Glyphosate causes autism – another debunked vaccine myth

glyphosate causes autism

Another one of those pseudoscientific tropes from the anti-vaccine religion has reared its ugly Bigfoot head – glyphosate causes autism. And, of course, the anti-vaxxers believe that vaccines are filled with that nasty chemical, so by some weird transitive logic, they think that vaccines cause autism because of glyphosate.

Yeah, no.

Of course, the belief that “vaccines cause autism” has been thoroughly debunked by powerful, robust, repeated clinical and epidemiological studies. It is “settled science” (and read the link, so that you actually understand what is meant). Now we have the oft-repeated myth that glyphosate causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The evidence that supports that claim is fairly weak, possibly nonexistent.

Even if it did, and most scientists are highly skeptical of the claim, we still know that there is almost no glyphosate in vaccines. And once again, even if there were and even if glyphosate causes autism, we know that there is no link between vaccines and autism. None. 

A few years ago, Emily Willingham, Ph.D., whom I consider to be one of the leading ASD scientific experts on this planet, wrote a hysterical and scientifically skeptical article about all of the popular causes of ASD – Dr. Willingham noticed that there were new claims about what causes autism. Parents need to blame someone for their child’s neurodevelopment, so that’s how vaccines got into the crosshairs.

But let’s look at some of the science, and figure out if there’s any mechanism by which glyphosate causes autism. Continue reading “Glyphosate causes autism – another debunked vaccine myth”

Pesticides cause autism – the scientific evidence is quite weak

pesticides cause autism

Along with the thoroughly debunked “vaccines cause autism,” a related trope is pesticides cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The evidence that supports that claim is fairly weak, possibly nonexistent, but that’s what we do here – examine the evidence.

For reasons beyond the scope of this blog and my interests, parents need to find blame for why their children may have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  A few years ago, Emily Willingham, Ph.D., whom I consider to be one of the leading ASD scientific experts on this planet, wrote a hysterical and scientifically skeptical article about all of the popular causes of ASD. Older mothers. Older fathers. Depressed mothers. Fingers. Facial features. Facial features?

Today, I keep seeing the new claim that pesticides cause autism. Time to see what kind of science supports this claim. Continue reading “Pesticides cause autism – the scientific evidence is quite weak”

Anti-vaccine racist threats against Richard Pan because racism

anti-vaccine racist

I’m republishing this article to show the vile hatred of the anti-vaccine racist threats against anyone who supports vaccines. This story is about past anti-vaccine racist violent death threats against California Senator Richard Pan, who pushed through SB277, the bill that eliminated the personal belief exemptions for mandatory school vaccines.

The bill still allows for legitimate medical exemptions (like immunocompromised children who need to be protected through the herd effect). Of course, Senator Pan is now pushing through legislation in the form of SB276 to reduce the abuse of the medical exemptions by many physicians with dubious excuses. 

Although Sen. Pan is the leader of the California legislators, who are championing mandatory vaccines for children, others have withstood intense and hate-filled criticism from the anti-vaccine racist crowd.

Continue reading “Anti-vaccine racist threats against Richard Pan because racism”

MMR vaccine and autism – more high quality evidence that they are unrelated

MMR vaccine and autism

I have been unwavering on this one point – there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They are simply unrelated, based on high quality evidence published in respected peer-reviewed journals across the world. To dispute this conclusion, using only low quality evidence published in predatory and low impact factor journals, is the epitome of science denialism.

There are some interesting early results from a study, published in Nature, that is examining brain development in infants who are at risk for autism spectrum disorder. The study hasn’t uncovered any new information about what may cause autism, but it did confirm that the MMR vaccine is unrelated to autism. Throw this study onto the mountain of evidence that completely debunks that myth.

The ongoing study’s results indicates that changes in the brain in early infancy may be predictive of an autism diagnosis at age 2 in children who have higher odds of autism because an older sibling has been diagnosed with ASD. The researchers took MRI images of the brains of children at higher risk at ages 6, 12, and 24 months, along with administering a test at age 24 months that assists in the diagnosis of autism along with another test that evaluates social skills.

The early results (the final paper will come out within a year or two) suggests that rapid growth of the surface of the cerebrum from ages 6-12 months preceded an increase in brain volume at age 12-24 months in children at risk for ASD and who were diagnosed with ASD at 24 months. Based on this cortical surface growth, the researchers were able to predict an ASD diagnosis in 81% of high risk children who eventually were diagnosed with ASD.

Again, this study didn’t provide us with any information about possible causality for ASD – it provides us some evidence of predictive diagnostic methods. Moreover, the study had a relatively low study population, and we really need repeated studies to confirm the value of this study.

Emily Willingham, writing in Forbes, does a rather thorough review of the study for those interested in the predictive ability of the study. She says this about what this study says about any relationship between the MMR vaccine and an ASD diagnosis:

Finally, these changes before age 12 months that are associated with a later autism diagnosis precede the timing of administration of the MMR vaccine. This vaccine, readers may recall, is the one that true-believer anti-vaccine activists consistently promote as causative in autism. According to the vaccination schedule, it is administered at age 12 months. These latest detected changes arise before that age, but the rapid growth associated with them kicks in right at about age 12 months, once again illustrating that coincidence of events doesn’t always mean their association.

