Respectful Insolence

I’m not infrequently asked why the myth that vaccines cause autism and other anti-vaccine myths are so stubbornly resistant to the science that time and time again fails to support them. Certainly useful celebrity idiots like Jenny McCarthy are one reason. So, too, are anti-vaccine propaganda websites and blogs such as Age of Autism and anti-vaccine organizations like Generation Rescue, the National Vaccine Information Center, and SafeMinds and the organizations that publish them. However, these are clearly not the only reason. Alone, these people and organizations are in general quite rightly viewed as fringe, although they are very popular among the anti-vaccine movement. It is when such groups find a willing conduit for their pseudoscience in the “mainstream media” that they see the opportunity to attain a degree of seeming respectability that they can’t achieve on their own based on science. Worse, when mainstream news organizations or reporters fall for the pseudoscience claiming that vaccines cause autism, they contribute to the persistence of this myth outside the activist core of the anti-vaccine movement in the public at large.

Unfortunately, in TV news at least, the role of mainstream media propagandist for the anti-vaccine movement has been taken on with gusto by a CBS News correspondent named Sharyl Attkisson, and, oops, she did it again just this Thursday with an article entitled Vaccines and autism: a new scientific review, in which she pimps a truly horrible “review” of the evidence base regarding whether vaccines cause or predispose to autism. Interestingly, she’s quite late. AoA was promoting this article two months ago, and I even mentioned it in the context of an post taking down a recent excretion from David Kirby. On the other hand, April is Autism Awareness Month, and I can always count on the anti-vaccine movement to lay down some vaccine pseudoscience on or around April 1 every year (I leave it to the reader to judge the appropriateness of that date); so perhaps this latest from Attkisson is the opening salvo for this year’s campaign. Her article opens:

For all those who’ve declared the autism-vaccine debate over – a new scientific review begs to differ. It considers a host of peer-reviewed, published theories that show possible connections between vaccines and autism.

The article in the Journal of Immunotoxicology is entitled “Theoretical aspects of autism: Causes–A review.” The author is Helen Ratajczak, surprisingly herself a former senior scientist at a pharmaceutical firm. Ratajczak did what nobody else apparently has bothered to do: she reviewed the body of published science since autism was first described in 1943. Not just one theory suggested by research such as the role of MMR shots, or the mercury preservative thimerosal; but all of them.

Ratajczak’s article states, in part, that “Documented causes of autism include genetic mutations and/or deletions, viral infections, and encephalitis [brain damage] following vaccination [emphasis added]. Therefore, autism is the result of genetic defects and/or inflammation of the brain.”

Note the classic crank technique of trying to convince the reader that the “debate is not over,” that the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism is, in fact, “pining for the fjords” when in fact, on a strictly scientific basis, the hypothesis is at least as dead as that famous parrot, with Attkisson playing the role of the shopkeeper trying to convince his customer that “‘E’s resting” while raving about the parrot’s “beautiful plumage.” Meanwhile, John Cleese is pounding the hypothesis against the counter yelling, “Hellooo, Polly!” and getting no response, at least from a scientific standpoint.

Attkisson then goes on to write:

Ratajczak also looks at a factor that hasn’t been widely discussed: human DNA contained in vaccines. That’s right, human DNA. Ratajczak reports that about the same time vaccine makers took most thimerosal out of most vaccines (with the exception of flu shots which still widely contain thimerosal), they began making some vaccines using human tissue. Ratajczak says human tissue is currently used in 23 vaccines. She discusses the increase in autism incidences corresponding with the introduction of human DNA to MMR vaccine, and suggests the two could be linked. Ratajczak also says an additional increased spike in autism occurred in 1995 when chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue.

Why could human DNA potentially cause brain damage? The way Ratajczak explained it to me: “Because it’s human DNA and recipients are humans, there’s homologous recombinaltion tiniker. That DNA is incorporated into the host DNA. Now it’s changed, altered self and body kills it. Where is this most expressed? The neurons of the brain. Now you have body killing the brain cells and it’s an ongoing inflammation. It doesn’t stop, it continues through the life of that individual.”

There’s only one phrase to describe this idea: The stupid, it burns. It sears. It scalds the skin off my flesh. It opoptoses my neurons. (Well, not really, over the last six years I’ve built up formidable defenses against such scientific ignorance.)

I have experience with working with DNA, human, mouse, and otherwise, including injecting it into tissues and trying to get it to express the protein for which it encodes. This is not a trivial matter. Think of it this way. If it were, gene therapy would be an almost trivial matter. But it’s not. In general, it’s difficult to induce human cells to take up foreign DNA in tissue. Even with viral vectors, it’s hard to get more than a small percentage of cells not only to take up the DNA but to express detectable levels of protein. Muscle is one tissue that can take up naked plasmid DNA and actually express it. Indeed, this technique has been used to generate cancer vaccines, where plasmid DNA is injected into the muscle in order to cause it to make a certain protein, which then provokes an immune response. But doing this is not easy, and the DNA is not detectably incorporated into the DNA of the muscle cells. Its gene expression is extranuclear (outside the nucleus).

But that’s not all. Even human cells that can take up random bits of extracellular DNA at very low efficiency (like muscle) do not integrate that DNA into their genome. Even if the DNA did reach the nucleus, recombination into the host genome would be both random and rare. Each cell would incorporate different bits of DNA into different locations in its genome. Does Dr. Ratajczak even know basic molecular biology? No, never mind. I think I know the answer to that one, and you do too.

But that’s still not all.

Dr. Ratajczak states that the DNA from vaccines is human DNA. Even if that human DNA did undergo homologous recombination, it would still be human DNA making human proteins. Yet Dr. Ratajczak claims that homologous recombination turns that cell into “altered self.” However, the body recognizes a cell as foreign or “altered” through the expression of its cell surface proteins. Consequently, the only likely currently known mechanism by which homologous recombination of human DNA from vaccines might conceivably result in such an autoimmunity phenomenon would be if the DNA from the vaccine somehow resulted in the expression of a foreign or altered protein on the cell surface that the immune system could recognize as foreign. That would mean either integrating into the gene for a cell surface protein or producing a cell surface protein itself. While not impossible, that’s pretty darned unlikely to happen on a scale that would affect more than a single cell, a few at most.

Let’s recap the implausibility of Dr. Ratajczak’s idea. (I refuse to dignify it with the appellation of “hypothesis.”) To do what Dr. Ratajczak claims, the minute amount of human DNA in a vaccine would have to:

  • Find its way to the brain in significant quantities.
  • Make it into the neurons in the brain in significant quantities.
  • Make it into the nucleus of the neurons in significant quantities.
  • Undergo homologous recombination at a detectable level, resulting in either the alteration of a cell surface protein or the expression of a foreign cell surface protein that the immune system can recognize.
  • Undergo homologous recombination in many neurons in such a way that results in the neurons having cell surface protein(s) altered sufficiently to be recognized as foreign.

That’s leaving aside the issue of whether autoimmunity in the brain or chronic brain inflammation is even a cause of autism, which is by no means settled by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s not at all clear whether the markers of inflammation sometimes reported in the brains of autistic children are a cause, a consequence, or merely an epiphenomenon of autism. In other words, Dr. Ratajczak’s hypothesis is incredibly implausible on the basis of what we know about molecular biology and human biology. It’s not quite homeopathy-level implausible, but nonetheless quite implausible. Even so, I’m willing to have my mind changed for me, but there’s only one thing that can possibly do that: Scientific data. Experiments. Clinical trials. Good ones. So I “went to the source,” so to speak, and actually looked at Dr. Ratajczak’s review article being touted by Attkisson to see what she actually said about homologous recombination of human DNA in vaccines as one cause of autism. Here is the sum total of what she said:

Data from a worldwide composite of studies show that an increase in cumulative incidence began about 1988-1990 (McDonald and Paul, 2010). The new version of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (i.e., MMR II) that did not contain Thimerosal was introduced in 1979. By 1983, only the new version was available. Autism in the United States spiked dramatically between 1983 and 1990 from 4-5/10,000 to 1/500. In 1988, two doses of MMR II were recommended to immunize those individuals who did not respond to the first injection. A spike of incidence of autism accompanied the addition of the second dose of MMR II. Also, in 1988, MMR II was used in the United Kingdom, which reported a dramatic increase in prevalence of autism to 1/64 (noted above). Canada, Denmark, and Japan also reported dramatic increases in prevalence of autism. It is important to note that unlike the former MMR, the rubella component of MMR II was propagated in a human cell line derived from embryonic lung tissue (Merck and Co., Inc., 2010). The MMR II vaccine is contaminated with human DNA from the cell line. This human DNA could be the cause of the spikes in incidence. An additional increased spike in incidence of autism occurred in 1995 when the chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue (Merck and Co., Inc., 2001; Breuer, 2003). The current incidence of autism in the United States, noted above, is approximately 1/100.

