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Autism and XMRV

Discussion in 'XMRV Research and Replication Studies' started by Summer, Oct 12, 2009.

  1. Summer

    Summer Senior Member

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    Is Autism Associated with A Viral Infection?

    Last week, researchers from the University of Nevada, the National Cancer Institute and The Cleveland Clinic announced the startling discovery of antibodies to a little known retrovirus in 95% of patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), a debilitating neuro-immune disease impacting more than a million people in the United States.

    The finding, published in the highly respected journal Science, "clearly points to the retrovirus as a significant contributing factor in this illness," said lead author Judy Mikovits, Ph.D., director of research for the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease, which is affiliated with the University of Nevada, Reno. It was the first study to isolate particles of the retrovirus, XMRV, in human blood and demonstrate that it is transmitted between blood cells. XMRV was first discovered in prostate cancer tissue of men with certain genetic defects. Like the more well-known retrovirus, HIV, this pathogen is blood-borne, and not transmitted through the air.

    The findings have potential significance for a number of other disorders including, it turns out, autism.

    Researchers tested blood samples from a "small group of children" with autism and found that 40% of them were positive for XMRV, according to a statement from the Nevada Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders. More testing is underway which, the Commission said, "could dramatically increase that 40% positive finding." (Given the small sample size, such a statement is purely speculative).

    As Dr. Mikovits explained to a television news program in Nevada, "It is not in the paper and not reported, but we have actually done some of these studies (in ASD children) and found the virus in a significant number of samples that we have tested for. It could be linked to a number of neuro-immune diseases, including autism. It certainly won't be all, because there are genetic defects that result in autism. But there are also the environmental effects; there is always the hypothesis that, 'My child was fine and then they got sick, and then they got autism.'"

    According to Dr. Mikovits, XMRV (which admittedly sounds like a satellite radio system for your Winnebago) can lie dormant in people, until it is "turned on or off" by other factors, such as stress hormones like cortisol, or in response to the presence of inflammatory "cytokines," protein molecules secreted by immune cells to help regulate the immune system.

    And then Dr. Mikovits dropped a bombshell that is sure to spark controversy.

    "On that note, if I might speculate a little bit," she said, "This might even explain why vaccines would lead to autism in some children, because these viruses live and divide and grow in lymphocytes -- the immune response cells, the B and the T cells. So when you give a vaccine, you send your B and T cells in your immune system into overdrive. That's its job. Well, if you are harboring one virus, and you replicate it a whole bunch, you've now broken the balance between the immune response and the virus. So you have had the underlying virus, and then amplified it with that vaccine, and then set off the disease, such that your immune system could no longer control other infections, and created an immune deficiency."

    So there you have it - a possible explanation of regressive autism in a significant number of cases associated with immune system deregulation triggered by vaccination.

    Of course, much more work is needed to nail down the exact significance of such an association. For example, is the virus implicated in the cause of autism, or do children harbor the virus as a result of autism?

    Either way, it is notable that such questions are being asked by mainstream sources such as the University of Nevada, and by extension the NCI and the Cleveland Clinic: Can XMRV infection plus vaccination create the right conditions for regressive autism? That remains to be seen. But it also means that the thousands of parents who claim their children did regress shortly after vaccination may not be so crazy and "fringe" as they have been portrayed by experts such as Dr. Paul Offit of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Dr. Thomas Insel, head of the National Institute of Mental Health and Chair of the federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC).

    "We certainly are advocating vaccinations and how important those are to the well being of the children," explained Annette Whittemore, founder of the Whittemore Peterson Institute.

    "But what we are hoping for is, by finding out whether or not one is positive to XMRV, whether it is in one family member or another, and then looking for it in children, you could alter the immune response in such a way that you can protect the child and still be able to vaccinate and avoid autism in these kids. And again, I don't think ether one of us is sitting here saying, 'Vaccinations cause autism,' but rather a number of factors; a genetic susceptibility to the illness, to the infection itself, and then on top of that you are adding something to that mix that takes that child over the top."

    Apparently, the CFS findings have impressed the scientific community. "We presented these data three times: Twice at closed conferences at the NIH, and one at an international meeting a few weeks ago, and you could hear a pin drop in the audience - it's amazement" Mikovits said. "The scientists are excited, everyone is working on it, so we know we are going to get a lot of help. It's just amazement, it's an entirely new field of medicine and everyone who's ever worked in this family of viruses is, now that we've shown it's a human pathogen, is extremely excited."

    Whittemore added that researchers hoped to develop a vaccine against XMRV quickly, noting that "It would be easier to find a vaccine against this than HIV, because it is a simple retrovirus."

    The discovery raises more questions than it answers. What, exactly, is it about immunization that might switch on XMRV viral expression? Could the effect of heavy metals upon cytokine balances be at play? Where did this retrovirus come from, and how did it apparently become so prevalent in children with autism? Did these children inherit the virus from a parent, or was there some other unexplained route of transmission? Why has the NIH said nothing about XMRV in association with autism, and did Dr. Insel know about these findings without sharing them with the IACC?

