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Mar
01

Vaccines, Neurodevelopment, and Autism Spectrum Disorders - Autoimmunity and Vaccinations

Author // Russell L. Blaylock, MD

Article Index
Vaccines, Neurodevelopment, and Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autoimmunity and Vaccinations
Immune Suppression by Live Virus-Containing Vaccines
All Pages

Autoimmunity and Vaccinations

A number of studies suggest a link between autoimmune disorders and autism risk. Support comes from studies showing an increased risk of ASD in children of mothers with autoimmune disorders. Yet, not all studies agree, since at least one carefully done study found no strong link.

Other more carefully done studies provided evidence suggesting some link. For example, in one study, serum from a mother with an autistic child was found to bind immunologically with specific brain cells (Purkinje cells). When this serum was injected into pregnant mice, their babies demonstrated neurological changes suggestive of autistic behavior, indicating a transfer of the autoantibodies into the developing baby mouse.

A number of studies have found autoantibodies in a significantly higher number of autistic children to various brain structures, including serotonin receptors, myelin basic protein, neuron axon filament protein, nerve growth factor, and cerebellar neurofilaments. It should be understood that these autoantibodies are not found in all cases and that they may develop as a result of the damage caused by the disease itself, rather than causing the disease. For example, we know that after a stroke or head injury a substantial number of people develop autoantibodies to brain proteins. Nevertheless, the autoantibodies can worsen the damage and prolong the damaging pathology.

It has also been demonstrated that methylmercury (from fish) and ethylmercury (in thimerosal) are both powerful immunosuppressants and are associated with a high incidence of autoimmunity. In this study, researchers found that unlike methylmercury, thimerosal (ethylmercury) initially caused immune suppression and then strong Th2-induced autoimmunity. They attributed this to the higher conversion of ethylmercury to ionic mercury (Hg+) than seen with methylmercury. In fact, one study found that strains of mice highly susceptible to developing autoimmune diseases were sensitive to the ASD-like behavioral effects on mercury exposure, whereas mouse strains that were not genetically susceptible to autoimmunity do not develop ASD behaviors. It is obvious from the extremely high incidence of ASD that these autoimmune-related genes are very common, but they remain silent until triggered by vaccines or other environmental toxins.

Immunologists have now concluded that autoimmune disorders are not the result of excessive activation of a normal immune system, but rather activation of a dysfunctional immune system. The question remains: what is causing such widespread immune dysfunction among our population? Studies show that the number of autoimmune diseases has increased over the past 30 years, with asthma, type-1 diabetes and eczema rates increasing more than two-fold. There is also compelling evidence to indicate that certain vaccinations are associated with these autoimmune-related conditions.

A compelling number of studies have shown an increased incidence of autoimmune reactions in children with the autism spectrum disorders (ASD), especially involving measles antigens, milk antigens, and antibodies to gliadin and gluten. Some of these have been shown to cross-react with brain-derived proteins as well, especially those in the cerebellum, a major structure affected in these disorders.

Recently, neuroscientists have shown that much of the damage in cases of autoimmunity is not due to direct immune reactions with brain structures, but rather results from the release of storms of free radicals and lipid peroxidation products during the immune reaction, something I call a “hand grenade in a shopping mall effect.” If you use a hand grenade to target a single person in a crowd you will not only kill and injure the intended target, but all of the bystanders as well.

Neuroscientists P.L. McGeer and E.G. McGeer have named this effect “bystander damage.” The immune attack caused by the autoimmune reaction in an autistic person’s brain damages a number of surrounding structures, especially brain connections called dendrites and synapses. Subsequent studies have confirmed that bystander damage is the most destructive reaction of autoimmunity.

Some studies, as referred to above, have shown that autism is much more common in families with a hereditary tendency for autoimmune diseases, which makes sense because these individuals have a dysfunctional immune system. There is also compelling evidence that vaccines themselves can damage the immune system of immature animals, leading to a higher incidence of autoimmunity and abnormal brain development. Mercury, even in small concentrations, is also known to induce autoimmunity in a high percentage of those exposed to it.