The human DNA from the vaccine can be randomly inserted into the recipient’s genes by homologous recombination, a process that occurs spontaneously only within a species. Hot spots for DNA insertion are found on the X chromosome in eight autism-associated genes involved in nerve cell synapse formation, central nervous system development, and mitochondrial function (Deisher, 2010). This could provide some explanation of why autism is predominantly a disease of boys. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that residual human DNA in some vaccines might cause autism.

Later, she writes:

Other reports have also used prevalence data that support an association of the MMR vaccine with an increased prevalence of autism. Furthermore, an examination of the continuing increase in prevalence in autism in the context of the dates of spikes in increase in prevalence which point to the MMR II vaccine (which did not contain Thimerosal) suggests that something “new” caused the increase in incidence of autism. Changes in vaccine schedule occurred over the years such as changes in the age at which vaccines were given (Ramsay et al., 1991). These changes could contribute to the increases in incidence of autism. Another change was how some vaccines were propagated. The “new” component could be the human DNA from the preparation of the rubella component of the MMR II vaccine and the chicken pox vaccine. See “Changes in Rates of Autism Incidence” above. The United States Government and Dr. Geberding, Director of Vaccines at Merck & Co., Inc. say that autistic conditions can result from encephalopathy following vaccination (Child Health Safety, 2010).

I’m the sort of guy who’s data-driven. (I have, after all, chosen as my pseudonym the name of a Plexiglass box of blinking colored lights that is the most advanced computer in the entire galactic federation in an obscure 30-year-old British science fiction show.) If there were scientific data that convincingly suggested a hypothesis, even one as implausible as the one above, I’d think about it and possibly even conclude that this is an area worthy of investigation. There were no data presented, and it’s not as though it would be very difficult to find evidence of the type that would be needed to support Ratajczak’s ideas.

In fact, there weren’t even studies cited that convincingly supported Ratajczak’s assertions. That’s it? I was thinking as I read her article. That’s all she’s got? Seriously? I thought it was a joke; so I read the entire article again. Yes, that is all that she has got: Implying that correlation equals causation, combined with an observation that there are “hot spots” for DNA insertion in the X chromosome in some autism-associated genes. From that, she concludes that the existing data support the hypothesis that human DNA in MMR II could be at least responsible for the “autism epidemic” through homologous recombination in the brain resulting in autoimmunity and chronic inflammation? And she cites the anti-vaccine blog Child Health Safety as one of her references? The date of the CHS entry cited is June 30, 2010. All I could find was this entry, which purports to argue that both Merck’s Director of Vaccines and the U.S. government have admitted that vaccines cause autism all based on the long known science showing that a maternal case of rubella while carrying a fetus can result in autism in the child, something that’s been known for several decades and is in fact one reason why vaccination against rubella is so important. How on earth did this get through peer review. Obviously, the peer reviewers of Dr. Ratajczak’s article were either completely ignorant of the background science (and therefore unqualified) or asleep at the switch.

The rest of Dr. Ratajczak’s article is, as you might expect, a greatest hits collection of anti-vaccine hypotheses, speculations, ideas, and brain farts mixed with the occasional–and I do mean occasional–grain of scientifically supportable hypotheses regarding autism. The vast majority of what is discussed, however, is pure vaccine pseudoscience. The scientifically unsupported idea that mercury in vaccines causes autism? It’s there. The work of the tag team of Geier père et fils, the same team who came up with the idea of chemical castration as a treatment of autism that “works” because according to them testosterone binds mercury, making it easier to chelate? Copiously cited. True, Ratajczak doesn’t specifically cite the Geiers’ unethical clinical trial testing Lupron as a treatment for “precocious puberty” and autism, but she does cite the “scientific” basis that the Geiers used to justify that trial, as well as a lot of the Geiers’ usual execrable studies linking mercury in vaccines with autism. Mitochondrial dysfunction, which has been co-opted by the anti-vaccine movement as an “explanation” for how vaccines supposedly cause autism? It’s there too. She even cites David Ayoub, who is known for thinking that black helicopters are watching him. In other words, her review is 95% pseudoscientific garbage, maybe 5% reasonable science. On second thought, I’m clearly being generous.

Of course, this is not the first time that Sharyl Attkisson has demonstrated herself to be biased in favor of the anti-vaccine movement. Indeed, I’ve known about her activities in this regard going back nearly four years. One particularly prominent example that sticks out in my mind is an article she published on the CBS News website back in 2007 entitled Autism: Why the debate rages, in which she made assertions and arguments of these sorts:

  • Science has been wrong before. She used Vioxx and Thalidomide as examples. Never mind that Thalidomide was never approved in the U.S. at the time of all the birth defects (it’s approved now to treat multiple myeloma), and in fact was an example of the FDA doing its job. In classic crank fashion, Attkisson used these examples to argue that science must be wrong now about thimerosal in vaccines. She even pulls out the hoary “refrigerator mother” gambit, implying that because there was a time that scientists speculated that cold, uncaring mothers contributed to or triggered autism and were clearly wrong about that, they must be wrong about vaccines now.
  • The classic “pharma shill gambit.” Attkisson ranted on about how scientists do research for vaccine companies, linking the pro-vaccine group Every Child By Two to pharmaceutical companies.
  • Science doesn’t know everything. Sample quote: “There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out.” Well, there is no definitive research ruling out a link between autism and pixies, either.
  • Because scientists don’t know what is causing the “autism epidemic,” vaccines are a plausible cause.

Truly, Attkisson’s 2007 article was a crank trifecta plus one!

Then, in 2008, Sharyl Attkisson appeared to have been caught almost red-handed taking a letter of protest from a pro-vaccine group called Voices for Vaccines complaining about her reporting to the anti-vaccine group blog Age of Autism, an incident that led Liz Ditz to ask, “How much of Attkisson’s “investigating” consists of rewriting and rewording statements from principals at the advocacy–even propaganda–organization, Age of Autism?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that Attkisson’s reporting on vaccines is nearly indistinguishable from the message put forth by anti-vaccine groups like Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, and the NVIC. Attkisson even falls for bad science in other areas, such as breast cancer research. In fact, you could say that her science reporting when it comes to breast cancer causation is of the same quality as her reporting on vaccines and autism, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

Nor do I mean it as a compliment when I say that, in the wake of Wakefield’s infamous “monkey business study” in 2009, Attkisson inserted her nose farther up Andrew Wakefield’s posterior than even most of the crew at AoA has yet managed:

After all of Attkisson’s pandering to the anti-vaccine movement and promoting its message, one huge question remains. Why does CBS News tolerate Attkisson’s horrible reporting on vaccines and other scientific issues? I can’t speak about her other reporting, but when it comes to science, Sharyl Attkisson is a crank par excellence. She has an agenda; and she tortures the evidence to make it seem to agree with her biases. I also wonder how long it will be before Attkisson joins Dan Olmsted as a writer for AoA. My only surprise is that, nearly four years since I first noticed her, she hasn’t made that move already. I suppose I can always hope that CBS News wises up to the anti-vaccine propagandist working as one of its correspondents and forces Attkisson finally to make that move.

Comments

  1. #1 Mobillivirus Rubeola
    April 5, 2011

    I love, love, love Sheryl. She’s one of my favorites. With the kind of nonsensical bullsh*t she spreads, I can spread even more.

    Now, lay off Jenny. Poor thing had to go to the movies on her own the other night. If an RNA virus could have a heart, mine would have broken.

    If you humans have time, you might want to go check out what Seth Mnookin had to say about her and the idiotic comments by one Jake Crosby. Now, him I hate. I have my quips with the MMR vaccine for obvious reasons (being as how I’m the causative agent of measles), but Jake’s venom is pure evil.

  2. #2 Lawrence
    April 5, 2011

    If it was so easy to insert DNA, gene & stem cell therapies would be an every day occurrance.

    I think a nice letter written to the CBS Ombudsman would be appropriate in this case.

  3. Great Website!

  4. #4 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 5, 2011

    One would think that anyone who had a blood transfusion, transplant, or had in some other way come into contact with human cells (through a wound, say) would also be at risk of autism by this reasoning.

