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The Age of Autism: Allergic responses
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john
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2006 6:52 am    Post subject: The Age of Autism: Allergic responses Reply with quote

http://www.upi.com/ConsumerHealthDaily/view.php?StoryID=20060321-104858-2346r

The Age of Autism: Allergic responses
United Press International - USA

The Age of Autism: Allergic responses

By DAN OLMSTED
UPI Senior Editor

A plausible link is emerging between widely used childhood medicines and
the risk of developing allergies and especially asthma. But you'd never
know it from listening to federal health authorities or reading the
mainstream press.

The latest case in point: USA Today this week is tackling the roots of
allergies and examining new treatments based on the idea that children may
be getting too little -- not too much -- exposure to allergens.

"To head off allergies, expose your kids to pets and dirt early. Really."
That was the headline on the front-and-center page 1 story Monday by Steve
Steinberg.

"The new approach to allergy prevention and treatment arises from a
paradox," Steinberg writes. "Known as the hygiene hypothesis, it suggests
that growing up in cities and suburbs, away from fields and farm animals,
leaves people more susceptible to a host of immune disorders, including
allergies and asthma."

The article goes on to ask: "What about urban life is triggering a rash of
allergies and autoimmune diseases? It's a good question, and not an easy
one to answer." (Disclosure: I was an editor at USA Today in the 1980s.)

While the hygiene hypothesis may help explain the huge rise in allergies
and asthma, particularly among children, since 1980, there could be more
going on here than an absence of cows and cornfields.

Just last week researchers reported a possible link between antibiotics and
asthma -- "A new study has found that infants younger than 12 months who
have had antibiotics may be more likely to develop asthma when they get
older," the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

This was not some flaky anti-antibiotic study -- it was done by researchers
at the University of British Columbia and published in CHEST, the journal
of the American College of Chest Physicians. The researchers reviewed seven
studies that compared kids who got antibiotics before age one with kids who
didn't get any, and they were careful to report only an "association," not
proof of a cause-and-effect relationship.

In fact, antibiotic use may simply be a marker for kids who tend to have
more infections -- that could be the real link to developing asthma.

But if you're going to ask why "a host of immune disorders, including
allergies and asthma," are rising, you really cannot overlook the
iatrogenic hypothesis -- the idea that medicine might be at least partly
responsible for a problem medicine is trying to solve.

A related possibility -- warning, here comes the third rail of American
public health policy -- is that vaccines may play a role, and for a similar
reason. If the immune system gets stimulated too early and too often but
never by the real thing -- say, by the chicken pox vaccination rather than
by chicken pox itself -- it could get stuck in battle mode and start
attacking its own tissues.

That might lead to allergies, asthma and a host of other autoimmune
disorders like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, skin disorders, juvenile
diabetes -- and, conceivably, autism, if autism reflects the outcome of an
autoimmune inflammatory process in the brain.

No question, mainstream medical authorities call this idea junk science.
But independent researchers keep saying the darnedest things. The latest
case in point: A study in January showing that European kids who follow the
so-called anthroposophic lifestyle -- which severely restricts use of such
medicines as antibiotics and fever reducers -- have a lower risk of
developing allergies.

Again, it's just a study, but then again, the study was in the Journal of
Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of
the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

The overlooked last sentence of the researchers' press release reads:
"Early use of antibiotics and fever reducers, along with the measles, mumps
and rubella vaccination were also associated with increased risks of
several allergic symptoms and doctor's diagnoses."

There you have it -- a responsible report of a possible allergy risk not
just from antibiotics and fever reducers but from the MMR vaccine, which
every child in America is supposed to get. Coincidence of not, the MMR came
into wide use around 1980, and in the mid-1990s, the CDC moved the
recommended age forward to 12 to 15 months, from 15 to 18 months.

This study fits with something we reported last fall from Homefirst, a
medical practice in Chicago that follows a similar philosophy and has
thousands of never-vaccinated children. The group's medical director, Dr.
Mayer Eisenstein, said he couldn't think of a single case of autism in
children who had never been vaccinated. Ditto asthma.

The asthma rate among Homefirst patients is so low it was noticed by the
Blue Cross group with which Homefirst is affiliated, according to
Eisenstein.

"In the alternative-medicine network which Homefirst is part of, there are
virtually no cases of childhood asthma, in contrast to the overall Blue
Cross rate of childhood asthma which is approximately 10 percent," he said.

"At first I thought it was because they (Homefirst's children) were
breast-fed, but even among the breast-fed we've had asthma. We have
virtually no asthma if you're breast-fed and not vaccinated."

Several studies have suggested a link between vaccines and asthma while
others -- notably one conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention -- do not. The CDC study, as we've noted before, eliminated
never-vaccinated kids from consideration, allegedly because their medical
records were inherently unreliable.

But note: The study above that found an association between antibiotics and
asthma used control groups of kids who never, ever got any antibiotics.
That's the kind of comparison federal health authorities seem to be
assiduously avoiding when it comes to studying possible autoimmune risks of
all kinds from vaccines.

When that happens, it's up to the press to dig deeper than pets and dirt.
Really.
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