    Finally, Dr. Insel has said that a vaccine against autism may one day be developed. Was he actually referring to a vaccine against XMRV, and what role, if any, might he or members of his family play in the development of such a vaccine?

    According to Insel's own biography, in 1994, he went to Emory University, Atlanta as a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center. "As director of Yerkes," his bio says, "Dr. Insel built one of the nation's leading HIV vaccine research programs."

    Is Autism Associated with A Viral Infection?
  2. Frickly

    Frickly Senior Member

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    Summer

    There is another thread that I just responded to regarding this subject and I have reposted it below. Many of you know my son has aspergers, ocd, tourettes and adhd so I am very interested in this subject. I have thought for some time that my CFS is connected to my son's autism. I think that there is a possibility that this virus could answer lots of question with regard to autism and vaccines. I can't help but imagine a future where children with autism will be given antivirals instead of antidepressants. I took my son to his psychitrist this morning and we discussed this virus. She told me that children on the spectrum that are put on antivirals and antifungals have a very strong reation and many cannot tolerate them. Hmmm....interesting.

    Reposted from "Latest Research Thread:

    I don't feel that vacs cause CFS but my concern started with regard to my son who has aspergers and a number of other neurological issures. It is interesting to concider that I could have passed on this retrovirus to my children. If this is the case then I and my children have compromised immune systems. Therefore, being injected with a live virus (without thermisol) or the dead virus which contains thermisol could cause some serious problems in this segment of society (especially in children whose brains that are not fully developed).

    My four year old daughter had the flu mist last year which is a live virus not containing thermisol. She immediatly got mono, fifths disease and developed an intolerance to dairy. She was on the couch for 6 months and still can't drink milk.

    I think the pieces of the puzzle will start coming together and we will realize that people with compromised immune systems should not be getting all these vaccinations. I also hope that we will, one day, be able to test children for things such as mitochondrial disease and possible xmrv before we shoot them up with all this stuff. Time will tell.
  3. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    I can barely let myself think about this research revealing something helpful in regards to those with Autism. And, I don't have a child on the spectrum. I can't imagine how I would feel if I did. As it is, I can hardly breathe when I think of the possibilities.

    In my first career, decades ago, I worked with kids with Autism. I have friends with autistic kids. I have friends who are aspies.

    Breathe!!!
  4. Summer

    Summer Senior Member

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    Many triggers one cause

    Interesting from the article:

    "According to Dr. Mikovits, XMRV (which admittedly sounds like a satellite radio system for your Winnebago) can lie dormant in people, until it is "turned on or off" by other factors, such as stress hormones like cortisol, or in response to the presence of inflammatory "cytokines," protein molecules secreted by immune cells to help regulate the immune system."

    So, many triggers, one cause. So much keeps falling into place.

    I know that stress can do me in very fast, and now we know that is a physical aspect of this disease. I always knew that it was, but I also knew it sounded psychological.
  5. Cort

    Cort Phoenix Rising Founder

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    I do have the fear that they're getting ahead of themselves in the public eye. No one had heard of them a week ago. First the WPI had the goods on ME/CFS (controversial enough!), now they're talking about autism and vaccines. Honestly I worry about them losing some credibility with some folks. On the other hand these subjects do generate more interest (and possibly funding) and they seem pretty confident though. Still I'd love for them to build a base on ME/CFS and then branch out.
  6. bakercape

    bakercape Senior Member

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    I have had CFS for 22 years. I have had two sons. The first was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at 18 monts with PDD-NOS. My second son has aspergers. I don't know if there is a connection with CFS but it would be an interesting case study to see how many people with CFS have children with an autism disorder.
  7. gen1814

    gen1814 Guest

    I am really fascinated by this... my husband has Asperger's and I got sick with ME after marrying him... when we got his diagnosis the ASD specialist said she was doing research into a link between CFS/ME and ASD's because she had come across a significant proportion of partners of ASD people who had M.E! I know it's early days but it soooo makes sense to me!
  8. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    Not a shred of doubt left now, for me

    I did feel that the CFS/XMRV/autism link was looking strong, so many anecdotal stories all pointing the same direction, but I did also wonder whether this was all too circumstantial and possibly a reflection that people in such circumstances (ME + autistic children) are more likely to be members of forums such as this. Then I went to visit a friend whose wife has had ME 20+ years.

    Imagine my feelings when, completely unprompted, he mentioned that the school is trying to diagnose their son with autism. (btw, they want to resist him acquiring a useless label whose only purpose would be to allow the authorities to force experimental cognitive and behavioural treatments on them, and maybe even take the kid away if they 'neglect' him by refusing - anyone from UK have any tips?)

    Sample size 1, 100% of the sample confirmed the theory, probability of this being coincidence less than 2 in 1000.