  5. #5 LW
    April 5, 2011

    The point that really puzzles me about the whole human DNA speculation is, aren’t measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox all human diseases? Doesn’t that mean when someone catches them “in the wild” that the disease was, of necessity, grown in human cells with ample opportunity to pick up and transfer human DNA? And wouldn’t a more severe wild-type infection be *more* likely to infect lots more cells, inject DNA into more cells, and thus cause more and worse damage?

  6. #6 ERV
    April 5, 2011

    “Because it’s human DNA and recipients are humans, there’s homologous recombinaltion tiniker. That DNA is incorporated into the host DNA. Now it’s changed, altered self and body kills it. Where is this most expressed? The neurons of the brain. Now you have body killing the brain cells and it’s an ongoing inflammation. It doesn’t stop, it continues through the life of that individual.”

    I suppose anything is ‘possible’ if you have no idea wtf you are talking about. When you arent held back by the cold chains of ‘biochemistry’ and ‘immunology’, the ‘possibilities’ are endless, really.

  7. #7 JohnV
    April 5, 2011

    Dr. Ratajczak’s understand of molecular biology and cell biology are … special … to say the least. I’m extra pleased to see her refer to cell culture as “human tissue” or “fetal tissue”.

  8. #8 René F. Najera
    April 5, 2011

    The point that really puzzles me about the whole human DNA speculation is, aren’t measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox all human diseases? Doesn’t that mean when someone catches them “in the wild” that the disease was, of necessity, grown in human cells with ample opportunity to pick up and transfer human DNA? And wouldn’t a more severe wild-type infection be *more* likely to infect lots more cells, inject DNA into more cells, and thus cause more and worse damage?

    I think their beef is that the viruses for vaccines are grown in fetal tissue and other tissue cultures, and that the vaccines are not deemed cleared of human DNA from those cultures in the manufacturing process. It’s an old gambit. Anti-abortionists use it to say, “See! There’s aborted fetus in vaccines!” or, “They abort babies to put them in vaccines.” All nonsense, of course.

    If manufacturers were to clear everything out of the vaccines, except for the antigens, anti-vaxers like Attkisson would find something else to go after.

  9. #9 Scott Cunningham
    April 5, 2011

    Orac asks:

    Why does CBS News tolerate Attkisson’s horrible reporting on vaccines and other scientific issues?

    Journalism’s a strange business where you can sometimes generate more interest and write more articles by doing your job badly. It’s kind of like politics, where flash in the pan policies that look good in four months and then peter out can do more to launch a career than policies that will benefit society more in the long term.

    That DNA is incorporated into the host DNA. Now it’s changed, altered self and body kills it.

    Of course, it’s an infected cell shedding virions, so cytotoxic T cells would kill it even if it doesn’t have recombinant human DNA. Mutant shmutant, there’s a virus reproducing in there!

    Where is this most expressed? The neurons of the brain.

    Gotta love those unsupported major claims. I did not realize the rare complication encephalitis happened more often than not. Probably because it just ain’t so. That would make sense.

  10. #10 LW
    April 5, 2011

    Ah, I see. I thought she was making what I consider to be the more rational argument that the virus picks up the DNA and spreads it around while infecting cells all over the body.

    So she’s saying the microscopic quantity that *might* be injected intramuscularly *might* make it into the brain and then *might* manage to get into a cell.

    Oh. I’m with Mephistopheles, then. Any contact with human cells must have this potential. Sex, for instance…

  11. #11 Todd W.
    April 5, 2011

    @MB and LW

    You both raise some very, very good points. Bravo!

  12. #12 ERV
    April 5, 2011

    One would think that anyone who had a blood transfusion, transplant, or had in some other way come into contact with human cells (through a wound, say) would also be at risk of autism by this reasoning.

    Youre thinking too narrow. We breathe not only other humans skin cells, but other organisms skin cells all the time (think cat dander allergies), creating the exponentially more ominous human/animal DNA hybrids, aka MANIMALS!

    Screw autism– people with cat allergies are at risk of becoming cats!!!!! WHY WONT THE CDC LOOK INTO THIS???

  13. #13 CellBiologist
    April 5, 2011

    Wow and all that time I wasted trying to transfect neuronal cell lines! Forget about your expensive reagents and complicated protocols, your saying all I need to do is get tiny fragments of unquantified DNA and mix them with the cells and they will magically express? Well, thank god for that, I was going to waste time doing research!

  14. #14 Scott Cunningham
    April 5, 2011

    @MB and LW
    Wait. Attkisson’s suggesting human DNA from the cell culture is going to somehow avoid everything in place to catch foreign material and destroy DNA debris from dead cells, cross the blood brain barrier, enter neurons, cross the nuclear envelope and genetically modify enough neurons to cause serious harm without the virus acting as a vector? That’s spectacularly crazy. I’d be more afriad that a pin dropped by a passing Russian Cosmonaut would re-enter Earth’s gravity, pierce my eyeball and fatally puncture my brain! It’s much more probable.

  15. #15 LW
    April 5, 2011

    Yeah, that’s why I thought she was saying the virus was the vector. The other was too stupid to occur to me.

  16. #16 JayK
    April 5, 2011

    Call me when they have a medical test that is a fool-proof determinant of “autism”. Until then it exists only as a label for psychologists and politicians. Misdiagnoses are still common and prevalent so any statistical analysis that attempts to make the claim of a “sudden rise” in cases is bogus and can be written off immediately.

  17. #17 Dan Weber
    April 5, 2011

    Poor Walter Cronkite. :(

  18. #18 One Queer Fish
    April 5, 2011

    Well if you liked the above you will love this..

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2011/04/jenny-mccarthy-and-byron-katie-on-voiceamerica-radio-for-autism-action-month.html#more

    Jenny McCarthy and Byron Katie on VoiceAmerica Radio for Autism Action Month
    Today! Noon EDT, 9:00am Pacific.

    Autism One: A Conversation of Hope airs live on Tuesdays at 9 AM Pacific / 11 AM Central / 12 Noon Eastern on the VoiceAmerica Health & Wellness Channel. To access the show, log on at http://www.voiceamericahealth.com. All shows will be available in Autism One’s Content Library on the VoiceAmerica Health & Wellness Channel for on-demand and podcast download.

    Nutrition expert and mother of a child with autism, Kristin Selby Gonzalez, interviews inspirational warrior-women on April 5th, 9 AM PT on the VoiceAmerica Health & Wellness Channel to empower parents & caregivers

    Phoenix, AZ (PR-Inside) April 4, 2011 — Autism will be in the news in the weeks to come as America recognizes “Autism Awareness Month.” Throughout the month of April, people will remember the toll which this disorder takes on the lives of children and adults throughout the world. They will also remember the work which doctors, scientists, parents and specialists around the globe are doing to combat the disorder and the millions of dollars which are being raised to provide further research, treatment and therapies.

    “Like warriors who are on the front lines protecting their country, parents and caregivers are on the front lines protecting and caring for their children affected by autism,” Selby Gonzalez said. “As we begin to find ourselves warriors on the front line, we can’t afford to be tired, weary and unhealthy in this battle any more than we can afford to send tired, weary, unhealthy soldiers out to fight for our country”.

    In the midst of the remembering, nutrition expert Kristin Selby Gonzalez has a message: “Don’t forget to care for you!” To spread this message loud and clear, she brought in the best warriors she could find, Jenny McCarthy and Byron Katie, to help caregivers understand the importance of remembering to care for themselves. Both McCarthy and Katie are to be featured in a special 2 ½ hour keynote at the largest comprehensive autism conference in the world, the AutismOne/Generation Rescue Conference of 2011 to be held in Lombard, IL. The conference will take place May 25th – May 29th providing free registration to families and supporting this year’s theme “Autism Recovery on a Budget: Empowering Parents”. McCarthy and Katie will speak on Saturday, May 28th, from 11:15 to 1:45 as they come together to reach out to the caregivers and provide the self-care tools necessary to stay strong on the journey to recover their children from autism.

    These two well-known warrior-women are certainly up to the task.

  19. #19 Darby
    April 5, 2011

    Isn’t the “dramatic rise” of autism still thought to be artifacts of redefinition, increased monitoring, and funding rewards? You can’t correlate two increases if one doesn’t actually exist…

  20. #20 qetzal
    April 5, 2011

    @ERV #12

    Manimal! LOL! I’d forgotten all about that schlockfest. Thanks for the guffaw!

    Thanks to “Dr.” Ratajczak, we know at last where Manimal got his shapeshifting powers. We must all have them by now. I wonder how we activate them? “Shape of … a mutant neuron!”

