ms. Mikovits. Judy Mikovits was let go from WPI and later charged with having materials removed from the institute. Charges around that have been dropped , but a civil case is still active.

Last November, the district attorney in Washoe County, Nevada, filed a criminal complaint against Mikovits that charged the virologist with illegally taking computer data and related property from her former employer, the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) in Reno, Nevada. In a separate civil court that month, WPI filed suit against Mikovits over her alleged possession of similar material, which included the laboratory notebooks she compiled while doing the CFS research.

On 11 June, the district attorney’s office for Washoe County filed a petition to dismiss the criminal charges against Mikovits without prejudice (which means they can file a related complaint in the future), a clerk to the Justice Court of Reno told ScienceInsider.

Ms. Mikovits joined the team of Ian Lipkin who is part of the multi-site team investigating the proposed XMRV/CFS link:

Mikovits told ScienceInsider that the only work she has been able to find has been collaborating on a large study funded by the National Institutes of Health that should be the final word on the otherwise dismissed theory that CFS is linked to a mouse retrovirus, XMRV, or its relatives. “Everyone who wanted to work with me was deterred by the threat of litigation,” Mikovits wrote in an e-mail.

The results of the large study, led by Ian Lipkin of Columbia University, are expected to be revealed in the next few weeks.

The proposed XMRV/autism link was made public before any scientific results were made available. However, two papers have been published since that news broke pointing away from an XMRV/autism link

Lack of infection with XMRV or other MLV-related viruses in blood, post-mortem brains and paternal gametes of autistic individuals.


PCR and serology find no association between xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and autism.

Detection of Plasma Autoantibodies to Brain Tissue in Young Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorders

25 Mar

Researchers at the MIND Institute published studies in the past few years correlating antibodies to brain tissue and autism. The first study of this sort (that I recall) studied whether the mother had antibodies to fetal brain tissue: Autism: maternally derived antibodies specific for fetal brain proteins. Other studies have looked at autoantibodies within the plasma of the autistics themselves: Detection of autoantibodies to neural cells of the cerebellum in the plasma of subjects with autism spectrum disorders.

The idea is fairly simple. If the mother or the autistic has antibodies against brain tissue, this might lead to an increased risk of autism.

There are even patent applications in for use of these methods to For example, a 2011 patent application US20110038872A1: METHODS OF DIAGNOSING AND TREATING AUTISM:

Determining a risk of an offspring for developing an autism spectrum disorder comprises identifying in a biological sample from the mother of the offspring in the presence of maternal antibodies that bind to the biomarkers

This past week, another paper from the MIND group came out:

Detection of Plasma Autoantibodies to Brain Tissue in Young Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorders

In this study they looked for autoantibodies and compared autistics and non-autistics. They found no differences between the groups in frequency of autoantibodies.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by impaired language and social skills, often with restricted interests and stereotyped behaviors. A previous investigation of blood plasma from children with ASDs (mean age = 5½ years) demonstrated that 21% of samples contained autoantibodies that reacted intensely with GABAergic Golgi neurons of the cerebellum while no samples from non-sibling, typically developing children showed similar staining (Wills et al., 2009). In order to characterize the clinical features of children positive for these autoantibodies, we analyzed plasma samples from children enrolled in the Autism Phenome Project, a multidisciplinary project aimed at identifying subtypes of ASD. Plasma from male and female children (mean age = 3.2 years) was analyzed immunohistochemically for the presence of autoantibodies using histological sections of macaque monkey brain. Immunoreactivity to cerebellar Golgi neurons and other presumed interneurons was observed for some samples but there was no difference in the rate of occurrence of these autoantibodies between children with ASD and their typically developing peers. Staining of neurons, punctate profiles in the molecular layer of the dentate gyrus, and neuronal nuclei were also observed. Taken together, 42% of controls and subjects with ASD demonstrated immunoreactivity to some neural element. Interestingly, children whose plasma reacted to brain tissue had scores on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) that indicated increased behavioral and emotional problems. Children whose plasma was immunoreactive with neuronal cell bodies scored higher on multiple CBCL scales. These studies indicate that additional research into the genesis and prevalence of brain-directed autoantibodies is warranted.

” Immunoreactivity to cerebellar Golgi neurons and other presumed interneurons was observed for some samples but there was no difference in the rate of occurrence of these autoantibodies between children with ASD and their typically developing peers.”

John’s Hopkins FAQs: The meaning of neuroinflammatory findings in autism

30 Nov

In their recent series on autism the Chicago Tribune exposed how a Johns Hopkins team’s findings of neuroinflammation have been misused to justify unproven autism treatments.

