Harold E. Buttram, MD
Childhood autism is the result of encephalitis affecting primarily the limbic system of the brain, located below the cerebral cortex. A relatively few number of cases are due to genetic causes, but officially the great majority are of unknown causes.
Bernard Rimland, PhD, founding director of the Autism Research Institute, estimates that there are now a minimum of 250,000 autistic children in America, a 10 to 15-fold increase in the past 50 or so years. Dr. Rimland, internationally recognized as a leading expert in the field of autism, has publically stated that he believes current childhood vaccine programs are one of the major causes for the current epidemic of autism.1
The US Committee on Children, Youth, and Families has estimated there are now 7.5 million American children with developmental delay compared with 4.8 million in 1991. Of these, 30% are thought to be autistic or have autistic tendencies .2
It is true that statistics are subject to question, but the real scope of the problem can be gained by talking with veteran elementary school teachers, and I have talked with many of them. Without exception in my experience, they emphatically confirm that there has been a dramatic and widespread increase among school children in learning and behavioral disorders attention deficit and hyperactivity, and children requiring special education. These changes appear most notable since the 1970's.
Dawbarns Law Firm of England has published a paper in which they report on over 600 instances of side effects following the MMR and MR vaccines, which were introduced in England in 1988.3 These include 202 cases of autism, 97 of epilepsy, 40 with hearing and vision problems, and 41 with 100 behavioral and learning problems, the latter in older children. Although British health officials deny a relationship of these conditions with the vaccines, Dawbarns has accounts of over 200 parents who believe that their children were normal before they were vaccinated, and who can point to nothing (other than the vaccine) which could account for the deterioration in their children's conditions.
The Physician's Desk Reference, in its section on the MMR vaccine, states that complications from MMR, such as encephalitis and optic neuritis, occur "very rarely." This is the conventional view, sincerely held by a majority of doctors, but where does the truth lie? Could it be that adverse consequences to MMR vaccine are occurring on a larger scale than officially recognized?
Hypothetical model for MMR vaccine as a cause of encephalitis Nerve cells of the brain function by conducting nerve impulses, Much like electrical wiring, these cells require insulation to function normally. This insulation is provided by myelin sheaths, made up largely of fatty material. For the most part myelination of nerve cells of the brain does not commence until after birth. Most is laid down during the first 5 years of normal development.
It is now generally thought that the process of encephalitis, whether from wild viruses of live-virus vaccines, is associated with an interference with the myelination process brought about by the development of antibodies against myelin basic protein, a constituent of the myelin sheaths .4
In theory there are several mechanisms whereby the MMR vaccine could have increased potency to induce harmful autoantibodies (antibodies which attack the body's own tissues and organs, including the myelin sheathes), once injected into the human system.
First and perhaps foremost, MMR is incubated in chick embryo culture medium, which necessarily includes precursors of all the organ systems of the chick, including myelin basic protein. Merck Pharmaceuticals, which produces MMR vaccine, claims that all traces of the chick embryo are removed before the vaccine is released for use. This may be true, but it is probably irrelevant as it does not take into account the process of mobile genetic elements, more commonly referred to as "jumping genes." Viruses being made up entirely of genetic material, they are highly susceptible to this process. It has been shown that viruses are genetically changed by accepting genetic material from cell cultures.' The genetic imprint of the chick myelin basic protein, which is foreign to the human system because of its chick origin, may be programmed to induce antibodies against human myelin basic protein, once injected into the human system. This in turn, potentially resulting in encephalitis.
The second theoretical reason is that the MMR vaccine is injected by needle directly into the system. This differs, from the natural infections which are "cushioned" or buffered by the mucosal immune system (Secretary IgA) of the respiratory tract. By passing this mucosal immune system, the injection may carry greater potency for harmful autoantibody formation.
Third, measles virus carries protein similar to those found in myelin sheaths 6 so that antibodies induced by the measles vaccine may cross-react harmfully with myelin.
Carrying this line of thought further, in 1993 Vijendra Singh, PhD University of Illinois, published a study in which they found antibodies to myelin basic protein in 50 to 60% of autistic children tested.4 Recently at a public meeting Dr. Singh presented information on an unpublished, preliminary study of 27 autistic children in which he found nearly 50% correlation between MMR antibodies and antibodies to myelin basic protein in serum drawn from the children.7 Dr. Singh emphasized that this study was very preliminary and that no conclusions could be drawn from it. However, it does raise a higher index of suspicion that the MMR vaccine may result in encephalitis and its various complications on a fairly large scale. Once again, this leads us to question whether or not many vaccine reactions are passing unrecognized and therefore unreported by the US medical community.