  21. #21 Beamup
    April 5, 2011

    @ Darby:

    Essentially yes. More precisely, the data do not rule out a modest increase in the underlying rate. But they do not demonstrate such an increase. And they do rule out an increase that is a large fraction of the total rate. Ergo any hypothetical recent environmental factor could account for only a small minority of cases, if it existed at all.

    So the “autism epidemic,” in the sense that the antivax loons use it, is completely dead.

  22. #22 Herp N. Derpington
    April 5, 2011

    Because it’s human DNA and recipients are humans, there’s homologous recombinaltion tiniker. That DNA is incorporated into the host DNA. Now it’s changed, altered self and body kills it.

    there’s homologous recombinaltion tiniker…Now it’s changed, altered self and body kills it.

    recombinaltion tiniker

    σ_o

    How did this article get published?!

  23. #23 _Arthur
    April 5, 2011

    The same “foreign DNA” gambit is used against GM foods. The fear that the altered DNA somehow ends up within our own genes.

    I have a question: when I eat a carrot, how much of the carrot DNA ends up in my genes ?
    Now, let’s try that stunt again with a genetically modified carrot…

    The only difference I could see, is that vaccines are generally not ingested, but inoculated.
    But I very much doubt that stray DNA in the blood can pass thru cell membranes, and then be vectored to the nucleus, and then gleefully incorporated to the DNA.

    Viruses manage that trick, but they have to work for it. Not any and all DNA acts like a virus.

  24. #24 _Arthur
    April 5, 2011

    I guess it’s another rehash of the “toxins” gambit.
    First it was the mercury in vaccines that caused autism.
    When they removed the thimerosal mercury, it was the aluminum, or the formaldehyde.
    Or the NaCl salt.

    Now it’s unseen “DNA”: scary !
    If I remember correctly, most vaccines no longer contain any virus DNA, they contain only the protein that encapsulates a virus DNA/RNA, that’s sufficient to trigger the immune system, and to make sure that future viruses will be recognized and fought off.

    Some vaccines, like the measles vaccine, do contain a live virus.
    But it’s a mild form of the virus, one that is easy to fight off by a healthy immune system. That’s the whole vaccines idea.

    But of course, those people are not anti-vaccine. They are against ever single vaccine, and they invent new reasons all the time.
    But they just really want _safe_ vaccines. Vaccines that contains only safe things like … water ?

  25. Is someone actually proposing an Indiana Jones idol swap of thimerosal poisoning for human DNA auto-splicing in causing autism via vaccines or are they proposing that vaccines didn’t cause autism until human tissue was introduced into them?

    -Karl Withakay

  26. #26 Sauceress
    April 5, 2011

    Thanks Orac!
    I’m now having a flashback to how much my brain hurt when I originally read Ratajczak’s mind boggling trip.
    I spent practically all afternoon staring at a wall.

    All I say is: all of the above..especially ERV and CellBiologist.

  27. #27 someareboojums
    April 5, 2011

    One tangential issue caught my eye.
    Ratajczak writes:

    Hot spots for DNA insertion are found on the X chromosome …. This could provide some explanation of why autism is predominantly a disease of boys.

    Is Ratajczak hypothesizing that autism is caused by homologous DNA splicing on the X-chromosome, and that the presence of a (presumably unmodified) X-chromosome in girls is thus protective against autism? Such a hypothesis, while silly-assed, is eminently testable. It is also inconsistent with a large body of data on autism in twins, which may be the reason she did not develop it in more detail. That, and the silly-assedness, of course.

  28. #28 Enkidu
    April 5, 2011

    There are so many good comments here, it’s almost criminal. LOL

  29. #29 LW
    April 5, 2011

    Just sitting here idly speculating, but wouldn’t the most common result of random incorporation of external DNA into the nucleus be cancer? If so, wouldn’t we deduce that autistic people would be highly likely to develop brain cancer? Are they? And wouldn’t everyone who’s been vaccinated with this vaccine — over a period of almost thirty years — be at high risk of developing cancer, particularly in the arm where the vaccine was administered? Has this been observed?

    For some reason, I suspect that these rather obvious implications were not investigated, and if investigated, would be found not to be upheld.

  30. #30 Sauceress
    April 5, 2011

    I was just having a little laugh out loud when my dog just came up and licked me and…and..gotta go…I smell something outside…grrr..

  31. #31 someareboojums
    April 5, 2011

    Karl Withakay’s metaphor tickled me no end.
    Now I can’t stop imagining Helen Ratajczak with a leather bag of DNA, squinting at the booby-trapped jar of thimerosal.

    “… it’s gotta weigh the same …” [pours out some of bag's contents]

    “… and it’s gotta cut in right when the thimerosal cuts out … OK, here goes!” [swaps bag for jar]

    [distant rumbling, growing louder]

    Look out, Helen! It’s a 20-ton spherical boulder of peer review!

    [runs like hell]

    Up and over with theme.

  32. #32 ERV
    April 5, 2011

    qetzal– Actually, I was referring to George Ws infamous 2006 state-of-the-union, where he rallied against manimal production. :P

    Herp N. Derpington– Why? ‘Tiniker’ is a perfectly cromulent word.

  33. #33 Denice Walter
    April 5, 2011

    While we’re on the topic of journalism & vax:
    It appears that the Dark** Lord of Journalism has won the specialist award ( see pressgazette.co.uk) Woo Hoo!!!

    ** well, we are the Dark Side, aren’t we? I keep getting mixed up-

  34. #34 Dangerous Bacon
    April 5, 2011

    I think LW and others are missing the point when they wonder why “wild type” disease caused by infectious agents doesn’t generate a fraction of the alarm among antivaxers that vaccines do.

    It’s true that full-blown infections by vaccine-preventable diseases generate much greater amounts of Scary Stuff than vaccines, whether it’s “foreign DNA”, various toxins, antigenic load, “inflammatory cytokines” or whatever.

    You just have to remember that vaccines are manufactured in secret labs by white-coated Pharma agents, while viruses and bacteria are part of Nature’s Eternal Bounty that strengthen mankind by culling the herd and bringing parents and sick children closer together through illness-related bonding.

    Logic and evidence don’t apply in this magical world. Vaccines are different. They just are. Thus you wind up with people who are indifferent to an infectious agent like H. influenzae proven to cause fatal meningitis, while waving their arms frantically over the specter of vaccines causing “brain inflammation”.

    Thankfully most parents remain too smart to fall for this nonsense.

  35. #35 Liz Ditz
    April 5, 2011

    @Denise Walter:

    You are mistaken. According to the usual suspects, Brian Deer is

    …the British Establishment’s Lord High Executioner (BELHE) arrives at the Savoy for his professional apotheosis, we ask whether the media have been following the real story in the Wakefield affair.

    But a big congratulation to BELHE, anyway.

    Mike Stanton has the goods on Deer winning the British Press Award’s Specialist Journalist of the Year Award.

    From Deer’s acceptance speech:

    “I’d just like to say that this award does have my name on it but in many ways I think this is an award for the industry as a whole. Because this is a story where some of us, some of my colleagues, our colleagues I think got the story wrong and became prisoners of their sources for over a long period of time. And I think this is an award for an industry that gets it right and an industry that I am very proud to be a party to.”

    So on the one hand, Sharyl Attkisson repeating every anti-vaccination “homologous recombinaltion tiniker”; and on the other hand, Brian Deer — patiently digging and comparing and analyzing.

  36. #36 Liz Ditz
    April 5, 2011

    Shouldn’t Homologous Recombinaltion Tiniker be the title for an award of some sort?

  37. #37 LW
    April 5, 2011

    Yeah, it was a real bonding experience for my great-grandmother when she watched her family die of measles when she was six years old. And she got to see the world, too, when neighbors put her on a train and sent her to distant relatives that she’d never heard of, since there were no family members left alive to care for her.

    But it probably improved the herd by killing off her parents and older siblings, ensuring there were no younger siblings.

    And it was natural, so there’s that.

  38. #38 dedicated lurker
    April 5, 2011

    Well, I just got my overdue TDaP today. If I start to change into some other creature, develop autism or seizures, or suffer brain damage I will certainly keep you all notified.

  39. #39 DaveD
    April 5, 2011

    Well, I just got my overdue TDaP today. If I start to change into some other creature, develop autism or seizures, or suffer brain damage I will certainly keep you all notified.

    Oh, don’t be ridiculous. After the transformation, there’s no way your mutant claws will allow you to operate a keyboard. You’ll have to ask someone else to do it for you — assuming that your bizarrely altered vocal cords can still form intelligible words.