Ironically, things that suppress a portion of the immune system, usually cellular-type immunity, increase the likelihood of autoimmunity. Immunologists speak about a Th1 to Th2 shift and vice versa. This can occur with exposure to mercury as well as in response to vaccination. A great number of autoimmune diseases are associated with a Th2 shift.

The immune system is a very complex system, which at birth is incompletely formed. This means, and has been confirmed in animal and human studies, that immune reactions to vaccinations differ at different ages, so that small babies have a different reaction than adults. This has been shown with the hepatitis B vaccine now given to newborns. The rate of maturation of the immune system also differs considerably among babies and children, meaning we cannot say what effect will occur in all children. There are a great many variables, including diet.

The immune system’s reaction to infection and immunization can be quite different. Normally, the immune system relies on a shifting of T-lymphocyte function to determine which is better for the particular situation. The T-helper lymphocytes (Th) can exist as Th1, Th0, or Th2 forms. When no infection is present, the system is in the Th0 mode (an uncommitted phase). If a virus invades, it quickly switches to the Th1 phase, which allows immune cells to secrete a group of cytokines that kill viruses. It also activates immune lymphocytes that kill viruses and bacteria. At other times, the immune system needs a whole different set of immune signals and cells, which are supplied by the Th2 phase. The Th2 phase favors the production of antibodies, mainly supplied by Bcells, but in general they reduce immune reactions.

Infants are stuck in the Th2 mode during intrauterine life, to prevent being immunologically rejected by the mother during pregnancy (much like transplant rejection), since the baby is seen as a foreign body to the mother’s immune system. At birth, the baby remains in a Th2 mode, but has a limited ability to switch to the Th1 defensive mode if the need arises, say from an infection. Months later, the baby switches to the adult Th1 mode. If the baby’s immune system remains in a Th2 mode, it has a high risk of developing an autoimmune disorder, including eczema, asthma, or other allergies.

Presently, vaccine authorities recommend every baby be vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine at birth. But, is this safe? A recent study looked at the immune reaction in newborn infants up to the age of 1 year who had received the hepatitis B vaccine to see if their immune reaction differed from adults getting the same vaccine. What they found was that the infant, even after age 1 year, did react differently. Their antibody levels were substantially higher than adults (3-fold higher) and it remained higher throughout the study. In essence, they found that the babies responded to the vaccine by having an intense Th2 response that persisted long after it should have disappeared, a completely abnormal response.

Autistic children have been described as having a Th2 predominance, which would explain their propensity to developing autoimmune diseases and being more susceptible to infections early in life. Elevated proinflammatory cytokines, particularly TNF, have been described in studies of the cytokine profile in autistic children. As we shall see later, an excess production of B-cell cytokines and suppression of T-lymphocyte Th1 activity, as seen in autism, is associated with a high incidence of neurological damage by excitotoxins.

Several things about these immune responses are important to all parents, including effects of such immune overstimulation during pregnancy. For example, it has been shown that excess immune stimulation, as occurs with vaccination, can significantly increase the risk of a pregnant woman having a child with autism or schizophrenia later in life, depending on when the vaccine is given. In addition, persistent Th2 responses caused by the hepatitis B vaccine puts your child at a great risk of developing an autoimmune disorder and impairing your baby’s ability to fight off infections. This means that immediately after birth this vaccine has put your child at a greater risk of all childhood related infections, including H. influenzae, meningitis, meningococcal meningitis, rotavirus, measles, and chickenpox. Not only that, but numerous studies have shown that such immune suppression greatly increases the number of severe complications associated with these infections, which means that should your child be exposed to measles or chickenpox they are more likely to suffer neurological damage, seizures, or other systemic disorders. When this occurs, rather than admit that the science indicates that the vaccine program is the cause of the complications and deaths, the vaccine proponents scream that it demonstrates again the need for greater efforts to vaccinate our children.