More proof of vaccine effectiveness – PAHO announces elimination of Rubella in Americas!!

South and North America have eradicated Rubella virus with use of vaccines (which DO NOT cause autism)!! This is the third virus that has been eliminated from the Americas using vaccines. More info here at NPR.

The Americas have led the way when it comes to eradicating diseases. It was the first region in the world to eradicate smallpox in 1971 and then polio in 1994. And the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) already has its sights on another target.

However, elimination of this virus, or others, does not mean people should stop vaccinating. It demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of vaccination.

The eradication of rubella doesn’t mean we’ll never see the virus again in the U.S. People still bring it here from other countries. But it doesn’t spread far because so many Americans are vaccinated.

Despite the success of vaccines in eradicating these harmful and lethal diseases, there is still more to do!

“With rubella under our belt, now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and finish the job of eliminating measles as well,” Etienne (director of PAHO) said.

I guess PAHO should start in California, hahahaha (not really funny). Who said vaccines are ineffective??? And what did they base that lie on??

Feeling Blue?? Today is World Autism Awareness Day!! #LIUB – light it up blue

Today is World Autism Awareness Day! More info here.

Being a little blue never felt so good. You may have noticed there are a lot of people out there wearing blue today and tweeting selfies with the hashtag #LIUB for “light it up blue.”

Today is World Autism Awareness Day, and even global landmarks like the Empire State Buildingand the Prince’s Palace of Monaco are celebrating with special blue lights for the occasion. TheUnited Nations declared April 2 World Autism Awareness Day in 2007, and we’ve been celebrating it ever since.

Popular autism theories and science have a huge disconnect – Scott Lilienfeld explains why @US_Conversation

Science debunks fad autism theories, but that doesn’t dissuade believers

By Scott O Lilienfeld, Emory University

According to a 2014 National Consumers League poll, 29% of American adults believe that childhood vaccinations can trigger autism. To many, these views are difficult to comprehend. After all, multiple controlled studies conducted on huge international samples have debunked any statistical association between vaccines and autism. Moreover, when the Danish government removed thimerosal – a mercury-bearing preservative that most anti-vaccine advocates regard as the suspect ingredient – from its vaccines in the late 1990s, the rates of autism went up rather than down. Why, then, does the belief persist?

Well, it’s not that surprising. The false link between autism and vaccines is merely the tip of a massive iceberg of fads and misconceptions. In a 2008 review, psychologist Tristram Smith of the University of Rochester Medical Center identified more than 50 disproven or unsupported therapies for autism that were still in use, and the number has only mushroomed since then. These therapies run the gamut from gluten-free and casein-free diets, anti-fungal treatments, Pepcid, testosterone and secretin to dolphin-assisted therapy, magnetic shoe inserts, hypnosis, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, sheep stem cell injections, trampoline therapy…and on and on.

Debunking another fad treatment – facilitated communication

Despite the prevalence of these fad therapies, relatively few scientists who study autism have raised their voices to rebuke these methods. Perhaps that is because most do not regard public outreach as part of their job description.

In a recent article in the journal Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, my co-authors Julia Marshall, Howard Shane, James Todd and I examined the persistence of facilitated communication, a scientifically discredited autism therapy. The premise of facilitated communication is that autism is primarily a movement disorder, not a mental disorder. As a consequence of supposed motor deficits, individuals with autism cannot articulate words properly, which presumably explains why many are incapable of speech. With the aid of a facilitator who offers gentle support to their arms, previously uncommunicative individuals with autism can supposedly type eloquent sentences and paragraphs.

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

Scores of controlled studies performed soon after the widespread introduction of facilitated communication to the United States in the early 1990s demonstrated that its seeming effectiveness is a mirage. Facilitators are unintentionally directing autistic individuals’ fingers to the desired letters, much as Ouija board players unknowingly direct the planchette to specific letters and numbers.