  40. #40 Jud
    April 5, 2011

    Ratajczak did what nobody else apparently has bothered to do: she reviewed the body of published science

    Review the published science…damn, why didn’t I think of that!

  41. #41 Science Mom
    April 5, 2011

    Shouldn’t Homologous Recombinaltion Tiniker be the title for an award of some sort?

    Why yes Liz, it should. I propose in honour of Ratajczak, it should be awarded to new anti-vax cranks on the basis of their creative literature reviews and de novo nomenclature.

  42. #42 LW
    April 5, 2011

    Can anyone guess what “Tiniker” is supposed to mean? I can’t.

  43. #43 titmouse
    April 5, 2011

    So Imma guess the Journal of Immunotoxicology is complete shite as a rule.

  44. #44 V. infernalis
    April 5, 2011

    I guess it’s another rehash of the “toxins” gambit.
    First it was the mercury in vaccines that caused autism.
    When they removed the thimerosal mercury, it was the aluminum, or the formaldehyde.
    Or the NaCl salt.

    Clearly, the next step is to campaign for DNA- (and RNA-) free vaccines.

  45. #45 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 5, 2011

    If I ever form a rock band, we’ll be called Homologous Recombinaltion Tiniker.

    Possibly with an umlaut.

  46. #46 DrDuran
    April 5, 2011

    Oh great a Doc that thinks he can crack your back and fix your autism! Bzzzz…. Thanks for playing “Denver Chiropractor Dr. Scott Brown”

    And he believes that Vaccines cause autism!

    http://www.browncnc.com/autism_2.htm

    Good luck with you BS Doc.

  47. #47 Old Rockin' Dave
    April 5, 2011

    “Because it’s human DNA and recipients are humans, there’s homologous recombinaltion tiniker.”
    OK, I’m sure “recombinaltion” is simply a typo. But what in the name of the Invisible Space Pickle is “tiniker”? When I learned physiology and cell biology I never came across this term but in the intervening years, it appears that it has never been coined yet. Even if you read “recombinaltion tiniker” as “recombination tinker” it still makes no sense and would earn some very vehement red-pencil slashes from any English teacher not suffering a brain injury.
    Walter Cronkite must be turning in his grave; Lawrence K. Altman has probably already ordered a rotisserie for his.

  48. #48 Liz Ditz
    April 6, 2011

    If I ever form a rock band, we’ll be called Homologous Recombinaltion Tiniker.

    Possibly with an umlaut.

    Umlauts only are so 20th century.

    Surely you mean

    Hômölõgòús Rêçømbîñåltîön Tîñikér.

    Makes about as much sense as the Ratajczak paper.

  49. #49 GlaxxonPharmaCOM
    April 6, 2011

    MESSAGE BEGINS————————

    Shills & Minions,
    Really, have you learned nothing from reading your Shills & Minions Manual? A Tiniker (only the Greater Vintari Tiniker to be precise) is one of our brain mites we use to inject our mind control DNA into your brains. Vaccines are simply brimming with the little buggers.

    Read. Your. Manuals.

    Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m flying to Colorado, to have an old friend for dinner…spam always seems to make me more hungry. Odd, that.

    Lord Draconis Zeneca – Vhi7L
    Glaxxon Imperial Frigate “Avatar of Gnawing Dread”
    Undisclosed Sector

    ———————–MESSAGE ENDS

  50. #50 lilady
    April 6, 2011

    (From the Ratajczak Paper) “The new version of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (i.e.MMR II) that did not contain Thimerisol was introduced in 1979.”

    MMR vaccine does not and never did contain Thimerisol…ever. It is “interesting” that this former scientist at a pharmaceutical firm does not know this.

    She also included the Geiers’ study, yet did not include newer articles and studies, peer reviewed in real medical journals regarding higher incidence of autism associated with older mothers and/or older fathers. Nor did she include newer studies that implicate maternal diabetes, the taking of prescribed anti-convulsants (Depakene, notably) and antidepressants during pregnancy as causing a higher incidence of autism.

    Definitely a “not ready for prime time” paper.

  51. #51 MadScientist
    April 6, 2011

    “Journal of Immunotoxicology”

    Ah, a kook-reviewed ‘journal’. I can imagine a sister pretend journal: “Journal of Immunoradiation”.

  52. #52 Bruce Gorton
    April 6, 2011

    Hmm, if her logic actually worked, wouldn’t you see historic concentrations of people with autism around say, areas prone to high numbers of mosquitoes?

  53. #53 sheldon101
    April 6, 2011

    Petition

    I’ve started a petition asking CBS News to stop the posting of nonsensical articles under their name.

    Take a look.
    http://www.petitions24.com/sharyl_attkinson_forbid_her_misusing_her_cbs_news_blog

  54. #54 One Queer Fish
    April 6, 2011

    No evidence smoking causes cancer yet guys??still in that time line or have you moved on to Blow out valves will stop oil spills??

    ‘Second generation’ Thalidomide claims

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/952982.stm

    Hundreds of children were born with defects

    A group representing victims of the 1970s Thalidomide scandal says it has evidence that deformities can be passed on to their children.
    But their claims have been greeted with some scepticism by another Thalidomide charity.

    There are just over 400 people in the UK who were born with defects including shortened or missing limbs.

    The defects were caused when their mothers took the drug Thalidomide during pregnancy to ease morning sickness.

    The Diageo group, which bought responsibility for Thalidomide compensation along with the Guinness group, has already provided a multi-million pound trust fund for victims.

    This was recently increased following evidence that it would not cover the living expenses of those affected in this country.

    More money call

    However, the claims that the defects can be passed on, if proven, would add strength to Thalidomide UK’s repeated calls for the size of the fund to be boosted.

    Freddie Astbury, who chairs the pressure group, said: “The main thing we are pushing for is for the likes of Guinness to fund research.”

    Thalidomide patient Nick Holness and his 15-year-old daughter Rebecca are being presented by the group as evidence of “second generation” Thalidomide link.

    Ms Astbury said: “Rebecca was born with small arms and three fingers on the end of each hand – typical Thalidomide damage.”

    Thalidomide UK says that tests at a top London hospital have ruled out the possibility that the deformity was the result of some unrelated genetic disorder.

    It says that there are 10 cases it knows in which second generation deformities have emerged.

    However, Vivien Kerr, co-ordinator for the UK Thalidomide Society, said that she had yet to be convinced that it was possible for the drug’s effects to be felt in the children of original victims.

    She said: “I have not seen this latest research, but as far as I know, there isn’t anything which shows that problems caused by Thalidomide can be passed on in this way.”
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  55. #55 herr doktor bimler
    April 6, 2011

    She even pulls out the hoary “refrigerator mother” gambit, implying that because there was a time that scientists speculated that cold, uncaring mothers contributed to or triggered autism and were clearly wrong about that, they must be wrong about vaccines now.

    I don’t think that’s true. A pathological liar by the name of Bruno Bettelheim blamed cold, uncaring mothers, but he was a psychotherapeutic quack. The fact that the media of the day found this to be a satisfyingly simple narrative and hyped it for all it was worth does not make it any more representative of science.

  56. #56 Imogen
    April 6, 2011

    Is someone actually proposing an Indiana Jones idol swap of thimerosal poisoning for human DNA auto-splicing in causing autism via vaccines…

    -Karl Withakay

    This was my first reaction, too. The goalposts are shifting so hard and fast, that it’s making me dizzy. I’m going to have a little lie-down, and take a break from the Interwebs for the rest of the day.

  57. #57 Imogen
    April 6, 2011

    Btw
    I work in a candy shop. I immediately thought of you, Orac, when this new merchandise arrived:

    Vaccine Candy

    It’s been an instant best seller. I love their crazy Einsteinian character “Dr Brain”. The 3 different flavours are: “fun-”, “luck-” and “smart-injection”.

    Enjoy

  58. #58 Dangerous Bacon
    April 6, 2011

    “Oh great a Doc that thinks he can crack your back and fix your autism! Bzzzz…. Thanks for playing “Denver Chiropractor Dr. Scott Brown”

    And he believes that Vaccines cause autism!”

    Well, to be fair he also blames “Lack of childhood play replaced by “dumbing down” media such as T.V. and computers where passive “baby sitting” replaces social interaction”.

    We need more willingness to blame things for autism that we can live without, like constant cellphone use and disposable diapers.