The Tribune included very short piece, Researchers warn against misusing report. The piece includes a link with some very valuable information, but it is unfortunately somewhat obscure. The web address they list ( is unlinked, and actually links through to the Hopkins team’s FAQ.

That FAQ is definitely worth reading and referring to when you read or hear “neuroinflammation”.

The FAQ is rather thorough, and I am in danger of just copying the entire thing here. Since I haven’t asked for permission, I’ll quote a small fraction of the FAQ. Yes, I am aware of the irony there–cherry picking information from this team is exactly what has led to the problems the Tribune reported upon. So I’ll say it again: go and read the FAQ for yourself.

Here is part of question 2:

Is neuroinflammation always present in the brain of autistic patients?

NOT necessarily. Since autism is a disorder that is highly variable in the ways it presents, and may be associated with multiple causes, it is possible that our sample of cases does not represent the entire autistic spectrum.

Here’s part of question

Are microglial and astroglial reactions always bad for the brain?

NO. The microglia and astroglia in the CNS may have a two-sided role in the inflammatory responses of the brain: they can act both as direct effectors of injury and on the other hand as protectors of the brain.

I’ll include all of question 12:

If there is neuroinflammation in the brain of some autistic patients, is treatment with anti-inflammatory or immunomodulatory medications indicated?

At present, THERE IS NO indication for using anti-inflammatory medications in patients with autism. Immunomodulatory or anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids (e.g. prednisone or methylprednisolone), immunosupressants (e.g. Azathioprine, methotrexate, cyclophosphamide) or modulators of immune reactions (e.g. intravenous immunoglobulins, IVIG) WOULD NOT HAVE a significant effect on neuroglial activation because these drugs work mostly on adaptive immunity by reducing the production of immunoglobulins, decreasing the production of T cells and limiting the infiltration of inflammatory cells into areas of tissue injury. Our study demonstrated NO EVIDENCE at all for these types of immune reactions. There are ongoing experimental studies to examine the effect of drugs that limit the activation of microglia and astrocytes, but their use in humans must await further evidence of their efficacy and safety

Capitals are in the original.

The Hopkins team is the source when it comes to neuroinflammation in autism. If they chose to write this FAQ and emphasize some points in all capitals, it’s well worth taking them seriously.

"I don't believe that"

29 Aug

To promote his new book ‘Autism’s False Prophets. Bad science, risky medicine and the search for a cure’ (Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada) – and look for a review here very, very soon – Dr Paul Offit went on the US radio show Talk of the nation ‘Science Friday’ earlier today.

It turned into a microcosm of exactly the sort of scenario that those of us who have blogged about this for some time have come to expect. A question, a reasoned response and then a flat statement of denial.

The show began with the show host (who’s name I didn’t catch) asking why people weren’t vaccinating. Offit gave the answers we all know.

Then the show took a turn into what could’ve been a blog argument on any one of a number of blogs – including this one. A caller called Chantelle/Chantal came on the line and essentially asked Dr Offit how it could possibly be safe for a newborn to receive up to 1250micrograms of Aluminium and that there hadn’t been any studies on how Aluminium could affect a child. She said –

that is why I will not follow the CDC’s guidelines….my child will be vaccinated on my own schedule.

(Her emphasis)

Dr Offit answered with a brief overview of Aluminium’s role in a vaccine is and then told Chantal the simple truth – one that I blogged about fairly recently – there’s more Aluminium in between 50 days to a years worth of breast milk than in the entire vaccine schedule:

We live on the planet Earth. If we choose to live on the planet Earth that means we’re going to be exposed to light metals like Aluminium and heavy metals like mercury.

Chantal then seemed (I wasn’t entirely clear) to want to compare kids with kidney issues (who clearly need to be careful with Aluminium) with _all_ kids. As Dr Offit stated – that’s hardly a valid or real-world comparison.

Then the host asked a great question:

Chantal, is there anything Dr Offit could tell you that would change your mind


The answer: “Absolutely not”.

And there we have it. That is the rock bottom of every single argument the autism/antivax brigade peddle. Screw the science, screw the facts. I just don’t want to hear it and I will put my fingers in my ears and make ‘la-la’ noises until you go away.

Chantal then goes on to justify this ridiculous stance by saying (a la Jenny McCarthy) that there is no independent science supporting vaccine safety. This is tosh. A study this is submitted for peer review to a science journal is peer reviewed by independent experts from the relevant field all over the world. And then, the ultimate test of impartiality takes place – the science is either replicated or it isn’t. Replicated science _has to be_ by definition be independent of its author. How could it not be? If we want to see the opposite of reproducible science, then that can be arranged.