We found that facilitated communication, despite being debunked by the late 1990s, remains alive and well in much of the autism community. The method continues to be widely practiced in the US and parts of Europe. It’s still publicized in numerous trade and academic books, seminars, workshops and high-profile documentaries.

This revelation has taken many of our academic colleagues by surprise. One told me that earlier this year, he had invoked facilitated communication in a psychology course as a prime example of a fad that had long been consigned to the dustbin of pseudoscientific history. This is a critical point – for scientists these matters are settled. But that doesn’t mean the information in studies disproving claims from fad therapies has hit the mainstream.

Why is there so much misinformation about autism?

Why is autism such a magnet for fads? And why have discredited ideas endured in the face of contrary evidence? Several likely culprits conspire to create a “perfect storm” making those desperate for a cure or an effective treatment receptive to misinformation.

In the case of the autism-vaccine link, the soaring increase in autism diagnoses over the past two decades is certainly a contributor. But there is growing evidence that much of this spike reflects two factors: increasingly lax criteria for autism diagnosis across successive editions of the official psychiatric diagnostic manual (DSM), and heightened incentives for school districts to report autism and other developmental disabilities.

There is therefore ample reason to doubt that the “autism epidemic” actually reflects a genuine increase in the frequency of the condition. But the dramatic rise in diagnoses has led many people to believe in shadowy causal agents, such as childhood vaccinations.

The fact that the symptoms of autism typically become evident at about age two, soon after routine vaccinations begin, lends this belief further surface plausibility. The link in timing is coincidental, but some people connect the dots into a tidy causal narrative.

And many fad treatments for autism are surely born of desperation. There are no known cures for the condition. It’s not surprising that most parents of children with autism simultaneously seek out four to six different treatments for their children. Nor it is surprising that this field has been remarkably fertile ground for ostensible quick fixes, such as facilitated communication.

And some probably fall victim to a diabolical illusion. A number of the behavioral problems associated with autism, such as inattention and anger, often wax and wane over brief periods of time. If a natural – and unrelated – downtick in symptoms happens during or after therapy is delivered, parents and teachers may then conclude that the treatment brought the improvement, even though the decline in symptoms would probably have occurred anyway.

With autism, we sometimes see what we want to see

Appearance shapes how we view autism. Children with autism do not have the distinctive facial markers of, say, children with Down Syndrome or fetal alcohol syndrome. That fact might lead some to assume that individuals with autism are cognitively and emotionally normal individuals trapped inside a malfunctioning body. If that is so, all that is presumably required is an intervention, such as facilitated communication, to unlock their unrealized mental potential.

The popularity of autism fads imparts two sobering lessons. First, we can all be misled by the raw data of our sensory impressions. Virtually all autism misconceptions stem largely from what psychologists call naïve realism, the error of placing uncritical trust in our unfiltered observations. Second, scientists need to play a more active role in combating false information about autism and other mental disorders.

When researchers conduct studies that dispel the alleged dangers of vaccines or the alleged effectiveness of pseudoscientific treatments, they may assume that their job is done. That’s not the case. The legacy of autism fads suggests that their real work may have only just begun.

Tristram Smith’s study “Empirically supported and unsupported treatments for autism spectrum disorders” appeared in the Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. 2008; 6:3–21.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Terrific TED talk on Autism and Genetics by Wendy Chung!

Wendy Chung: Autism — what we know (and what we don’t know yet)

In this factual talk, geneticist Wendy Chung shares what we know about autism spectrum disorder — for example, that autism has multiple, perhaps interlocking, causes. Looking beyond the worry and concern that can surround a diagnosis, Chung and her team look at what we’ve learned through studies, treatments and careful listening.

Vaccines don’t cause Autism and have rare side-effects Part 2



A Systematic Review of vaccine safety studies has been published in Pediatrics (full article available free here). Get ready for a shocker! The review found strong evidence against an association of MMR vaccination and Autism. The review also found that adverse events (side-effects) from vaccines were ‘extremely rare’, although some of the studies reviewed lacked good reporting of these events (see study for more explanation). The review goes through almost all of the common vaccinations one by one and explains the associated data. Very nice!

