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Gladness Reigns in Autism-Land

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Gladness Reigns in Autism-Land

by Sandy Gottstein

Here we go again.  Another CDC sponsored study, this one titled Increasing Exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides in Vaccines Is Not Associated with Risk of Autism, has relieved us of the burden of fearing a vaccine connection to autism.  But should gladness reign?  And, if not, why not?

Unfortunately, despite the weighty title and nigh universal media collective sighing of relief, this study does little to nothing to elucidate the question. First, it uses a study design, “case-control”, which is considered “low on the hierarchy of evidence” to examine the issue of whether or not antigen exposure is linked to autism.  Second, by including an “exposure” group that goes from 0-25 antigens, it insidiously or incompetently (you decide) crafts its exposure levels to mask any effect zero vaccine exposure might have. 

Regardless of the placement of case-control studies in the “hierarchy of evidence”, however, case-control studies are still considered a legitimate protocol.  That is, provided the study is properly designed and the conclusions don’t go beyond what befittingly follows from its design or the data itself.

In this case, they allegedly (more on this later) looked at autism/not autism as their case/control breakdown.  They then looked at antigen exposure in order to supposedly determine whether or not increasing exposure led to a greater incidence of autism.

Here’s the problem.  Let’s say they reported they had looked at antigen exposure, but actually used milk consumption in the study.  If they went on to say antigen exposure is unrelated to autism, everyone would, naturally, cry foul. 

Of course they did not do anything as obvious as that.  Instead of examining something entirely different, as in the example I just gave, they “merely” left out or obscured what may be the most important comparison group, no antigens whatsoever.  The most important comparison group, that is, if you are honestly interested in understanding the role antigens may or may not play in autism.  Then, in spite (or because) of the shaky nature of the evidence, curiously went on to proclaim antigen exposure to be unrelated to autism.

As for the question of whether or not they looked at autism/not autism, as reported by Taximom in Age of Autism:  “… it looks like a significant percentage of their CONTROL group may have had symptoms of autism:  ‘Of the remaining 752 controls included in the analysis, 186 had an SCQ score <16 but had indications of speech delay or language delay, learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or attention deficit disorder, or tics, or had an individual education plan.’

186 of the 752 controls had possible symptoms of autism.  Those were the CONTROLS?  Nearly 25% of the CONTROL group may have had possible symptoms of autism???? Wow, it’s…almost like…they…picked a control group that had the same rate of autism as the test group.  Gee. How on EARTH did that happen?  (Oh, that’s right.  They didn’t have an unvaccinated control group.)”

While in this particular study design, an unvaccinated control group would not have been necessary in the normal “cohort” design sense; there clearly should have been no contamination of the “no autism” group with those who may have been autistic.  And the antigen groups, also proxies for varying levels of vaccine exposure, clearly should have included a no-vaccines, no antigens one.

Thus while their study design was legitimate in theory, it was not in practice; and their conclusions clearly were ill-founded.

The truth is I have no idea if multiple antigen exposure is or is not related to autism.  I suspect, if anything, it may instead be related to things like immune hypersensitivity and/or auto-immune disorders.

Regardless, this particular study simply cannot legitimately be used to claim antigens are unrelated to autism.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time such apparent manipulations have occurred.  In the case recounted here, the CDC masked the potential effect of no vaccines by including them in a larger category, i.e., 0-25 antigens.  Similarly, in the Verstraeten/CDC alleged study of thimerosal, as reported by David Kirby in Evidence of Harm (pages 128-130), the group was <37.5 micrograms of thimerosal, thereby potentially masking the effect of zero thimerosal.  In both cases, zero of something may or may not have the same effect as more than zero of that something.   But that question needs to be studied, not assumed.

Now, one would think that with the official incidence of autism continuing to rise, the public’s patience with the “better diagnosis” and the “we don’t know what it is but it isn’t vaccines” arguments would be growing thin.  (To their credit, the authors, if not the media, noted that “It can be argued that ASD with regression, in which children usually lose developmental skills during the second year of life, could be related to exposures in infancy, including vaccines; however, we found no association between exposure to antigens from vaccines during infancy and the development of ASD with regression.)

One would think that.

But wishful thinking and gladness rule the day, as ever.  Like infants who have learned to use their thumbs, we have mastered the art of self-soothing.  And the CDC, not prone to leave us wanting, has thrust a candy-coated pacifier into our willing mouths.

The trouble is, though, none of this prevents autism. 

What it may prevent, however, is our discovering what actually does.

Sandy Gottstein

Date 4-1-13

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“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” – Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran