How to Help Eliminate the Hidden Enemy that Triggers Autism

You can skip this video in  seconds
Skip Ad
Total Video Length: 1:09:30

Visit the Mercola Video Library

Update - March, 2019 to add clarification on vaccine info and this comment by John Gregory,  staff analyst for internet website checker NewsGuard, who said, "Our review has found that medical science overwhelmingly rejects that causal link exists between vaccines and autism."

A new scientific review reveals there are a host of peer-reviewed, published theories that show possible connections between vaccines and autism. The author of the review, Helen Ratajczak, did something that no one else has apparently bothered to do -- review the complete body of published science since autism was first described in 1943.

The article found numerous documented causes of autism caused by encephalitis following vaccination. Ratajczak goes on to discuss many potential vaccine-related culprits, including the increasing number of vaccines given in a short period of time.

According to CBS news:

“Ratajczak also looks at a factor that hasn't been widely discussed: human DNA contained in vaccines... she discusses the increase in autism incidences corresponding with the introduction of human DNA to MMR vaccine, and suggests the two could be linked. Ratajczak also says an additional increased spike in autism occurred in 1995 when chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue.”

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Many so called "experts" have dismissed the autism vaccine connection but Helen Ratajczak has masterfully reviewed the entire body of scientific literature related to theories about how vaccines and autism may be connected. It's time for the CDC to take a genuine look at the data, as opposed to brushing it off to the realm of conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated urban legends. Autism has become a medical disaster of monumental proportions, morphing from a rare disease three decades ago into a modern day epidemic.

Rates have exploded from 4 in10,000 children in the 1940s to somewhere between 1 in 50 and 1 in 110 children now, depending on what source of statistics you use. In this literature review, Ratajczak reports approximately one child per 100 (1 percent) in the U.S. currently has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and one child per 64 has some form of autism in the United Kingdom.

A recent study in South Korea, which employs a different sampling method, suggests even more troubling prevalence. Researchers concluded 1 in 38 children in South Korea—or 2.64 percent—has an autism spectrum disorder. The study's authors predicted that if similar studies were conducted in other countries, the prevalence would be higher than current estimates suggest.

Are Increased Autism Rates Real?

Could it be that we are just better at identifying these children today than we were decades ago? Not according to Ratajckak's report. The increase in autism is not considered to be a result of reclassification, improved screening, or other changes in diagnostic methods. A key piece of evidence here is that the other pervasive developmental disorders, including mental retardation, speech/language impairment, and traumatic brain injury, have NOT shown the same stark rate increases.

Autism rates began to rapidly escalate between 1983 and 1990, from 4 in 10,000 to 1 in 500, at the same time as a new type of measles/mumps/rubella vaccine (i.e., MMR II) was released. It is important to note that this version of the MMR was different than previous versions in that it was propagated from human embryonic lung tissue—human DNA. It has been hypothesized that this human DNA contamination might explain the spikes in incidence.

But this is only one of many theories, based on research to date.

It is likely that skyrocketing autism rates have MULTIPLE causes, many of which tie into the large number of vaccines given to children at one time, and the fact that so many vaccines are now given to children during their first two years of life. In 1983, before the autism epidemic began, children received 10 vaccinations before entering school. Today, they are receiving 24 vaccines before the end of their first year—and 36 by the time they start school.

The sheer number of vaccines given to young American children is a major contributor to this country's falling infant mortality rates.

Developed nations with poor infant mortality tend to give their children more doses of vaccines before age one, according to the latest scientific research. It's not just a "coincidence" that the infant mortality rate is twice as high in America as it is in Sweden and Japan, where half as many vaccinations are given to babies.

What about Genetics as an Explanation for Autism?

There is solid evidence that genetics is a major component of "traditional" autism, as evidenced by the twin studies Ratajckak cites. Prior to 1980, genetics probably accounted for most of the cases.  But genetics accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of the cases of autism we see today. If one identical twin has autism, there is a 90 percent likelihood that the other will develop autism. However, if one fraternal twin has autism, there is only a 2 to 3 percent chance that the other will develop it. This points to autism as a neurodevelopmental syndrome for which there is no single major genetic cause, but rather many different genes and mutations.

Furthermore, no one has been able to identify one single "autism gene." And there is no such thing as a genetic epidemic—so no way to explain today's autism explosion as a function of genetics. The majority of autism cases appear to result from the activation, or "expression," of a number of different genes and multiple epigenetic and environmental factors that interact to express autism traits.