Reasons for under-reporting of adverse vaccine reactions in the USA As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1990, there is a general malaise among American physicians in reporting adverse drug (and vaccine) reactions;.8 ,9 Based on this report, the present voluntary reporting system appears to have resulted in very low levels of adverse reaction reports.
The original screening studies for measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine were limited to short periods of time such as 6 weeks observation for adverse affects. This limited time did not take into account the possibility of delayed reactions, which may outnumber those occurring within the 6 or so week period. In the case of cancer, we know there may be periods of years between the original body insult and onset of cancer. In the case of the vaccines, it is possible that slow and subclinical process of encephalitis may be initiated which may not manifest until much later an therefore remain unrecognized as having been caused by the MMR vaccine.
It is possible that MMR vaccine reactions are now occurring on a much larger scale than they did in the original screening studies, because many children today are second generation vaccinees; that is, they are born mothers previously vaccinated with MMR. The mothers having been vaccinated with genetically contaminated MMR, as previous described, the children may have heightened susceptibility to adverse reactions when rechallenged with the vaccine.10 Further confirmation of this concept is found in a recent report from Japan where it was demonstrated that live virus from measles vaccine do persist in mononuclear cells of the body in children with autoimmune hepatitis.16 Doctors, having been conditioned by the rarity of adverse reactions in the original screening studies, are generally inclined to dismiss these reactions as due to other causes.
The decline of childhood diseases before vaccination There is a generally held concept that mass vaccine programs were largely responsible for control of former epidemic diseases, but with the probable exception of the polio vaccine, in most instances this was not the case. From 1911 to 1935 the 4 leading causes of death among those aged 1 to 14 years, covered by Metropolitan Life Insurance policies, were diphtheria, measles, scarlet fever and whooping cough.11
However, by 1945 the combined rates from these 4 diseases had declined by 95%, before mass vaccine program began in the United States .12 By far the greatest factors in the decline were better housing with less crowded conditions, better nutrition, and other public health, hygienic, and medical measures.
Discussion The conventional view is that adverse vaccine reactions are relatively uncommon. At variance with this are internationally recognized authorities such as Dr. Bernard Rimland. Also at variance are many parents whose children have developed medical complications following vaccines where no other cause was evident.
Time may prove that one of the basic flaws in American childhood vaccine programs is that it is increasingly compulsory and mandatory. Once considered the fountainhead of freedom, in the enforcement of vaccine programs, America has become one of the most stringent and arbitrary of all nations. Parents refusing to have their children vaccinated, often for religious reasons, are subject to charges of child abuse.
Public health officials contend that such compulsory measures are necessary for control of infectious diseases which, they maintain, would increase along with childhood death rates if the vaccine mandates were lifted. In my opinion, this argument does not bear up to scrutiny for the following reasons:
In 1979 Sweden banned the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, considering it both ineffective and dangerous. In spite of the banning, or perhaps because of it, Sweden maintains one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. In 1975 Japan raised the age of pertussis vaccine to 2 years of age, considering it dangerous in infancy. Since that time, sudden infant death syndrome (cot deaths) have largely disappeared in Japan.13
Other nations with either voluntary vaccine programs, such as England, or less stringently enforced programs have lower infant mortality rates than the US. With few exceptions, they have not had a return of deadly epidemics (with high mortality).
One researcher has estimated that, in the case of autism, it may take 15 years to reach the standards of scientific proof that MMR vaccine is causing autism in a large portion of children with the condition. Can we afford to wait 15 years? For sake of argument, let us assume that scientific proof is eventually gained that MMR is causatively related to a significant portion of children with autism and developmental delay. If we continue to enforce vaccine programs as at present, one shudders to think what the future generations will think and write about us. Mistakes might be forgiven, but not the enforcement of these mistakes. If such does prove to be the case, we can rest assured that they will be neither kind nor charitable in their judgments of us.