  59. #59 Erin M
    April 6, 2011

    Orac, I thought you might enjoy today’s xkcd cartoon:
    “Scientists! Investigate!!”

    http://xkcd.com/882/

  60. #60 Vicki
    April 6, 2011

    At a wild guess, “tiniker” should be “to consider.” (Deciphering this sort of thing is a rather cromulent skill.)

  61. #61 Denice Walter
    April 6, 2011

    @ Liz Ditz (35):

    Young lady, I’ve been in this Dark business since…. well, for a long time, believe me….don’t listen to rebel’s talk.

  62. #62 plutosdad
    April 6, 2011

    @59
    Actually after seeing that xkcd this morning I was looking for the post on RI from a few months ago on how many experimental results are eventually overturned by later experiments. People chalk it up to not controlling variables enough, etc. But I was wondering how much simple incorrect application of statistics applied.

  63. #63 MartinM
    April 6, 2011

    Ratajczak also says an additional increased spike in autism occurred in 1995 when chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue.

    Because it’s not like anything else happened at around that time.

  64. #64 Adam
    April 6, 2011

    “Dr. Ratajczak states that the DNA from vaccines is human DNA. Even if that human DNA did undergo homologous recombination, it would still be human DNA making human proteins. Yet Dr. Ratajczak claims that homologous recombination turns that cell into “altered self.” However, the body recognizes a cell as foreign or “altered” through the expression of its cell surface proteins. Consequently, the only likely currently known mechanism by which homologous recombination of human DNA from vaccines might conceivably result in such an autoimmunity phenomenon would be if the DNA from the vaccine somehow resulted in the expression of a foreign or altered protein on the cell surface that the immune system could recognize as foreign. That would mean either integrating into the gene for a cell surface protein or producing a cell surface protein itself. While not impossible, that’s pretty darned unlikely to happen on a scale that would affect more than a single cell, a few at most.”

    I agree with your article generally (and am very much pro-vaccination), but the above statements are misleading. Cells can present peptides from the cytosol at the cell surface via antigen presentation on MHC I:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MHC_I

    This is particularly important in the context of infection with intracellular pathogens like viruses. Additionally, while another human’s DNA would encode very similar proteins to your own, there are sufficient differences to allow their peptides to be recognized as foreign.

    This by no means bolsters Ratajczak’s argument, but it is a minor issue with your rebuttal.

  65. #65 Matthew Cline
    April 6, 2011

    Mike Stanton has the goods on Deer winning the British Press Award’s Specialist Journalist of the Year Award.

    Why, the entire British press must be in the pay of Big Pharma!!!

  66. #66 ArcticFox
    April 6, 2011

    How can the author of that study not be screaming at the top of her lungs for the reintroduction of thimerosal as a massive harm reduction strategy. Think of the millions of children she could save if only we went back!

  67. #67 dedicated lurker
    April 6, 2011

    Well, twenty-four hours after my DTaP, my shoulder hurts. Now, the naysayer may say this is related to the awkward position that I slept in most of the night, but I know better. I clearly have a vaccine-induced shoulder injury.

  68. #68 Enkidu
    April 6, 2011

    I’ll admit, my arm hurt for about 2 days after I got my Tdap. But no biggie in the grand scheme of things. Three years later, that arm functions just fine, and pain-free. :)

  69. #69 lilady
    April 6, 2011

    @ dedicated lurker: I have many vaccine-induced shoulder injuries from Td boosters and Hepatitis B immunizations. I also have “suffered” several permanent vaccine-induced injuries; permanent loss of pigment from Smallpox vaccines.

    We should be reporting them on VAERs reporting forms…available for downloading on anti-vax web sites.

  70. #70 dedicated lurker
    April 6, 2011

    Well, twenty-four hours after my DTaP, my shoulder hurts. Now, the naysayer may say this is related to the awkward position that I slept in most of the night, but I know better. I clearly have a vaccine-induced shoulder injury.

  71. #71 Science Mom
    April 6, 2011

    This is particularly important in the context of infection with intracellular pathogens like viruses. Additionally, while another human’s DNA would encode very similar proteins to your own, there are sufficient differences to allow their peptides to be recognized as foreign.

    Yes and as someone pointed out, tumorigenesis would probably be evident if “homologous recombinaltion tiniker” was occurring.

  72. #72 lilady
    April 6, 2011

    @ MartinM: Hmmm…the broadening DSM IV diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders “might” have something to do with more children being diagnosed. How about the change in State Education Regulations to provide one-on-one school-based programs and therapies, for children who were formerly diagnosed as “learning disabled” and “PDD-Other”? Or, the increase in publicly-funded early intervention programs, available now for infants and pre-schoolers?

    Have you visited Age of Autism and other anti-vax sites where people are trying to get “wandering behavior” included into the into the new edition of the DSM V as another diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder? (It would provide “cover” for parental neglect, when Children Protective Services comes to your home.)

    (True story) related to me by parents who reside in a top-notch, highly competitive school district; there is a rush to have mid-teens “straight A” children certified as “learning disabled”…to game the system and get extra time for completion of college-placement tests.

  73. #73 One Queer Fish
    April 6, 2011

    So you get Autism diagnosis just by sending a letter ..F ..
    Truth is the vaccine damage costs are getting out of control hence the attempt to be-little genuine vaccine damaged kids. shame on you all..the bar has been raised ten fold not lowered..

    Attacks on Teachers Who Express Concern for Student Health
    This was sent from one of our readers. We welcome your discussion in the comments, and please share on FB and elsewhere. Thanks.

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2011/02/attacks-on-teachers-who-express-concern-for-student-health.html

    Dear AoA,

    I write to you anonymously. I am a teacher and like other teachers, I am afraid of speaking up on the increasing numbers of ill, disabled and IEP students as I fear that my job will be on the line. I know others have spoken up who then had the hand of the dark Blogosphere then dial their Principals, Superintendents or Board of Education to make a complaint. It was not a complaint from a parent of a child at the school, a teacher there, or even a known person in the school district. It was a John Doe who scared that Administrator with words like “confidentiality,” or “lawsuit.” In not one of these teacher-sharing scenarios were names given of students, but the suffocating hand from the Internet only had to do a soft shoe bullying tactic to knee jerk that school boss into speaking to that teacher and curtailing any further information sharing of public school, health observations. It is meant as a message to all of us who work in the schools — DO NOT TELL of what you see or suffer the consequences.

    Why? Why do these anonymous folks do this and who might they be? To explore that situation is like asking why is Dr. Andrew Wakefleld continuously pursued by the leeches of the Wackosphere and the Medical Industry mob? Not too different really in destruction. Both doctor and teacher have information to share of what they are witnessing with their own eyes. Real evidence of a change, a pattern, a devastating increase in human suffering that they want to explore and discuss. But that message is ugly, toxic and so damning in its connection to public health that the messengers are being attacked. It may have to do with money. That’s a big one. There is a lot tied into vaccines and health and it is no secret that to question vaccines causes a panic of future earnings, patents and revenue from mandating a sure thing. On the other side is public health concerns and the fear that if it gets out that there are so many kids chronically ill and in special education, parents will start to question the U.S. vaccination policy (and we are there now).

    It’s getting really hard to destroy the evidence — that chronic medical and/or emotional issues are causing mild to profound changes in the children and vaccines are THE culprit is so many of the cases. What to do? One has to then go after the messenger. Destroy their credibility, change the facts, rearrange the players, begin to add untruths and then go for the jugular — try to cut off their voice by taking away their connection to the evidence — their job!

    So I am here to anonymously say that the number of teens with diagnoses of Autism, Seizure Disorders/Epilepsy, Specific Learning Disability, Non-Verbal Learning Disability, Speech and Language Disorder, Other Health Impaired (ADHD/ADD, Bipolar, Social-Emotional Disorder), Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Disorder, Allergies (with significant Food especially Peanut), Asthma, and Diabetes are horrific. Connections, like seeing Specific Learning Disability AND Asthma as paired diagnoses in many children, makes one wonder if anyone is doing research on that curious and sad occurrence. I am also here to tell you that the increase is NOT because of improved diagnoses of the children or a loosening of criteria. If anything, the elementary schools are really trying to raise the bar on entering special ed. Meetings to bring up children’s names as possible candidates will try to add tutoring services, peer homework buddies, or extra time with teachers as avenues to attempt to ameliorate student failure before setting up testing for Special Ed services. To enter into Special Ed begins a connection to not only teams of professionals trained to diagnose discrepancies in learning and bridge the gaps, but a very big connection to funding. Special Education is expensive. To enter into that relationship requires rigorous testing, observation, family input, teacher input, and often outside professional input. We have seen so many children enter into Special Education because they needed it. I am reporting on the teens, those born in the 1993-1997 era. Please be aware that this is a look at a public school. It does not have the severe forms of disability. The numbers of severe autism in the adolescent groups are high. Many of them are unable to handle a public school environment. The sensory issues are too much. The level of safety not enough. The extreme behaviors not appropriate for a public school nor easily contained in a traditional setting. Those private schools have popped up in the landscape over the years as they have been deemed necessary in this age of autism.

