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The Herald- United Kingdom
July 22, 2002
Scots study on autism poses new question of MMR link
A SCIENTIST in Scotland yesterday revealed new research which could indicate a link between autism and the MMR vaccine by showing that autistic children have abnormally high levels of toxins in their bodies.
The study by Gordon Bell, of Stirling University, also raises hopes that autism may not be genetic and instead be a physical, and therefore potentially treatable, condition.
Lead, aluminium and antimony (similar to arsenic but more toxic) were found to be present in children suffering from autism at a significantly higher level than other children.
All three toxins weaken the immune system and, when present in high levels, Dr Bell believes they could affect the body's response to the MMR jab. He suggests the immune system could be too weak to react properly to the triple vaccine, triggering the onset of autism.
"These toxins could increase the likelihood of a reaction to viral change because they are all immune suppressants," he said.
"Autism is all about putting too much of a burden on the body, and high levels of heavy metals may lead to other catastrophic events in the body which may then lead to autism.
"All these metals or elements are at toxic levels so the body may not react appropriately to a immune change such as that caused by the MMR vaccine."
Dr Bell, whose own son developed autism at the age of two after having the MMR jab, believes children susceptible to autism may have a problem getting rid of toxins from their bodies. He called for more research, both to test his results and establish whether it was possible to develop a treatment for the problem.
"This is just a small-scale study, but it is very relevant. I simply do not have the resources to do the large-scale studies that are needed," he said.
"I am saying: look at this, it is a real result, and if it is the reality in a majority, or even a significant minority, of people with autism then it is something we should be looking into."
Action Against Autism said the research undermined the traditional model of the disease as "psychiatric, genetic, lifelong, and incurable". Bill Welsh, chairman, called for a large-scale study. "Clinical examination of autistic children should now be a priority. Dr Bell's findings further confirm that these unfortunate children are just plain sick and probably in distress."
David Potter, head of policy at the National Autistic Society, confirmed the toxins found by Dr Bell had never previously been detected. "The medical establishment see this as a gen-etic condition, but this type of research shows there are other factors involved. We would be very keen to see this type of research furthered."
Dr Bell, a lecturer in marine biology at Stirling, has a PhD in biochemistry and became heavily involved in autism research since it affected his own family six years ago. He is a member of the Scottish Executive's cross-party group on the condition.
With funds provided by the Autism Research Trust, Dr Bell tested 37 children for toxic elements, taking hair samples which were then sent to a laboratory in America for analysis.
Levels of antimony in autistic children were five times above the normal maximum range and levels of lead and aluminium were three times higher. Antimony can cause fatigue, hypotension, angina, and immune dysfunction.
All 24 children with autism who took part in the study were found to have antimony present above the recommended maximum values, compared to 50% of the eight non-autistic children tested, and 40% of the five children with Asperger's Syndrome.
Lead, an excess of which can lead to severe gastro-intestinal problems, loss of appetite, insomnia, and nervousness, was present above the normal maximum range in 92% of autistic children, compared to only 25% of non-autistic children, and 20% with Asperger's Syndrome.
High levels of aluminium, which have been implicated in the onset of dementia, were present in 54% of autistic children, compared to only 12.5% of the control group, and none in the Asperger's group.
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