Chantal goes on to say that Dr Offit ‘makes millions’ from speaking about the safety of vaccines. A bizarre claim that I’m pretty sure is not true. He then goes on to describe the ‘high bar’ that vaccine studies must pass. Studies with tens of thousands of participants.

Next, Chantal tries the ‘too many too soon’ dogma that we’ve become recently familiar with. She claims ‘six at one time is absurd’. Dr Offit gives Chantal some facts to play with on that score too:

…the bacteria that live on their nose [a newborn], or the surface of their throat are literally in the trillions. Those bacteria have between 2,000 and 6,000 immunological components and consequently our body makes grams of antibody to combat these bacteria….The number of immunological challenges contained in vaccines is not figuratively, it is literally a drop in the ocean of what you encounter every day.

(Emphasis his, slight paraphrasing)

Chantal then got a bit snappy.

So tell me…how many studies have been done on vaccine loading, which means five or six vaccines at one time. How many?

Dr Offit’s answer:

Somewhere in the vicinity of the high hundreds to low thousands.


I don’t believe that.

Boom! There it is again – she simply doesn’t believe it. Screw the facts, screw the evidence, my fingers are going right back in my ears…la-la-la-la…I can’t hear you…

Dr Offit explains further that any vaccine in the US has to undergo something called a ‘concomitant use study’. These are to establish that vaccines work OK together.

You have to show that vaccine does not interfere with the immune response or the safety of existing vaccines and similarly that existing vaccines don’t interfere with the immune response or the safety of the new vaccine

Dr Offit said ‘high hundreds to low thousands’ of studies (Chantal didn’t believe that remember). A simple Google search reveals over 1,800 results for that phrase. Searching PubMed for ‘concomitant vaccine’ returns over 700.

Dr Offit closes the interview by saying he doesn’t believe all parents are as close minded as Chantal. He uses a nicer phrase than that as he’s a gentleman but that’s how I see it. Close minded to the point of obstinate stupidity.

For some people, it truly doesn’t matter what the facts are, or what the science is. They just stick their fingers in their ears.


Leaky gut aka intestinal permeability

18 Aug

Leaky Gut syndrome is a hypothesis associated with autism by people who believe that toxins (particularly those caused by vaccines – notably the MMR) weakens the lining of the bowel letting various rubbish thorough (undigested food, toxins, whatever) and triggering an immune response and/or leading to Wakefield’s much-hyped but never backed up Autistic Enterocolitis.

This unverified condition has (of course) been found by any number of Wakefield supporters and yet, curiously, no researchers external to Wakefield’s peers have found any evidence for it and the phrase exists as a diagnosis within that AltMed community.

In fact, its not curious at all as the only groups that _did_ find evidence for ‘Autistic Enterocolitis’ used the now discredited Unigentics lab run by John O’Leary.

Anyway, in Feb of this year a team from the University of Calgary published a Pilot study into the ‘leaky gut’ (posh name: ‘intestinal permeability’) issue.

They enrolled 14 autistic kids (all of whom had parents who reported gastric issues), 7 NT siblings of these kids, and 8 NT non-related controls.

In the ‘leaky gut’ opioid-excess theory, it is proposed that increased intestinal permeability in children allows for increased absorption of dietary peptides, which ultimately leads to disruption of neuroregulatory mechanisms and normal brain development.

The reason for choosing autistic kids who were reported by parents to have gastric issues is that the researchers reasoned that these kids would be more likely to have ‘abnormal gastrointestinal tests’.

In this population, the researchers found:

we neither demonstrate abnormal small intestinal permeability, nor abnormal postprandial responses of the enteroendocrine peptide GLP-2.


It has been suggested that increased permeability may be causally related to the onset of the inflammatory bowel disease and not just a consequence of inflammation. Our data does not support a similar hypothesis in autism.


Our study did not detect differences in the functional gastrointestinal parameters measured in a group of children with autism. Although there may be a subset of children with autism with a specific gastrointestinal abnormality there is no firm evidence yet of a role for gastrointestinal dysfunction in
the etiology of autism.

One of the things the authors reported that struck me was:

The subtle endoscopic and histological findings of lymphonodular hyperplasia in the colon and ileum previously described in ‘‘autistic enterocolitis’’ (Wakefield et al. 1998, 2005) are also seen in normally developing children with similar gastrointestinal symptoms (Furlano et al. 2001).

This is only a pilot study of course so not too much can be read into the results but if the study is expanded upon and replicated then the results would be interesting to see. Its certainly a smallish spanner in the works of the ‘autistic enterocolitis’ believers.

