Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vaccines Can Cause Neurological Problems - Some Appear Like Autism

A few weeks ago I wrote a rebuttal editorial about a vaccine court decision of the link between autism causation and childhood vaccines - particularly the MMR (see blog post dated February 14, 2009). The ruling authorities in the court determined there was not enough evidence to show that vaccines had caused autism in three separate cases being tried through the vaccine court. Obviously, this was devastating news to the parents involved, and for other parents and care-givers of children with autism who strongly feel that a particular vaccine(s) contributed to their child's regression.

On February 25th an article from Robert Kennedy, Jr. and David Kirby has revealed that a separate government vaccine court has been hearing testimony from families whose children have been damaged by vaccines, and in some cases awarding these families financial sums of thousands of dollars in damages. The difference between the two courts is the former the cases were being presented as pure autism causation, and the latter as neurological damage from vaccines that likely contributed to or exacerbated an underlying medical condition related to autism-spectrum (i.e. PDD-NOS) or autism-like conditions.

Basically, what is happening is the word "autism" has become a lightening-rod of controversy, and the courts will not budge on their stance regarding vaccines and autism causation. However, semantics are at play here, and the decision to acknowledge a link between adverse vaccine reactions and neurological disorders that contribute to or are autism-like in appearance through another government court is an indication that the government at large knows there is a problem.

I would encourage you to read the entire Kennedy/Kirby article here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Could Your Child's Behavior Be Related to PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections).

There is a health condition recognized in the biomedical field for autism and related disorders called PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections). This is a condition caused by an immune reaction triggered by the presence of Group A Beta-Hemolytic Streptococcal infection. Various strep bacteria produce toxins as part of their infectious nature. The immune system responds in an attempt to neutralize and eradicate the toxins. However, this immune-toxin (aka. antibody-antigen complex) reaction creates immune complexes which are deposited in various tissues of the body. If these immune complexes land in the kidneys there is an immune reaction called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, in the heart it is called rheumatic fever, and in the brain PANDAS can ensue. This autoimmune reaction (self-directed immune reaction to body tissue) in PANDAS is directed to the Basal Ganglia area in the brain. This area has been associated with disorders such as obsessive-compulsiveness (OCD), strange body posturing/movements called chorea, and the typical TIC movements (quick jerking or vocal tics) associated with Tourette’s Syndrome. With obsessive-compulsive behavior anxiety is usually a major problem.

Some individuals on the autism-spectrum suffer with extreme anxiety, but without obsessive-compulsive behavior, while in others the OCD is severe. Even though PANDAS remains a controversial topic in medicine it is reported that PANDAS can cause or exacerbate Tics, Tourettes, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Approximately, 25% of individuals who have one or more of these conditions have what appears to be PANDAS.

Unfortunately, treatment options are limited, although certain biomedical autism treatments such as low dose naltrexone, dietary intervention such as the gluten and casein-free diet, and various supplements that support normal immune function such as Transfer Factor can be helpful in reducing the overall reactivity of the immune system, PANDAS remains a difficult condition to treat.

Some individuals respond quite well to antibiotics. I have seen in cases where a short course of antibiotics, such as 10 to 14 days of Keflex, Penicillin or Zithromax definitely helps, particularly with the OCD behaviors. In other situations more advanced biomedical therapies such as intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG) are needed to short-circuit the autoimmune response. Plasmapheresis, which is a blood cleansing process performed to help diminish the immune-toxin reactions, has shown benefit for some individuals. Unfortunately, no treatment is 100% effective for everyone, and some people remain symptomatic even after medical intervention. Great Plains Laboratory – carries a Streptococcal Panel which highlights immune reactions to strep. If positive this can then be correlated with behavioral and physical manifestations related to PANDAS to see if a trial of treatment is indicated.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Biomedical Autism Specialist Physician's Viewpoint about the Current Vaccine Courts Decision Regarding Autism and Vaccines

The recent ruling by a vaccine court involved in vaccine damage litigation regarding causation between vaccinations such the MMR, and the vaccine ingredient thimerosal (mercury) and autism as being without merit or not showing enough scientific evidence is both tragic and misleading. It is tragic because for years families have sought restitution for their families' emotional and financial suffering in caring for what they know is a vaccine damaged child. It is misleading because the traditional medical community will use this decision to put forth their mantra that vaccinations for ALL children at the current schedule (approximately 24 vaccines before the age of 2) – regardless of a child’s hereditary or genetic variances is completely safe, and any indication of toxicity or link to childhood neurological problems is unwarranted.