Conclusion As previously mentioned, time may prove that vaccine programs went awry when they deviated from the most basic of traditional medical ethics: the right of a patient to choose or reject medical therapy, or the right of parents to accept or reject medical procedures such as vaccines for their children. The right of free choice provides a system for checks and balances now lacking. As a result, present vaccine programs are going to extremes and are possibly causing more disease than they are preventing. The remedy? Parents should be allowed the right of free choice to accept or reject vaccines for their children.
Addendum Of related interest to the subject of MMR vaccine as a potential cause of encephalitis is the report of Dr. Sudhir Gupta and coworkers in which they found marked abnormalities of the immune systems of autistic children.10 Could the MMR vaccine have been a contributing factor for these abnormalities? In 1991 there was a report of significantly higher child mortality following high-tittered measles vaccines compared with standard measles vaccines among children in Senegal.14 Subsequently a study was undertaken to assess immune responses to the high tittered vaccines.15 The results showed suppression in lymphoproliferation; that is, suppression in lymphocyte production (lymphocytes are a class of white blood cells which play a major role in governing the immune system). In the above study report it was stated, "the effect of measles immunization on immune responses in infants has not been systematically studied." The study was valuable but it tested only two strains of high red measles vaccines, not the standard vaccine. As a result we do know that the high-tittered vaccine does cause immune disturbances, but we do not know the effects of the standard measles vaccine, studies not having been done. If such studies are not already in progress, let us hope that they soon will be.
Correspondence: Harold E. Buttram, MD 5724 Clymer Road Quakertown, Pennsylvania 18951 USA 215-536-1890
1. Statements by Bernard Rimland, PhD, were given at a conference on autism, sponsored by the Autism Research Institute in Chicago, June, 1996.
2. Information from the Developmental Delay Registry, 6701 Fairfax Road, Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815, Tel. 301652-2263.
3. From a paper distributed by Dawbarns Law Firm, Bank House, Kingrs Staithe Square, Lingrs Lynn, Norfolk PE30 IRD, Great Britain, Tel. 01553. 764373, Fax 01553-765226.
4. Singh VJ et al., Antibodies to myelin basic protein in children with autistic behavior, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Vol. 7, 97-1203, 1993.
5. Kumar S & Miller LK, Effects of serial passage of Autographs Californica nuclear polyhidrosis virus in cell culture. Virus Research, Vol. 7, 335-349, 1987.
6. Jahnke U et al., Sequence homology between certain viral proteins and proteins related to encephalomyelitis and neuritis, Science, Vol. 29, 282-284, July 19, 1985,
7. Presentation by Dr. Vijendra Singh, August 16, 1997, Allegro School, Cedar Knolls, New Jersey.
8. Scott HD et al., Physician reporting of adverse reactions: results of the Rhode Island adverse drug reaction reporting project, JAMA, Vol. 263, No. 13, 1785-1788, April 4, 1990.
9. Reporting side effects: signals or noise? (Editorial), ibid, page 1823.
10. Gupta S et al., Dysregulated immune system in children with autism; beneficial effects of intravenous globulin on autistic characteristics, J ofAutism and Develop Disorders, Vol. 26, No. 4, 439-452, 1996. (In this article on page 450, it is stated, "We theorized that the high titers of rubella antibody ... present in mothers of children with autism would be transplacentally transferred and may persist for a prolonged period in the child. When such a child gets MMR immunization, rubella antigen may complex with preexisting antibodies and such complexes might play a role in pathogenesis of autistic features.")
11. Dublin L & Lotka A, Twenty-five Years ofHealth Progress, New York: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 1937, page 48.
12. Dublin L, Health Progress 1936-1945, New York: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 1948, page 12.
13. Vaccination. 100 Years of Orthodox Research Shows that Vaccines Represent a Medical Assault on the Immune System, Viera Scheibner, PhD., 1993 (from pages 33 to 49 the author extensively reviews the Swedish and Japanese experiences with the pertussis vaccine, book available from New Atlantean Press, P.O. Box 9638-925, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504).
14. Garenne M et al., Child mortality after high-titre measles vaccines; a prospective study in Senegal, Lancet, Vol. 338, 903-907, October 12, 1991.
15. Hussey GD et al., The effect of Edmonston-Zagreb and Schwarz measles vaccines on immune responses in infants, J of Infect Diseases, Vol. 173, 1320-1326, 1996.