Dr. Rust testifies in the Autism Omnibus Hearing

22 May

Today Dr. Robert Rust testified in the thimerosal-only causation portion of the Autism Omnibus Proceedings. Dr. Rust also testified in the Hazlehurst case regarding the combined MMR-thimerosal causation hypothesis. You can find Dr. Rust’s testimony in the Hazlehurst case in the Day 3 transcript from that case. Today is “Day 8” of the thimerosal portion so you can look for the “Day 8” mp3 files on the US Federal Court website.

Dr. Rust has some impressive credentials. He is the Thomas E. Worrall, Jr. Professor in Epileptology and Neurology, and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Virginia. He had a residency in Pediatrics at Yale University and in Child Neurology and neurochemistry at Washington University in St. Louis. He also had a fellowship in Neurochemistry, Neonatal Neurology, and Brain Metabolism, at Washington University. A University of Virginia website says that he has clinical interests in epilepsy, headache, neonatal neurology and degenerative disorders.

Dr. Rust had a lot of material to cover in his testimony. It seemed to me that he was trying to cover a semester or two’s worth of neurodevelopment and neurophysiology in a couple of hours, trying to keep it simple enough for the needs of the court, and yet detailed enough to make some critical points about how neurons, microglia and astroglia work and discussing what is known about regression in autism and what might cause it. He also discussed some of the particulars of the medical records of William Mead and Jordan King. Their main DAN! doctor is Dr. John Green III of Oregon. Dr. Green is a favorite DAN! doctor as was made clear in the testimony by Jordan King’s mother. She said something like seeing Dr. Green was “invitation only.” No doubt. Many of the lab tests discussed were ordered by Dr. Green, and many of the therapies the boys had were ordered or administered by Dr. Green, including one very traumatic IVIG infusion Mr. Mead described his son enduring.

Bogus lab tests are a huge problem in autism “biomedical” therapies. Not that all of the lab tests used by all DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) doctors are bogus, but it sure seems like many of those that parents share with the public are highly questionable lab tests such as hair analysis for heavy metals, and urine heavy metals lab tests from one particular lab that was mentioned several times in the testimony. For instance, an image of one of these very lab tests was used as an illustration at the top of a blog entry on a certain autism hysteria promoting group blog recently.

When Dr. Mumper testified she commented about how one of the boy’s lab results had this extremely high level of tin while the other metals were in a normal range. (Keeping in mind that the “normal ranges” on these tests are nearly arbitrary and don’t have much to do with real world levels of anything in healthy or sick autistic children.) Dr Mumper acted as if this was not that weird and she said a couple of times, at least, that when they see such a high level of tin in a child she will ask the parents if the kids are eating a lot of toothpaste or drinking a lot of juice from “juice boxes”. She didn’t offer a specific therapy for “tin intoxication”, whereas if mercury had been that high they no doubt would have all been sobbing over the horror of it all. At any rate, Dr. Rust made an interesting point that high levels of tin are almost unheard of and to get a high enough level of tin to affect health, it basically takes a decade or two of working with tin every day where the tin is exposed to heat and is creating tin vapor and a worker is inhaling it. This didn’t reflect well on the quality of that lab’s tests, or on Dr. Mumper’s ability to think critically about such things as lab test results, in my opinion.

The following is a very rough transcript of one portion of Dr. Rust’s testimony that I found very interesting. I don’t know if the Dept. of Justice lawyer was Ms. Renzi, but I think it was, so I’m using her name for the time being. [Edit: The DoJ lawyer was Ms. Esposito, not Ms. Renzi. This portion of the audio transcript is found in the 2nd file on day 9 the following part is found around a 30 minutes into that recording). The words I added in parentheses are not direct quotes but gives the meaning of what was said. I can’t type that fast and so as I was taking notes I didn’t transcribe portions of it word for word, but got the gist.

Ms. Renz Esposito: I’d like to discuss some of the treatments given to these children.

Esposito:: (Can you tell us if) IVIG therapy (is helpful in autism?)

Rust: t’s been tried along with it’s cousin corticosteroids, but no improvement has been seen bahaviorally, functionally or with EEG.

Esposito:: (Can you tell us about the) supplements (given to William Mead and Jordan King?)

Rust: We don’t hear about most of them probably, to the extent that there is data (these supplements don’t help), to the extent that parents tell us what they are using.

Esposito:: Secretin?

Rust: Secretin was found not to be effective

Esposito:: Chelation?

Rust: I’ve seen no evidence that chelation is helpful in this setting…. (recalls when kids with lead poisoning were chelated in a clinic/hospital where he work) considerable pain it caused. Children would be screaming on the way into chelation.