The Need for a Paradigm Shift for Autism

Autism has traditionally been regarded as a psychiatric and neurological disease, whose pathology was confined to the brain. But as autism cases have escalated, it is now obvious that it's a multi-faceted, whole body disease that has effects reaching far beyond brain and behavior. For example, bowel disorders are a very common in those with autism, yet "experts" continue to deny the existence of a connection. If we are to slow down this raging freight train of an epidemic, a paradigm shift is needed in how this disease is viewed, particularly in light of new evidence about the mechanisms underlying it.

It is important to realize that, while I believe vaccines are an important contributor to autism, they clearly aren't the only factor. In her pilgrimage through the literature, Ratajckak cites evidence for the following potential causes and factors contributing to today's autism epidemic. (For details on any of these, please refer to her original article.)

Mitochondrial disease and dysfunction Medications used by a woman in pregnancy can alter brain development of her unborn child (evidence exists for Misoprostol, valproic acid, acetaminophen, and of course thalidomide)
Immunosuppression related to pregnancy, prenatal development, and increased susceptibility to infection, possibly due to a defective blood-brain barrier Abnormal regulation of brain growth
Imbalance of neural systems—between excitation and inhibition in key neural systems, including the cerebral cortex Excessively high fetal testosterone levels
Environmental toxins such as xenobiotics, phthalates, PCBs, organophosphate pesticides, herbicides, perchlorates, trihalomethanes, aluminum and mercury Viruses such as measles, herpes simplex virus, varicella, cytomegalovirus and Stealth virus, which can cause encephalitis that can later result in autism; some of these viruses can persist in your body by hiding inside monocytes, inducing chronic inflammation

When you look through that list, the causes may appear to be "all over the map." Yet, dedicated scientists have suspected there must be some common thread, some underlying mechanism or process explaining the degenerative brain changes seen in autism. Finally, it seems that a Russian neurologist has found a concept which may put all the pieces together very nicely.  That physician is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and she has published a book called Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) which carefully documents her approach.

I was fortunate enough to do an interview with her that I would strongly encourage you to review as she does a masterful job of explaining how an impairment in a woman's gut flora due to antibiotic and birth control exposure, along with a poor diet is then transferred to the children she has.  This impairment in gut flora then makes her children sitting ducks for autism. 

Fortunately there are tests that can identify the sub groups who are at risk for developing these brain injuries.  Dr. Campbell-McBride has developed an extensive recovery protocol that has helped many thousands of autistic children recover. Like most therapies in autism, the sooner the program is implemented the more likely the program will be effective.

No one knows for sure, but I believe that the gut flora imbalance that Dr. Campbell-McBride discusses is responsible for the biochemical physiology that Dr. Blaylock so eloquently explains below.

Total Video Length: 1:13:21
Download Interview Transcript

A Biochemical Explanation for the Theory of Autism: Microglial Activation

Russell Blaylock, M.D. is a board certified neurosurgeon and an expert on the subject of excitotoxins and how they relate to nervous system disease. He may have found the central mechanism, making possible a "unified theory" of the cause of autism.Blaylock has been writing extensively about autism and other neurodegenerative diseases for the past decade and has proposed a theory about the cause of autistic spectrum disorders.

Blaylock attributes autism to excessive and prolonged microglial activation, with an interaction between inflammatory cytokines and glutamate receptors. His own research is supported by a very comprehensive study by Vargas et al in 2005, which found elevated inflammatory cytokines, as well as the presence of extensive, widespread activated microglia and astrocytes, in the brains of autistic individuals aged 5 years to 44 years.

Ok, now in English…

Your Brain's Special Immune Cell—the Microglia

For a long time no one considered the effect of repeated vaccinations on your brain. This was based on a mistaken conclusion that your brain was protected from immune activation by its special protective gateway called the blood-brain barrier. More recent studies have shown that immune cells can enter your brain directly—and more importantly, your brain's own special immune system can be activated by vaccination.

In order to understand this, you must first understand that your brain has a special immune system that operates through unique cells called microglia. These tiny cells are scattered throughout your brain, lying dormant and waiting to be activated by a variety of stimuli. Vaccines are a very powerful activating agent for microglia.

Numerous studies have shown that when your immune system is activated, your brain's immune cells are likewise activated.

This occurs by several pathways, which are beyond the scope of this discussion. The more powerfully your immune system is stimulated, the more intense is your brain's reaction. Prolonged activation of your body's immune system likewise produces prolonged activation of your brain's immune system. The latest studies reveal that pathological activation can continue for months, years, or even decades. Therein lies the danger of our present vaccine policy.

What Happens When Your Brain's Immune System is Activated?