This commentary is not an attack against vaccines in general. The argument is always brought up that vaccines have saved thousands of lives – not only here in the United States, but across the world, and to go without vaccines would endanger thousands of other children. Both of these statements can be viewed as accurate. Most of us who speak out about the vaccine and autism connection have never advocated the elimination of childhood vaccines, or indicated that vaccines are the only cause of autism. We all know that vaccines in the history of medicine have contributed to preventing and reducing infectious disease. Enough said. Vaccines are not going away, nor should they.

The deeper issue is that certain vaccines are associated with a risk of adverse reactions that can impair certain individuals neurologically – seizures, motor dysfunction, paralysis, and even death. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) would not exist – and record data on adverse vaccine reactions on a yearly basis - if vaccines did not have the potential to cause problems. Someone can debate all they want about the risks, percentages, actual cases, etc., but the fact remains vaccines carry a risk for adverse side effects.

The vaccine court determined that there was not enough scientific evidence to indicate vaccines were a cause of three different children’s autism. No one disputes that vaccines can have side effects such as fever, shock, brain inflammation, and even death in some circumstances with the brain inflammation leading to temporary or permanent neurological deficits. Less than a year ago another vaccine court ruled that a young girl by the name of Hannah Poling became autistic after receiving a series of vaccines. However, the vaccine autism critics point out that this only occurred because Hannah was found to have an underlying metabolic abnormality that likely predisposed her to a vaccine adverse reaction. In this scenario the court acknowledged that the vaccines exacerbated an underlying medical problem. What is missing in the current decision is the language of “contributed to”, “exacerbated,” or “potentiated” a child’s regression into autism. The vaccines in these three cases may not have been the ‘single’ cause, but they certainly could have contributed to the child’s development of what is classified as autism characteristics.

I have been in medical practice for over 11 years. For the past decade I have helped evaluate the medical issues of children on the autism-spectrum, and provided biomedical treatment to support their health and well-being. In this time, I have had the opportunity to interview families from across the United States and abroad. I have seen kids of all shapes, sizes, colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. I have seen kids who appeared delayed from birth, and others who regressed into autism slowly starting around the age of 2 years, children who became autistic because of natural infections, and a few who even became autistic who never had been vaccinated.

Tragically, I have also seen children who became autistic within days of their 15 to 18 months vaccines – usually after a combination of the MMR and others. In one case, a parent described taking her child to the pediatrician for an early morning office visit for immunizations, and by the time the father got home that evening the girl was spinning in circles, hand-flapping, and not responding to her name. Essentially, she disappeared into the world of isolation and odd behavior – what we all in the medical community refer to as autism. In many cases, a typically developing child – social, engaged, happy, healthy and thriving – develops severe digestive problems almost immediately after their MMR vaccine. With this also comes regression of normal typical behavior to the autistic characteristics of isolation, loss of language, and others.

What is sad and frightening is so many of the stories that these parents tell are very similar. Their child was developing normally – many have video and pictures to prove it – and suddenly their child (within 3 weeks to 3 months) are completely changed – commonly associated with their 1-1/2 year vaccines. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that commonality of stories from families of different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds over many, many years holds some validity in the realm of probability. In many of these cases, the main connecting mechanism was childhood vaccines.

Of course, there are variables in this population. I do not feel that vaccines are the sole contributor to all children’s autism. As I have mentioned before, I have seen children with varying medical backgrounds where the link to vaccines or other environmental causes is not clear cut. However, in a vast majority of kids who fit the regressive pattern of autism – where normal development both physically, verbally and cognitively are being met – and suddenly the child completely changes in a short period of time. The adverse reactions to vaccine(s) are to blame – at least this is my medical opinion.