    As far as I'm concerned, it's not even an open question any more: children of parents with ME/CFS are becoming autistic due to XMRV infection. Period. The totality of the evidence, this whole overall story of the autism connection, is for me the strongest evidence of all that XMRV really is the infectious cause of ME/CFS (and of the rise in autism). It's also, for me, strong evidence that XMRV lies behind even 'mild' ME/CFS due to the nature of this woman's ME symptoms.

    This thread could do with combining with the other thread on XMRV and autism, by the way.
  9. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    Just occurred to me that the question of how XMRV causes autism is probably going to be a really tough one, but if you cracked that, you would also crack a huge secret of how the brain works! I would say: left-brain/right-brain, ying/yang, this question is one of the top 3 questions in that area, which has long been a big interest of mine. Some of my brainy male friends tend to think of autism as just being towards the end of a spectrum of extreme "yang/male-brain-ness" (maybe XMRV inhibits the development of the balancing "yin/female-brain-ness" ?).

    There's also been the theory (maybe this won't be too popular!) that the rise in autism is to do with increased 'feminisation' / 'de-masculinisation' of society making autistic tendencies less acceptable, but of course we know better now...as in maths, the answer always equals X. :D
  10. Marylib

    Marylib Senior Member

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    Looking for advice: nephew will soon have newborn...

    Well... I am trying to think of a way to approach my nephew without scaring the living daylights out of him. He and wife are expecting a baby in late January.

    It is possible that I and my sister (nephew's mom) have XMRV. I have FM/CFS...my sis has had FM at one time. My brother has ADD (for real.) Dad has prostate cancer....a few red flags there.

    Nephew and wife have a baby due in late January. I was reading a post by Andrea Whittemore elsewhere about recommending a different vaccination schedule for babies with families who may have XmRV.

    So I read up about it, and am trying to find the best way to tell them "Your baby may have a retrovirus contracted in utero from an infection Daddy may have given to Mommy (given what Nancy Klimas said on recent interview), and maybe you sould talk to your pediatrician about a revised vaccination schedule even though he will probably tell you you are crazy to even ask such a thing and what the hell is xmrv?"

    We can say "ah perhaps Mikovits is jumping the gun on this one" and "we must be patient" but if there is any way to help prevent this baby from developing a neuro immune disorder, I must take action of some kind or couldn't live with myself.

    Any ideas?
  11. starryeyes

    starryeyes Senior Member

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    Yes Mary. I think you should tell what you know and provide the necessary links. Say it's just FYI and that you are concerned. I think you'll feel better about doing that. If you don't and the baby develops Autism or CFS or FMS later on I think you'll wish you had.

    It's very hard being the bearer of bad news but sometimes it's the most compassionate thing you can do.

    Hugs,
    tee
  12. Athene

    Athene Never give up

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    Yes, try to explain to them

    Hi,
    I agree, I think you should try to explain to them.
    Just explain that your illness appears to be viral and appeas to be very closely linked, or the same illness in a different strain, as autism. I would print out some info about XMRV and the link with autism and vaccinations to show them.
    Since I have CFS, probably XMRV and my son developed autism after vaccinations, you can put them in touch with me if they want to hear more about my own experience.
    If they totally reject your advice, at least you'll know you tried.
    Athene
  13. JillBohr

    JillBohr Senior Member

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    Marylib

    I do not know how you should approach your nephew but when you do, you may want to see if you can consult with Dr. Goldberg in Los Angeles or perhaps I can recommend some parents to talk to you. Many of the parents have CFS/ME and their children have been diagnosed with autism. Dr. Goldberg does have a recommended vaccination schedule (which I do not remember off hand) but I do remember skipping the Hep B vaccine until they are older. Anyway, not one child has been diagnosed with autism when Dr. Goldberg cares for the mother during her pregnancy and afterwards. He understands about triggers and knows best how to avoid them.
  14. Marylib

    Marylib Senior Member

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    Huh?

    I guess the thread got switched around.

    Thanks to all our admins who work to keep this place tidy!
  15. _Kim_

    _Kim_ Guest

    Welcome Timothy Luckett

    Hi Dr. Luckett, your blog has been the talk of the forum for the past few days (especially on this thread: News of replication of WPI XMRV study). Your expertise in retrovirology and FM would be a much welcomed addition to this place. I hope you can stick around and answer some of the questions that have been posed.

    Cheers,
    Kim
  16. anne

    anne Guest

    Welcome, indeed. Thank you for coming on.
  17. ramakentesh

    ramakentesh Senior Member

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    I think they are getting way ahead of themselves. That being said autism is definately on the rise AND they often exhibit 'odd' immune activity and allergies. My partner works with autistic children and always comments on their seeming total lack of immune systems.
  18. usedtobeperkytina

    usedtobeperkytina Senior Member

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    Too early

    Agreed, too early for vaccines. I would have been ok with mention of virus with autism with XMRV, but not vaccines, too controversial. And we all know we don't need any more controversy. I also notice that when Mikovitz mentioned vaccines, Whittemore tried to do a little damage control.

    Tina
  19. starryeyes

    starryeyes Senior Member

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    That is amazing info ram, thank you. Does your partner know if children with autism are sick more often than the general public?

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