Friday, September 10, 2010

More Research is Needed

Yesterday, the details of the US government's settlement with a family whose daughter has an autism diagnosis became public. Hannah Poling had been developing normally, but began regressing after receiving multiple childhood vaccines during her 18-month-old check up. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program found Hannah's case credible in 2008 and yesterday released the details of the monetary settlement.

The emergence of these details has many saying vaccines cause autism. It's doubtful that is true. What is true, however, is that kids are not genetically identical to each other and often have underlying sensitivities that are exacerbated by vaccines or other environmental factors, such as pollution or food dyes or gluten. 

By admitting that vaccines may have triggered Hannah Poling's autism because of her mitochondrial disorder, the US government raised a larger issue: If autism can result from vaccines + mitochondrial disorders, why aren't kids tested for such mitochondrial problems before vaccines are given? If such knowledge was available, parents and pediatricians could assess whether the risk of significant childhood disease outweighs the risk of vaccinating against it.

Admittedly, mitochondrial disorders are rare. Some estimates note that approximately only 4,000 infants are born each year with them (out of over 4 million babies born each year in the US). But those are the most severe cases, where the physical manifestations of mitochondrial disorders, e.g., eye or respiratory problems, delayed development, etc., are present. What about mild cases that may go unnoticed until later in life, when diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or cancer develop?

Mitochondrial issues are not something that are routinely tested for. But can they be? Anything that might address the epidemic of autism should be explored. Never forget that the United States government exists to work for us. Let your Congressional representatives know that you encourage research into mitochondrial diseases so that s/he can influence the National Institutes of Health's research agenda.

Don't know who your Congressional reps are? Go here to find out.

The Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine  supports research and therapies for mitochondrial disorders.

Here is the CBS News Report on the Poling family.

The Poling family opened the door for the rest of the country. Let's build on what they started.

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