    So how do the children function in a public school? Many need accommodations to get through the day – extended time on tests; projects; oral directions with written directions; books on cd; someone else to take notes; someone else to read directions; a stress ball near by; help organizing assignments, backpacks, and in general, organizing their lives. They need medication at the nurses office to help them focus, help them breathe, help them digest food, help them with migraines, help them prevent seizures, and help them cope with their emotions. We, teachers often say how we never saw this when we were growing up. We then go back in time a few decades or two and try to pinpoint…when did it change? It was subtle in the beginning. A small but noticeable increase in learning issues, then social-emotional issues began to pick up, then autism, then more learning disabilities, then allergies, then asthma until we are so used to seeing it that it becomes our new normal:
    Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

    “Job Outlook: Special Education Teacher -Employment is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be excellent because many districts report problems finding adequate numbers of licensed special education teachers.

    Employment change. The number of special education teachers is expected to increase by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Although student enrollments in general are expected to grow more slowly than in the past, continued increases in the number of special education students needing services will generate a greater need for special education teachers”.

    And this just out from California: (HERE) “Special education students with autism in California have more than tripled in number since 2002, even as overall special education enrollment has remained relatively flat, according to an analysis of state education data released yesterday.”

    “More than 680,000 students — 11 percent of all California public school students — are enrolled in special education. The number of students diagnosed with autism climbed from 17,508 in 2002 to 59,690 in 2010″

    My message here is a look at a group of ages, birth cohorts of an era where vaccines increased in number, proximity to birth and amount of vaccine mercury, Thimerosal. It would be interesting to hear from the preschool/elementary scene and get a picture of those trends. Let’s pray it is a better picture.

  74. #74 Lawrence
    April 6, 2011

    Stupid troll has poor cut & paste skills – and rambles….

  75. #75 Pareidolius
    April 6, 2011

    Please tell me the “Queer” in One Queer Fish means “odd.” We have enough PR problems as it is without such dunderheaded thinkers populating our ranks. I wonder if the scattered posts are the effect of the tinikers at work on his/her brain.

  76. #76 lilady
    April 7, 2011

    @ Pareidolius: Tinikers only work on human brains; perhaps there are tinikers that work on Queer Fish brains.

    I was thinking that Fishy’s brain has already been affected by fish prions, prior to an attack of the tinikers…clearly a case of fish spongiform encephalopathy with an overlay of the tinikers.

  77. #77 Chris
    April 7, 2011

    lilady, are “tinikers” some kind of equivalent to gin or rum?

  78. #78 lilady
    April 7, 2011

    @ Chris: Might be! Or, some sort of spirit distilled from brake fluid, available in the backwoods of Kentucky.

    Perhaps the word “tinikers” is derived from the Old Norse language or the ancestral language of Lower Slobovia.

    I suspect that “tinikers” can cause tinnitus…a well known vaccine injury.

  79. #79 prochoice
    April 7, 2011

    1. Dr. Ratajczak’s idea reminds me to blood groups, where I could get noone else´s blood donation except 0 rh – exactly the one I have. And that is a small minority.
    But I do doubt that all of DNA expression works like that!

    1. @ One Queer Fish:
    I was vaccinated as a school child, because several vaccinations for the poor came up when I was age 8 or older.
    BUT: I am a Fibromyalgia (excruciating pain) sufferer since I can remember, around age 3, and would have been diagnosed with Asperger´s at the same age, if that was around then.
    Not a good example for your questions, eh?

  80. #80 LW
    April 7, 2011

    Metaphor alert @73:

    the suffocating hand from the Internet only had to do a soft shoe bullying tactic to knee jerk that school boss”

  81. #81 Jud
    April 7, 2011

    @73 – …who then had the hand of the dark Blogosphere….

    Orac, Hand of the Dark Blogosphere!

    Who can get us a discount on T-shirts?

  82. #82 LW
    April 7, 2011

    I want a T-shirt too.

  83. #83 LW
    April 7, 2011

    I know the image I want on the T-shirt, too: the revolvermaps thingy below, all lit up showing people all over the world looking at this site, with a robotic hand reaching in to gather its minions.

    I wish I were an artist.

  84. #84 DoctorDiva
    April 7, 2011

    I have to say that as an internist/pediatrician, articles like Attkisson’s make my job that much harder to do. I already spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the safety and efficacy of vaccines to my patients/parents. This just takes away from the time I can spend discussing other issues (my current most important being trying to decrease helicopter parenting) and that pisses me off. Also, the article itself is written at a level many of my patients/parents would have trouble understanding and she incorrectly defines encephalitis as brain damage. These scare tactic type articles are irresponsible and IMHO cruel and unusual punishment for parents who are just trying to to do the right thing for their kids.

  85. #85 Guy Plunkett
    April 7, 2011

    I’m not defending Dr. Ratajczak, but to give credit where credit is due, the memeworthy phrase “recombinaltion tiniker” does not appear in her paper at all (I actually tracked down a copy). So the honors go to Sharyl Attkisson herself for this one. CBS News was once the home of Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, Walter Cronkite , et al. Now …

  86. #86 LW
    April 7, 2011

    Can you tell what it was supposed to be?

  87. #87 Antaeus Feldspar
    April 8, 2011

    she incorrectly defines encephalitis as brain damage

    Perhaps she confused “encephalitis” and “encephalopathy”? ISTR reading in either Autism’s False Prophets or The Panic Virus that the anti-vaxxers put out numerous talking points about the Poling case which were technically true, but only because of the wide range of conditions covered by the term “encephalopathy.”

  88. #88 One Skunk Todd
    April 13, 2011

    I wonder if tiniker could be a mangling of tincture, although I’m still not sure it would make any sense.

  89. #89 One Skunk Todd
    April 13, 2011

    I wonder if tiniker could be a mangling of tincture, although I’m still not sure it would make any sense.

  90. #90 Lola
    April 20, 2011

    With all due respect, there is a definite anecdotal link between autism and vaccines. Is there some link? Not that vaccines cause autism. Can we not see a good double-blind study about whether there is a link and what that link is? just like blood transfusions in the 1980s were responsible for people getting AIDS, but blood transfusions do not cause AIDS. But Ryan White wished he had never gotten the one that passed HIV along to him.

  91. #91 Gray Falcon
    April 20, 2011

    Anecdotes are where science begins, but not where it ends. There are several studies already out there, and no evidence of a connection between autism and vaccination was found. Frankly, a double-blind study of vaccination would be unethical.

  92. #92 Prometheus
    April 20, 2011

    Lola asks:

    “With all due respect, there is a definite anecdotal link between autism and vaccines. Is there some link? Not that vaccines cause autism.”

    Actually, there isn’t an anecdotal link between autism and vaccines for the simple reason that the vaccines and vaccine components “linked” to autism haven’t been consistent. Also, the time between vaccination and onset of autism has been reported (anecdotally) as “minutes” to years – not a very good “link”.

    Here’s what studies have found:

    [1] The apparent rise in autism prevalence occurred at the same time in the UK, US and Canada, despite those countries having significantly different vaccination schedules. For example, the “rise” occurred in the UK after the MMR vaccine was introduced, while that vaccine had been used in the US for nearly a decade prior to the “rise”.

    [2] Removing thimerosal from children’s vaccines has not only not stopped the rise in autism prevalence, it hasn’t even slowed the rate of that rise.

    [3] Studies looking for correlation between autism and the amount of thimerosal children received in vaccines have failed to show a relationship.

    [4] Japan stopped using the MMR for several years and failed to show a decline in (or a decrease in the rate of rise of) autism prevalence. Japan, did experience outbreaks of measles and mumps during that time, however.

    The signs of autism tend to manifest at the same time that children are receiving a large number of vaccines – ages 1 – 3 years. It is natural for the parents to attribute such a regression to the most proximal (in time) event; in that age range, there is almost always a vaccine that was given within a year of the regression. This is especially true for those children with “disintegrative” autism (i.e. a loss of language and social skills).

    As “Gray Falcon” mentions, a placebo-controlled prospective study of vaccines and autism would be unethical because it would put the children in the placebo group at risk of injury or death from vaccine-preventable diseases.