Once activated, your brain's immune cells (microglia) begin to move about your nervous system, like amoebae, secreting numerous immune chemicals (cytokines and chemokines) and pouring out an enormous amount of free radicals in an effort to kill invading organisms. The problem is, there are no invading organisms. But the vaccine has tricked your body into believing there are!

Your microglia also secrete two chemicals that are very destructive to your brain cells and their biological processes: Glutamate and quinolinic acid. These chemicals are called excitotoxins—chemicals that cause exaggerated and continuous stimulation of your brain, thereby damaging your neurons. Microglia also dramatically increase free radical generation. Studies have shown that glutamate and quinolinic acid can rise to very dangerous levels in your brain following viral and bacterial brain infections.

The problem with so many vaccines is that your brain's immune system is constantly activated and re-activated. This means your brain will be exposed to large amounts of excitotoxins, as well as cytokines, on a continual basis.

Your Immune System's Collateral Damage, or "Bystander Injury"

Studies involving people with neurodegenerative disorders, such as autism, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's disease, have shown high levels of cytokines and excitotoxins in the nervous system. These destructive chemicals, as well as the free radicals they generate, cause a process called "bystander injury"—kind of like throwing a bomb into a crowd. Not only will some be killed directly by the blast, but those far out along the explosion radius will be killed by flying shrapnel.

Normally, your brain's immune system activates quickly and then promptly shuts off to minimize the bystander damage. But vaccination won't let the microglia shut down.

In infants and young children, the damage is compounded by the fact that their brains are still developing—as are their immune systems. For example, before birth, infants' immune systems are designed to withstand being rejected by their mothers' body, since a baby is seen as a "foreign body" by his mother's immune system. Mother Nature has designed the fetal immune system specifically for that situation. And it isn't immediately transformed upon birth—it takes time. Dr. Blaylock discusses this at length in his article about the dangers of excessive vaccination during brain development..

Studies confirm that babies do not respond to vaccines in the same way as adults, even by one year of age.

In your child's developing brain, immune over-activation has been shown to be particularly damaging to the amygdala and other limbic structures. In essence, what is lost is that which makes us social human beings, able to function in a complex world of ideas and interactions—and this is what is lost with autism. What we see is a vicious cycle of immune activation, excitotoxin and cytokine excretion, and free radical production. The latter starts the cycle all over again.

The "Priming" of Your Brain's Immune System

Certain children appear to have a higher risk for developing autism than others, for a variety of reasons. Their immune systems are more easily "primed." Many of these children develop infections at a higher rate than less vulnerable children, which may be due to a hidden developmental immunodeficiency. For example, many physicians treating autistic children have noted a higher incidence of ear infections. Many of these children then end up with Candida infections as a result of antibiotic treatment. Also, cytomegalovirus is a powerful virus that commonly infects newborns and small children, especially if they are immunosuppressed. 

Any of these infections will "prime" the microglia, shifting these normally resting cells into overdrive. Microglia can also be primed by:

Once primed, if microglia are stimulated again within weeks or even months, they generate extremely high levels of free radicals, lipid peroxidation products, inflammatory cytokines and two potent excitotoxins, glutamate and quinolinic acid. All it takes is the insult of ONE more vaccine, or ONE more infection, and the stage is set for the autism cascade.

Studies have shown that this is the MAJOR mechanism for both viral and vaccine-related brain injury.

I should note here that microglial activation is not limited to autism. Activation of microglia has been found to be a factor in a growing list of diseases, including:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • ALS
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • HIV-associated dementia

Microglial activation is also a major player in many types of brain disease, and vaccines are a powerful trigger for it.

The "Gift" that Keeps On Giving

Vaccines are different from natural infections in that vaccines cause brain immune stimulation for very prolonged periods.  With a natural infection, your immune system quickly clears the infection and then shuts down the immune reaction (activated microglia), allowing repair of the damage done. This shutting down of the microglia is very important. There is evidence that, with repeated and excessive vaccine-triggered immune stimulation, the microglia do not shut down—which is what the Vargas study showed. Chronic activation can lead to significant damage to a number of brain microstructures, especially synaptic connections and dendrites, according to Dr. Blaylock.