Esposito: Saunas?

Rust: Saunas can help with headaches and stress and tensions but in autism there is nothing to sweat out except some of the notions about treatments that have been offered to the child.

Esposito:: Dr. Green’s therapies…. (for William Mead or Jordan King) included an implantation enema, ideally with a colonic delivery system, using maternal fetal [fecal?] supernate…

Rust: So far as I know that the approach has been around since Roman times, …. used to be a regular feature of childbirth.

Esposito:: Feeding a child fermented vegetables?

Rust: …(doesn’t change autism)…

Esposito: Earthworm eggs?

Rust: No known benefit that I’m aware of. (The discussion changed to something about herbal treatments.) I had a patient with seizures, the parents gave a Chinese herbal (medicine). The Chinese botanical was interesting. We were astonished (the child had a striking improvement in seizures) , we sent a sample of it to a lab and found out it was phenobarbital.

Esposito: Charcoal?

Rust: (No reason to think it would help)

Esposito: Oral baygam (oral immune globulin)?

Rust: I have no information about that.

Esposito: Valtrex?

Rust: I don’t know any reason to think it would work. (a little later he added that Valtrex is a drug used to treat herpes infections.)

Esposito:: Are you familiar with Eskimo oil?

Rust: (slightly amused) No I haven’t heard of that.

Esposito: Actos?

Rust: (I don’t know of any benefit for autism.)

Esposito: If there were a report of improvement would you extrapolate that there was a cause of autism.

Esposito: Is it standard practice to prescribe something to patients and then sell it to them?

Russ: (A doctor’s obligation to the patient) is to listen without repeating their problems… (not to sell the patient treatments) … to keep an office of Amway products. It trades on the prestige we have and the reliance that the patients have on us. It is one of the most grave violations of our code of ethics.

Esposito: Do you prescribe these things?

Russ: No …

Esposito: Do other neurologists prescribe these things?

Russ: No …

The “implantation enema” as I understood it, that was recommended by Dr. Green for one of the boys
was a “fecal enema“.

Specifically, again as I understood it, what was recommended was to take some of the boy’s mother’s feces and mix it with water and infuse that into the boy’s colon or something. From Dr. Rust’s response I got the feeling that he didn’t understand that this particular enema wasn’t just a water enema, but that the idea was to put the germs from the mom’s feces into the boy’s intestines.

Now I thought Dr. Rashid Buttar’s urine injections were bizarre. This one ranks right up there, though, for sheer gross-out factor. And how about those “earthworm eggs”? It’s possible that what Ms. Renzi asked about was “whipworm eggs.” Perhaps I heard what she said wrong, but it sounded like “earthworm eggs” [edit: She said “earthworm eggs”]. Taking pig whipworm eggs orally is an alternative therapy for Crohn’s disease, apparently. I remember reading somewhere that a mom asked Dr. Andrew Wakefield what he thought of giving autistic kids worms to treat their gut problems. He was quoted by that mom as saying that he didn’t think it would work for autistic children’s guts.

I encourage everyone to listen to the recordings of the autism omnibus and to read the transcripts, they are very educational. One can learn a lot about the ‘therapies’ being offered to parents of autistic children as well as some of the best of the best of the science that is known about autism. I don’t agree with everything the experts are saying, such as when Dr. Rust called autism a “disease”, but it’s still very interesting listening if you are at all interested in autism.

Maternal antibodies involved in aetiology of autism(s)

26 Mar

A new study released by John Hopkins indicates that maternal antibodies may play a role in the aetiology of autism:

[a]…possible explanation involves the transfer of reactive antibodies from the mother through the placenta to the fetus.

To investigate the latter, the team measured the antibody-brain reaction in blood samples from 100 mothers with and 100 mothers without a child diagnosed with autism.

Mothers of children with autism had a stronger reactivity or more areas of reactivity between antibodies and brain proteins compared with mothers without an autistic child. The presence of maternal antibodies also correlated with having a child with developmental regression, a primary feature of autism.

Things to note. No one, repeat no one is assigning _blame_ to mothers. I have no doubt there will be an attempt in some quarters to twist this into an attack on the sainthood of autism parents but its really not. Biology is biology. C’est la vie. Nobody in this study had the last name Bettlehiem.

Its a fascinating hypothesis though. Along with the latest cutting edge science that has found a genetic basis in approximately 40% of autism this hypothesis utilises good ideas in a rigorously scientific way. Of course, it may well turn out to be wildly wrong, but its a nice change to see some science that’s not about cure or vaccines but just interesting in and of itself.