Dr. Willingham states that the changes that precede a diagnosis of autism appear well before the first administration of the vaccine. The first MMR vaccination just happens to be coincidental to the rapid growth that is associated with ASD. Remember correlation doesn’t imply causation, especially now that we have evidence that the brain changes indicated in ASD occur prior to administration of the MMR vaccine.

I know that the “true-believer anti-vaccine activists” will be unconvinced by this evidence, and that is sad. There is simply no evidence that MMR vaccine and autism are related. In fact, evidence suggest that they are not related.

The MMR vaccine saves lives, so let’s just protect our children with it.

 

Key citations

  • Hazlett HC, Gu H, Munsell BC, Kim SH, Styner M, Wolff JJ, Elison JT, Swanson MR, Zhu H, Botteron KN, Collins DL, Constantino JN, Dager SR, Estes AM, Evans AC, Fonov VS, Gerig G, Kostopoulos P, McKinstry RC, Pandey J, Paterson S, Pruett JR, Schultz RT, Shaw DW, Zwaigenbaum L, Piven J; IBIS Network.; Clinical Sites.; Data Coordinating Center.; Image Processing Core.; Statistical Analysis.. Early brain development in infants at high risk for autism spectrum disorder. Nature. 2017 Feb 15;542(7641):348-351. doi: 10.1038/nature21369. PubMed PMID: 28202961.


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The Informed Parent – a science based book review

The Informed Parent

There are innumerable myths and tropes about raising children. My mother used to tell me to not go into the pool until 30 minutes (or some random number) after I ate; and she always told me I’d catch the flu or a cold if I didn’t put on a jacket during winter. Of course, neither are science based, and neither are “facts.”

But those were innocuous little myths. I don’t like being all that cold, so putting on a coat isn’t the worst thing ever. It had nothing to do with whether I’d catch a cold or not.

Unfortunately, some myths about parenting and raising children are dangerous. The whole “vaccines cause XYZ” mythology have infected the internet have caused some drops in vaccination, especially amongst those who should know better.

We need better resources for “science based parenting,” and a new book, The Informed Parent – A Science-Based Resource for Your Child’s First Four Yearsmay become one of the more valuable tools to separate the wheat of good science from the chaff of pseudoscience and woo.

Because our children deserve the best that science can provide.

 

Continue reading “The Informed Parent – a science based book review”

Antidepressants cause autism – another red flag

Antidepressants cause autism

The headlines are screaming again, ANTIDEPRESSANTS CAUSE AUTISM !!!!!!!!!!!!! (approximate average number of exclamation marks per article). Of course, a critical analysis of the the underlying study that caused the headlines is more nuanced and may not say what you think it says.

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex range of conditions classified as neurodevelopmental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association, which is described in detail in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5).

The DSM-5 redefined autism spectrum disorder to encompass diagnoses of autismAsperger syndromepervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and childhood disintegrative disorder. Generally, symptoms of these disorders include social deficits and communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviors and interests, sensory issues, and in some cases, cognitive delays.

The scientific consensus for the causes of autism has centered on genetic factors, generally several genes. This hasn’t stopped a whole host of claims as to what causes autism. Emily Willingham wrote an article a few years ago with the title, This just in: Being alive linked to autism, in which she lists 30 recent claims of what causes autism. It would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.

Of course, we cannot overlook the old canard that vaccines cause autism. Which is about as untrue as a claim can be in science.

So what about this new claim about antidepressants and autism spectrum disorder? It’s based on a study just published in JAMA Pediatrics, a relatively high impact factor (approximately 7.148) and selective peer-reviewed journal.

The results from the may be significant, but possibly a critical analysis of the article will give us a different perspective. Continue reading “Antidepressants cause autism – another red flag”

Autism and MMR vaccines – still not linked

A new study was published recently that showed, once again, that there is no link between autism and MMR vaccines. Are we still wasting good research dollars on showing that there is not one single link between autism and MMR vaccines (to prevent mumps, measles and rubella)? Apparently, we are going to do this until the evidence is literally the size of a mountain.

Despite the fraudulent claims of one MrAndy Wakefield, there is simply no evidence that vaccines are related to autism. Moreover, when we have gone looking, there is evidence that that autism is totally unrelated to vaccines.

And it’s more than just me yelling this loudly. Orac says soScience Based Medicine says soEmily Willingham says so. Oh I know, these are all bloggers, which isn’t real science–except, like me, whatever they write is actually linked to real science in the form of peer-reviewed studies. And we all conclude that there is simply not one shred of evidence to support the implausible hypothesis that autism and MMR vaccines are linked.

By the way, the CDC agrees with all of us. And they’re really smart people–Ph.D.’s, MD’s, and other public health specialists, whose backgrounds are in relevant areas of medicine like immunology, virology, epidemiology, microbiology, and so many other fields of research.

So despite overwhelming tons of evidence that vaccines, especially the MMR vaccine, do not cause or are completely unrelated to autism and autism spectrum disorders, the loud noise from the antivaccine cult continues. Using false balanced “debates” to pretend that there is actually some sort of scientific discussion about this point, some news reports will often make you think that there are really two sides to this story. But there isn’t. There’s one side with real science, and the other side with, well, nothing.

Continue reading “Autism and MMR vaccines – still not linked”