Writing in the Chicago (IL, US) Tribune under the headline “Autism treatments: Risky alternative therapies have little basis in science” Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan reported about the background and myriad problems with many treatments used as therapy for children with Autism. They expose the lack of evidentiary support for therapies ranging from mega-doses of vitamins to chelation and show the relationships between practitioners of these therapies and a couple of organizations well-known among those who follow Autism.
The Tribune found children undergoing daylong infusions of a blood product that carries the risk of kidney failure and anaphylactic shock. Researchers in the field emphatically warn that the therapy should not be used to treat autism.
Children are repeatedly encased in pressurized oxygen chambers normally used after scuba diving accidents, at a cost of thousands of dollars. This unproven therapy is meant to reduce inflammation that experts say is little understood and may even be beneficial.
Children undergo rounds of chelation therapy to leach heavy metals from the body, though most toxicologists say the test commonly used to measure the metals is meaningless and the treatment potentially harmful.
Reporters Tsouderos and Callahan conducted interviews with an impressive array of advocates for the therapies (including representatives of Autism One, Autism Research Institute, and Defeat Autism Now) and doubters (mostly serious scientists). They combed through the weak and barely related research that many of the advocates use as well as the evidence showing limited or no benefits of the therapies.
All in all, these reporters deserve kudos for the unflinching thoroughness of their reporting. I encourage readers to read, reread, and disseminate the article. Here’s a link to “Autism treatments: Risky alternative therapies have little basis in science.” Flash of the electrons to Liz Ditz, whose Twitter post about this article alerted me to it.
The National Autism Center released the report of its National Standards Project. The project was designed to identify interventions that are or are not beneficial for individuals with Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder and it presents known therapies in three categories: established, emerging, unestablished (including a subsection on “ineffective/harmful treatments”).
In summary, the National Standards Project, a primary initiative of the National Autism Center, seeks to:
- describe the age, diagnosis, and skills/behaviors targeted for improvement associated with treatment options
- identify the limitations of the current body of research on autism treatment
- offer recommendations for engaging in evidence-based practice for ASD
Continue reading ‘National Standards Project’
Over on Autism Street, Dad Of Cameron (“Do’C”) has assembled a list of sources that have questioned the strength of the evidence about hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Autism. I’m pleased he included the resources from EBD Blog. Thanks!
In the context of increasing cases of measles in Great Britain—cases rose from 990 in 2007 to 1348 in 2008; add those ’08 data to the accompanying graph—there is another report that the foundational study of the putative link between vaccinations and Autism may have used cooked data. Writing in the London (UK) Sunday Times on 8 February 2009 under the head line “MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism,” Brian Deer reported the results of an investigation of medical records for the cases on which Dr. Wakefield based his famous (notorious?) study published in The Lancet:
THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.
Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.
Mr. Deer has been hard on this case for some time now. This is the latest in his on-going investigation. (As a result of his reporting, he has been accused of being in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies.) One can learn much more about his investigation from Brian Deer: the Lancet scandal.
The measles data come from a BBC story. Flash of the electrons to Phil Plait (and Todd Cissell) of Bad Astronomy for the alert to the most recent Times article. For more reaction, see Orac (great detail), Pharyngula, MedicFacility, SkepticsBook, The Voyage, JohnRay, and HunterGatherer. Harold Doherty of Facing Autism in NB considers the conviction of Dr. Wakefield premature: “These are obviously very serious allegations. Perhaps I am biased, being a humble, small town lawyer in New Brunswick, Canada but I prefer to await the decision of the tribunal before reporting the verdict.” For a contrary view, see on Sunday Times – Sinks To New Low With Yet More MMR Junk Journalism on ChildHealthSafety. Others will emerge.
As happens when I see words such as “breakthrough” and “miracle,” my skeptackles arise when I find “landmark” used to refer to new research. In my Occamistic view, studies don’t qualify as breakthroughs or landmarks until they have been closely vetted and, yes, replicated. So it was when I heard of a landmark study announced by the same folks this morning who had just announced one in October 2008.
Continue reading ‘CoMed’s landmarks multiply’
According to a story on a CBS (US) television station, a controversial therapy may yield miraculous results. As a reporter for the CBS, Dr. Holly Phillips covered the use of hyperbaric oxgen chambers as a treatment for Autism. She told the story of a family who sought treatment from a New Jersey (US) doctor; the doctor, James A. Neubrander, MD, treated the child with vitamins and oxygen delivered at high pressure. Despite substantial reasons not to cover it, and Dr. Phillips notes them, the popular press continues to report stories such as the one in my lead.
Continue reading ‘Miracle or mistake?’
As most folks who’ve been around the block a few times know, old bologna seems to get resurrected every so often. Secretin as a therapy for Autism illustrates this. Even though some of us watched it closely in the 1990s, and found it wanting, there is apparently a resurgence of interest in the use of secretin to reduce—if not eliminate—the problems associated with Autism.
Continue reading ‘Revisiting secretin’
In “Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study” published on line by the Public Library of Science, Mady Hornig and colleagues knocked out another argument supporting a causal link between vaccinations (specifically, those for measles, mumps, and rubella) and Autism. The research team—composed of scientists at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health’s Center for Infection and Immunity, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Trinity College Dublin (IR)—examined the cornerstone studies that started many down the road to the hypothesis that vaccinations cause Autism. They examined material from the gastrointestinal systems of children with and without Autism to see whether those with Autism harbored the genetic remnants of the measles virus. No go.
The presence of measles virus (MV) RNA in bowel tissue from children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances was reported in 1998. Subsequent investigations found no associations between MV exposure and ASD but did not test for the presence of MV RNA in bowel or focus on children with ASD and GI disturbances. Failure to replicate the original study design may contribute to continued public concern with respect to the safety of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The objective of this case-control study was to determine whether children with GI disturbances and autism are more likely than children with GI disturbances alone to have MV RNA and/or inflammation in bowel tissues and if autism and/or GI episode onset relate temporally to receipt of MMR. The sample was an age-matched group of US children undergoing clinically-indicated ileocolonoscopy. Ileal and cecal tissues from 25 children with autism and GI disturbances and 13 children with GI disturbances alone (controls) were evaluated by real-time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR for presence of MV RNA in three laboratories blinded to diagnosis, including one wherein the original findings suggesting a link between MV and ASD were reported. The temporal order of onset of GI episodes and autism relative to timing of MMR administration was examined. We found no differences between case and control groups in the presence of MV RNA in ileum and cecum. Results were consistent across the three laboratory sites. GI symptom and autism onset were unrelated to MMR timing. Eighty-eight percent of ASD cases had behavioral regression.
This study provides strong evidence against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or MMR exposure. Autism with GI disturbances is associated with elevated rates of regression in language or other skills and may represent an endophenotype distinct from other ASD.
Hornig M., Briese T., Buie T., Bauman M. L., Lauwers G., et al. (2008) Lack of association between measles virus vaccine and autism with enteropathy: A case-control study. PLoS ONE 3(9): e3140.
Link directly to the Hornig et al. article. See the press release from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Link to Science Daily coverage of the story.