CONCLUSIONS: We found evidence that some vaccines are associated with serious AEs; however, these events are extremely rare and must be weighed against the protective benefits that vaccines provide.

A news article from Liz Szabo on USA Today is a great summary of the review and includes nice quotes and statistics.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there about vaccines,” says co-author Margaret Maglione, also a researcher with Rand. “With the rise of the Internet and the decline of print journalism, anyone can put anything on the Internet.”

Like all drugs, vaccines can cause serious side effects. But those complications are “extremely rare” and should be weighed against vaccination’s enormous benefits, Maglione says.

In an April report, the CDC noted that vaccines given to infants and young children over the past two decades will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.


Pesticides in the news: Humans and ‘the birds and the bees’ #harmful


This week has been a big week for pollinators, including honey bees. On a good note, The White House announced a memorandum to come up with a strategy to help save honey bees and other pollinators (earlier post here).

It has also been a big week for pesticides. First, you probably saw all over the news a new study out of California that found a correlation between neuro-developmental disorders (including autism), and residential proximity to pesticide use (actual study here). The study is essentially hinting that babies who are exposed to pesticides during pregnancy, may have a higher risk of developing autism or related disorders. However, this is a preliminary finding that will certainly generate more interest in defining any potential link between pesticides and developmental disorders.

Second, there is a new report from an international panel of 29 scientists, the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) from the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. The panel and report found that years of research demonstrate that pesticides are harming birds, bees, butterflies, and worms (here and here). The report will be published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research, but is being released at a number of events before publication.

This report should be a final wake up call for American regulators who have been slow to respond to the science,” said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network North America. “The weight of the evidence showing harm to bees and other pollinators should move EPA to restrict neonicotinoids sooner than later. And the same regulatory loopholes that allowed these pesticides to be brought to the market in the first place — and remain on the shelf — need to be closed.”

While the human study looked at many pesticides, it found correlations with organophosphates, chlorpyrifos, and pyrethroid pesticides. The WIA report on bees and pollinators focused on the harmful effects of two pesticides, Neonicotinoids and fipronil. While these different pesticides have somewhat different uses, it is clear that they can be harmful to humans or human agriculture (it turns out we need healthy pollinators to have productive farms). Following these reports, and their coverage in the news, hopefully more research will be done on the harmful impacts of pesticide use. It will be very interesting to watch future research examining pesticide exposure and a potential role in neurodevelopment disorders. Additionally, hopefully policymakers will pay attention to the harmful impact pesticides can have for both human health and agriculture.

Autism Speaks + Google = 10,000 genomes database #AUT10K #innovation


Autism Speaks and Google are teaming up to use the ‘Google Cloud Platform’ to create a library of 10,000 genomes of people with autism and their families members. The Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K) will create a database of 10,000 genomes, which will use the Google Cloud for ‘storage, processing, and exploration.’ Very exciting indeed!

The collaboration promises to advance breakthroughs in the understanding, diagnosis, subtyping and personalized treatment of autism, says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Rob Ring. “The AUT10K program holds the potential to radically transform our understanding of autism and redefine the future of medical care for those affected by the disorder,” he explains. “Working with Google is a game-changer in this story.”


However, the vastly larger amount of data collected by AUT10K creates unique challenges for storage, analysis and remote access. Previously, the transport of genomic information involved physically shipping hard drives. Downloading even one individual’s whole genome in a conventional manner could take hours, the equivalent of downloading a hundred feature films.


The cutting-edge capabilities of the Google Cloud can overcome these limits, Dr. Ring says. “Connecting biological discoveries with the best in large-scale cloud storage and computation will advance not only autism research but the entire field of genomic medicine,” he says.