With some 26 inoculations within the first year of a child's life, most of these will be spaced within one to two months of each other, which means the priming and activation cycle of the microglia will be virtually continuous. A baby might be born "already primed" if his mother got a flu shot while pregnant. Vaccines assault your child's immune system from multiple angles:

  • Antigens, such as pertussis toxin and live measles virus, can trigger runaway immune and inflammatory responses.
  • Preservatives such as Thimerosal, which is 49 percent ethyl mercury. Many of the symptoms of autism are similar to those of mercury poisoning.
  • Aluminum (found in most vaccines) and other adjuvants (MSG, MRC-5 cellular protein, lipopolysaccharide or LPS, squalene, and various antibiotics), added to prolong immune stimulation. Heavy metal levels have been found to be elevated in the blood and urine of autistic individuals.
  • Bacterial and viral contaminants (and their particulate matter) contained in vaccine serum.
  • Human DNA contaminants in vaccines (related to new methods of vaccines preparation).

Mercury, aluminum and other heavy metals are powerful activators of microglial activity in VERY small concentrations. Mercury causes glutamate to accumulate in your brain by inhibiting the agents that clear it out. The excess glutamate is taken up by astrocytes, magnifying excitotoxicity and mitochondrial energy loss. Astrocytes are the sites of greatest mercury accumulation in your central nervous system, and microglia are the second most abundant sites of mercury accumulation.

Mitochondrial Damage: The Chicken or the Egg?

You may be familiar with the association between autism and mitochondrial dysfunction. Blaylock's theory about microglial activation explains this connection quite well, although reverses "the chicken and the egg."

Given the new understanding of the role of microglia, microglial activation is what LEADS to mitochondrial dysfunction—instead of the reverse. Most of what you'll read is that mitochondrial dysfunction is a preexisting condition that predisposes your child to developing autism, but the latest evidence turns this theory on its head.

This is how the process unfolds, as Dr. Blaylock explains it:

When microglia are over-activated, inflammatory enzymes convert arachidonic acid into leukotrienes and inflammatory prostaglandins, and excess nitric oxide is produced. These agents generate free radicals (reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species) that result in a significant loss of mitochondrial energy production. Making matters worse, antioxidants responsible for disposing of these free radicals (catalase, SOD, glutathione, and others) are reduced and disabled, making your brain even more susceptible to free radical damage and lipid peroxidation.

So, to summarize, the mitochondrial damage seen in autistic individuals is the RESULT of microglial activation, not the cause.

Myth: Autism is an Autoimmune Disorder

Some experts have claimed autism is an autoimmune disorder. But this is not an accurate characterization.  According to Harvard's medical dictionary, an autoimmune disorder is defined to be the following:

"A condition stemming from an abnormal immune response generated by the body against its own tissues, cells, or molecules."

Autism is an inflammatory brain disorder by way of the microglial-immunoexcitotoxicity pathway. Autism arises from an immune response to external agents that are FOREIGN to your body, as opposed to an abnormal immune response to your body's own tissues. If the initial mechanism is microglial activation, autism cannot be classified as an autoimmune disorder.

Said another way, autism is an exaggerated immune response to foreign agents, an immune response that damages your tissues through "bystander injury." The good news is, eliminate the foreign agents and you eliminate the trigger!


Microglial activation may very well be the underlying mechanism explaining a great number of autism characteristics. This one cohesive mechanism can explain, theoretically, all of the following autism signs and symptoms:

Seizures Brain inflammation Reactions to neurotoxic metals in the adjuvants
Cognitive effects Behavioral effects Enterocolitis
Systemic immune activation Elevated levels of endogenous opioids Mitochondrial dysfunction
Anatomic abnormalities of the cerebellum Sensory dysfunction Impaired social responsiveness

Dr. Blaylock's theory of microglial activation as the mechanism for autism can be summarized as follows:

  1. Priming: Your immune system gets primed through an exposure to an excitotoxin, such as a vaccine or an infectious agent, causing your microglia to shift into "readiness mode."
  2. Microglial Activation: Subsequent exposures to vaccines or other immune stresses over a relatively short period of time activate the microglia into full battle mode, to defend your body against what they perceive as an invasion.
  3. Bystander Damage: Excitotoxins and free radicals are generated, causing "bystander damage" in a runaway process that cannot be down regulated. This leads to chronic inflammation and damage to brain tissues, including mitochondrial dysfunction, brain inflammation, seizures, and the other difficulties seen with autism.
  4. Autism Spectrum Disorder: The signs and symptoms of autism appear.

Clearly, this new evidence should be closely examined by anyone governing vaccine policy.  We can only hope the vaccination schedule will soon be revised to a more health conscious plan that takes into account the individual variations of each child. Until then, you must weigh the risks for your own child before making a choice about whether or not to vaccinate. As always, I am committed to bringing you the facts so that you have the necessary information with which to make informed choices about your family's health.


Ann Neurol 2005

Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 2004

International Review of Psychiatry 2005