09 June, 2012

Black Sabbath and the music of the spheres

In recent years, studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children within the U.S. have reported a steady increase in incidence, from 1 in 5,000 in 1975 to 1 in 110 in 2009 ( a 5000% increase) . This increase is presumably due to increased diagnosis skills rather than increased incidence of the disease. A weak genetic link has been noted, but cannot attribute the marked increase solely due to this factor.

Recent research has shown that maternal depression and other psychiatric depression, as well as exposure of the unborn child to maternal SSRIs use (e.g. Prozac, Zoloft) as well as premature-birth gives a significant increase in the risk of the child to develop autism. The high rate of parents of non-European origin has been noted in many Swedish studies of ASD, but the reason for this association, remains unclear. Nouchine Hadjikhani, M.D., an ASD expert and associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, in Boston, urges pregnant women to err on the side of caution. Pregnant women should use anti-depressants 'only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the foetus.'

According to the WHO, Vaccine rates have increased exponentially during the last few decades of the twentieth century, so that more than 95% of children are vaccinated. This has correlated to a marked reduction in vaccine-preventable diseases in children. However, the corollary of vaccine-induced ASD cannot be overlooked. Recently, a paper has shown that administration of thimerosal (a mercury-containing vaccine preservative suspected as an agent causing neurodevelopmental disorders) to infant rats causes behavioural, neurochemical and neuropathological abnormalities similar to those present in autism. Neonatal exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines might induce excitotoxic brain injuries, leading to neurodevelopmental disorders. Coadministration of the neurosteroid, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, may partially protect against mercurials-induced neurotoxicity. 

The WHO has also confirmed that public opinion has turned firmly against the use of mercury, and it has been recognized for some time that there is a need to minimize exposure to this chemical from all sources such as food (especially certain fish), pharmaceuticals, vaccines and other biological products. However, because there are currently no tested, efficacious and safe alternatives, WHO will continue recommending procurement of vaccines such as triple vaccine (DTP), diphtheria and tetanus (DT), tetanus toxoid (TT) as well as certain brands of hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccines that contain the preservative. The WHO do concede that maternal methylmercury exposure in Iraq and Japan has been documented to cause neurological abnormalities, such as developmental delay in infants exposed  in utero. The human brain seems particularly vulnerable to methylmercury during its developmental period. Additional data from low-dose exposure to methylmercury derived from studies of fish-eating populations exposed in their diet has given conflicting results. Some of these studies have demonstrated more subtle abnormalities, detectable only by sophisticated neuropsychometric testing, at methylmercury levels previously thought to be safe. The WHO concludes that 'several gaps in the knowledge of the toxicity of the preservative make it problematic to identify the precise risks from thiomersal in vaccines.'

Evidence-based epidemiology implicates the rise in childhood ASD parallels the global increase in use and exposure to:
a) antidepressants - use of SSRIs by pregnant mothers have a strong correlation with increased ASD in infants, environmental exposure to mercury has a provable link. A leading ecological study in Texas has correlated higher rates of autism in school districts affected by large environmental releases of mercury from industrial sources. Mercury is a well known antithyroid substance causing inhibition of deiodinases and thyroid peroxidase.
b) vaccines - thimerosal-based multi-antigen vaccines from birth to 6 years of age. A leading ecological study in Texas has also correlated higher rates of autism in school districts affected by large environmental releases of mercury from industrial sources. Mercury is a well known antithyroid substance causing inhibition of deiodinases and thyroid peroxidase. 
c) toxins - exposure of pregnant mothers and newborns to water-based and food-based neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors such as organophosphates, phthalates and preservatives. For example, PVC flooring is known to be an important source of airborne phthalates indoors, and that asthma and allergy prevalence are associated with phthalate concentrations in settled dust in the children's bedroom. Environmental contaminants interfere with thyroid function including 60% of all herbicides, in particular 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), acetochlor, aminotriazole, amitrole, bromoxynil, pendamethalin, mancozeb, and thioureas. Other antithyroid agents include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), perchlorates, mercury, and coal derivatives such as resorcinol, phthalates, and anthracenes. 

The mammalian brain is an interconnected multifunctional network of neurones that can be likened to an orchestra of musical instruments, each a sensitive and highly tuned device that must work in synchronous movement with other pieces of the orchestra. Medicating and intoxicating the musicians can transform an orchestral movement of Beethoven into a Black Sabbatean orchestral manoeuvre in the dark.