The argument isn’t whether vaccines cause, contribute to, potentiate, etc. ALL cases of autism, but is it possible that for some children who may carry unique biochemical imbalances, along with genetic variances as was the case with Hannah Poling – are more susceptible to adverse vaccine reactions. Logic tends to dictate - Yes! It is plausible because nothing in medicine is 100% effective or 100% without risk – including vaccines.

The medical authorities, vaccine courts, or other naysayers regarding adverse vaccine reactions and autism can argue all they want about there being no link. The reality is these decisions are being determined in the courtroom, and we all know that a court ruling is not always indicative of absolute guilt or innocence – reference the case of O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. I think we can all agree the legal decision didn’t match what we all suspected was the truth.

The fact is that thousands of parents who have lived through the fear and devastation know the truth of seeing their child disappear into autism – in some cases almost overnight – and are now living a nightmare of emotional, physical and financial stress to care for their child. They know what they saw, and they know what kind of child they had before that fateful day at the pediatrician’s office. For over a decade, I have heard these stories through their words and seen the pictures and videos of a once normal child.

The link of vaccines to autism is real. Not in all cases, but in a significant amount. My heart goes out to those families who have dealt with such trauma and frustration. Because of this current court ruling once again they are left to fend for themselves as their voices go unheard by the system that encouraged, persuaded, and even intimidated them to vaccinate in the first place.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Biomedical Intervention - How Quickly Before You Know a Therapy is Working?

Over the years I have recognized trends in clinical practice that have helped me to determine early on if a child is going to be a quick responder to biomedical intervention, or more of a slow responder. Ultimately, this does not mean that just because a child is a slow or subtle responder at first that they will not have great success overtime. In fact, many kids who appear to be slow starters with biomedical intervention after many months will be advancing greatly in many areas of behavior, language, social develop, etc. at near or the same level as a child who had immediate positive changes even after a few weeks of biomedical intervention.

An example of this is a child who within a few days of stopping milk begins speaking, has greatly improved eye contact, and starts sleeping through the night. This does and can happen. However, compare this to a child who after three months of the gluten and casein-free diet has no noticeable change behaviorally or cognitively – except slightly improved eye contact, but overall seems healthier with improved bowel movements and less sinus and nasal congestion. Positive changes are happening for this child, but not as obvious. The important thing to remember is success with biomedical intervention is not rated on just a few weeks of using a supplement or making a dietary change, but with many months of use, and in most several years of continual therapy.

What I have recognized is there are key biomedical therapies that tend to give ‘Immediate’ feedback with respects to cognitive and behavior changes such as, better behavior, more awareness, improved language abilities and skills, better health with less bowel problems such as diarrhea, improved sleep pattern, more social, more interactive, etc. I list these as ‘Immediate’ and ‘Long-Term' feedback remedies. These categories are just a guide and should not be considered absolutes for every child. There are exceptions with any therapy, and all things need to be considered on an individual basis, but for many individuals the two categories tend to hold true. Finally, it is important to remember that just because something is listed as an immediate feedback therapy doesn’t mean it will not provide long-term health support. In fact, all of these therapies work best overtime, and the longer they are used – many times in combination - the greater positive effects are seen.

Immediate Feedback Therapies
With many individuals positive changes are seen within 2 to 6 Weeks, on average 4 weeks:

Medical Diets (GF/CF, anti-yeast, phenol reduced).
Basic Nutritional Supplements – multi-vitamins and minerals, B-vitamins, essential fatty acids, calcium/magnesium.
Methylation Support – Methyl-B12, DMG, Folinic Acid.
Treating Yeast (and bacteria.)

Long-term Feedback
With many individuals positive changes are seen within 6 to 8 weeks, sometimes 2 to 6 months…or more.

Heavy Metal Detoxification.
Anti-Viral Therapy – Valtrex, natural antivirals.
Traditional Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) – clinic based which is normally done over a few month period of time. Exception is the “30 days In-home HBOT Program” which places it is the Immediate Feedback Category – if positive changes are seen.

IMPORTANT: These are meant to be viewed as generalizations and NOT absolutes. Every child and their treatment response are different. Just because a therapy is listed as immediate feedback does not mean it will not give long-term benefits, and vice versa, i.e. in some cases antiviral or heavy metal detoxification can give immediate, recognizable benefits.