    At present, the “data” supporting such a connection are only a weak temporal correlation between vaccine numbers and autism prevalence (a correlation that gets weaker every year as reported autism prevalence continues to rise and the number of childhood vaccines remains relatively stable).

    In short, the “anecdotes” supporting an autism-vaccine connection are weak – much, much weaker (infinitely weaker, in fact) than the data showing that such a connection doesn’t exist. At this point, it is only a small band of hyper-vocal anti-vaccine advocates who are stoking the demand for a “vaccinated vs unvaccinated” study of autism. It should come as no surprise that they haven’t managed to fund and organise their own study, since the leaders probably know what the likely outcome of such a study would be (i.e. that there is no connection between autism and vaccines).

    Finally, how does the “vaccines cause autism” hypothesis explain the (anecdotal) reports of unvaccinated children with autism, even regressive autism?

    Prometheus

  93. #93 Todd W.
    April 20, 2011

    @lola

    To expand on something that Prometheus mentioned, here’s a somewhat lengthy (4-part) explanation of exactly why a prospective, placebo-controlled vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study would be unethical.

    Keep in mind, that for brand spankin’ new vaccines for which there is no already-approved alternative against which to compare, a placebo-controlled trial is justified. But for existing vaccines, it wouldn’t fly.

  94. #94 Lola
    April 21, 2011

    OK, thanks for the info. I really don’t know that much about it, but following the McNeil story on the PBS Newshour is intriguing. it must be so heartbreaking to a parent for a child to regress at an early age. it goes against everything… so people jump on some explanation so they don’t feel that they did something wrong to deserve this problem. yes of course such a study would be unethical.

    I was not vaccinated as a child due to religious reasons, though I have subsequently gotten most of them since. and if I had a child would definitely get him vaccinated. it’s a shame things have come to this.

    I wonder how treatment practices and approaches in family medicine have changed in the past 10-20 years when dealing with parents who resist vaccination for whatever reason? People can be very resistant to facts and evidence when emotions are high. not getting your kids vaccinated is a public health issue as well.

  95. #95 Pablo
    April 22, 2011

    I’m late to the resurrection here, but wanted to jump in with a very important clarification on Lola’s earlier comment:

    there is a definite anecdotal link between autism and vaccines.

    No, there is not. Even without all the information that Prometheus has provided, the statement is incorrect. There is no link, anecdotal or otherwise, between autism and any vaccine aside from MMR. MMR is the vaccine where parents claim “they got the shot and suddenly became autistic.” None of the other vaccines on the childhood schedule have been implicated this way, not DTaP or Prevnar or rotovirus or a flu vaccine (with or without mercury).

    Oh sure, they have been BLAMED by the anti-vax crowd, but that is only because they can’t blame MMR in every case (like when there is evidence of autism before the MMR vaccine). Thus, it must be some other vaccine.

    It is all predicated on the _assumption_ that vaccines cause autism, despite any association at all. MMR has a temporal, probably coincidental association with the diagnosis or even onset of autism. But MMR is one vaccine (ok, three if you want, but Wakefield thinks it is the combination), and even if there WERE discovered a link between autism and MMR, that would have no bearing on any other vaccine.

    Including other vaccines in an autism link is merely guilt by association, and has nothing to do with an association.

  96. #96 Mike
    April 23, 2011

    A baby/toddler is the most protected, cared for creature on the planet. How can the cause of a symptom like “Autism” not be narrowed down to what has occurred in the baby’s day to day events/contacts/environment? Where is the study of the commonalities these victims share?

    “What I have published is highly concentrated on hypersensitivity, Ratajczak told us in an interview, “the body’s immune system being thrown out of balance.”

    It should be obvious that foreign material injected into the skin would get a different reception/reaction from the immune system than one inhaled or swallowed.

    What multiple diseases enter the body simultaneously as do multiple vaccines?

    Has anyone other than possibly an unborn baby become HIV positive by swallowing or inhalation?

    Is the concern about vaccines truly about vaccines? Or is it the vulnerability of immature or weakened/under nourished immune systems to vaccines and multiple vaccines?

  97. #97 Vicki
    April 23, 2011

    Mike:

    “It should be obvious” doesn’t mean something is true. It was obvious for a long time that the sun went around the Earth. The “obvious” thing that seems not to be true here is that autism is one thing with a single cause.

    Every time a child (or adult) gets a cut or scrapes their knee, multiple microorganisms can enter their body at once through that break in the skin.

    Yes, HIV can be transmitted orally: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/qa/transmission.htm (finding that took about one minute, a quick search on “HIV transmission oral sex” and then going to the CDC link that was on the first page of results). HIV has never been transmitted through inhalation. Though I don’t know what these questions have to do with the rest of your comment, given that there is, unfortunately, no vaccine for HIV.

  98. #98 Jemima
    July 18, 2011

    “Orac’s “real” identity is more or less an open secret among some parts of the blogosphere, but he nonetheless keeps using the Orac pseudonym because (1) he doesn’t want his blog to be the first thing that comes up when patients Google his “real” name; (2) he has a long history on the Internet under this particular pseudonym; and (3) he likes the persona that the “Orac” pseudonym allows him to take on.”

    Likes the persona? Yikes. Sharyl Attkisson isn’t afraid to post her name in public. Neither is Helen Ratajczak. Why does Orac need to hide? Or, WHAT is Orac hiding?!

    “Orac often jokes that no pharmaceutical company is interested enough in his research to want to give him any money.”

    Small wonder why. Probably because he spends so much time ridiculing those who have a sincere interest in turning over EVERY STONE that might lead to what is causing autism?

    Orac is no oracle. Come out from behind your mother’s skirt and reveal yourself for the world to see, Paul Offit. ;)

  99. #99 Gray Falcon
    July 18, 2011

    Two months late, and completely wrong.

  100. #100 Th1Th2
    July 18, 2011

    Pablo,

    None of the other vaccines on the childhood schedule have been implicated this way, not DTaP or Prevnar or rotovirus or a flu vaccine (with or without mercury).

    Oh really. Try Tripedia.

    Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, autism, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting.

  101. #101 MI Dawn
    July 18, 2011

    @Jemima; not only did you put your quote on the wrong post, you are SO completely wrong you’re not even funny. From those of us who have met Orac and NOT met Dr Offit, You Lose.

  102. #102 lilady
    July 18, 2011

    I suppose we should cut Jemima some slack…she meant to post on Robert Schecter/Sid Offal’s blog. I wonder what Jemima’s real name is?

  103. #103 Calli Arcale
    July 18, 2011

    Jemima — who is really interested in turning over every stone that might lead to autism; Dr Offit, or the people who keep insisting it must be vaccines? How is it “turning over EVERY STONE” to keep picking up the “vaccines” stone and then insisting it must just be hiding *really well* under that stone when nobody else can see it?

    (By the way, Orac isn’t Dr Offit. You can find out who Orac is fairly easily. Just read Science Based Medicine regularly and you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. Orac doesn’t research the causes of autism, but this is because he’s a surgical oncologist — he researches cancer.)

  104. #104 Andrew
    July 18, 2011

    You’re being unnecessarily tough on Jemima. People who are completely new to the Internet can take up to an hour to determine Orac’s real identity. And people who have never met the parent of an autistic child often don’t realize how tired we are of reporters who have nothing to say but “did you check to see if vaccines did it?” over and over again. I’m sure Jemima’s next post will be an apology for her naivete.

  105. #105 augustine
    July 18, 2011

    Brian Dear: Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock.

  106. #106 augustine
    July 18, 2011

    Wait.. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I may get hacked!

  107. #107 Julian Frost
    July 19, 2011

    @All: I think Jemima is Poeing. Note the winking emoticon.

  108. #108 Chris
    January 12, 2012

    Sorry for necrotizing this thread, but I noticed a comment Amy Pisani made about the experience “Every Child By Two” with CBS and its resident anti-vaccine reporter:

    Unfortunately CBS’ report was completely biased in itself. ECBT staff spent hours collecting requested information for the reporter (not to mention that all funding information is easily available online to the public due to IRS regulations on not-for-profits) and took part in a 45 minute taped telephone interview prior to the airing of the report. However, the reporter (who has a history of presenting outrageously biased stories about the safety of vaccines) had the nerve to say that we did not have a comment on the issue and did not supply the requested information. This is the last time that I will make this comment as it infuriates me to recall this slanderous report.

  109. #109 Julian Frost
    March 29, 2012

    Comment 109 is Spam.

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