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Is an Inflammatory Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism?

Celiac.com 12/21/2012 - Over the past several years, researchers have made substantial progress in understanding the causes of autism, which now afflicts about 1 in 88 children. However, very little news of this progress seems to have spread into popular consciousness, much of which continues to focus on the possible role of vaccines.

CC--Animal Kingdom Pet HospitalRecent discoveries indicates that one-third or more cases of autism look to be a kind of inflammatory disease, which begins well before birth.

In the August 25th issue of the New York Times, Moises Velasquez-Manhoff has very interesting article in which he discusses the widening view among researchers that autism is, in fact, an inflammatory disease. The article is long and comprehensive, and cites numerous studies, findings and experiments.

Inflammation is the body's natural response to certain kinds of threats. In a normal body, the immune system uses inflammation in a very precise, targeted way, before returning to a normal state.

In autistic individuals, inflammatory signals become the dominant condition, and there is no balancing anti-inflammatory response. A state of chronic inflammation becomes normal. And the more skewed toward inflammation, the more acute the autistic symptoms.

This inflammatory deregulation adversely impacts the brains of autistic individuals. Velasquez-Manhoff also cites a number of studies that trace these inflammatory effects back to the inflammatory responses of the mother during pregnancy.

Among the studies cited in the article is a population-wide study from Denmark spanning two decades of births, which indicates that infection during pregnancy increases the risk of autism in the child. The study found that hospitalization for a viral infection, like the flu, during the first trimester of pregnancy triples the odds of autism. Bacterial infection, including of the urinary tract, during the second trimester increases chances by 40 percent.

Another large Danish study, which included nearly 700,000 births over a decade, found that a mother’s rheumatoid arthritis, a degenerative disease of the joints, elevated a child’s risk of autism by 80 percent. Rates of autism in children of mothers with celiac disease were 350 percent higher than normal. Genetic studies had similar findings. Variations in genes associated with regulating the immune system also increase the risk of autism, especially when they occur in the mother.

A mother’s diagnosis of asthma or allergies during the second trimester of pregnancy increases her child’s risk of autism. So does metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with insulin resistance, obesity and, crucially, low-grade inflammation.

Yet, viral and bacterials infections themselves do not seem the cause of the autism epidemic. The epidemiology doesn’t support that conclusion.

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A far more likely culprit is maternal immune dysregulation. Basically, the mother’s attempt to repel invaders, her inflammatory response, seems to be at fault. Research by Paul Patterson, an expert in neuroimmunity at Caltech, supports this idea. In his research, he introduces inflammation in pregnant mice artificially, without a live infection. This causes behavioral problems in the young. In this model, autism results from collateral damage. It’s an unintended consequence of self-defense during pregnancy.

Since infantile autism was first described by Leo Kanner in 1943, diagnoses have risen tenfold. During that same period, viral and bacterial infections generally declined. However, overall rates of inflammatory diseases have risen sharply since then.

As a group, these diseases include asthma, now estimated to affect 1 in 10 children, rates that have at least doubled since 1980, along with autoimmune disorders, which now afflict 1 in 20.

Recently, William Parker at Duke University has chimed in. Some years back, he began comparing wild sewer rats with clean lab rats. The bodies of wild rats tightly controlled inflammation, but those of the lab rats did not. Parker found that the bodies of the wild rats contained high levels of parasites. Parasites are noted for limiting inflammation.

One lesson from these rodent experiments is that fixing the maternal dysregulation will most likely prevent autism. That theory is supported by Swiss researchers, who created a lineage of mice with a genetically reinforced anti-inflammatory signal. They then inflamed the pregnant mice. The babies emerged fine, with no behavioral problems. This suggests that if inflammation is controlled during pregnancy, it won’t interfere with fetal brain development.

Interestingly, asthma researchers are coming to similar conclusions: preventing inflammation in pregnant women will likely prevent asthma.

Dr. Parker has introduced a more aggressive approach. He suggests that by using specially developed worms to restore “domesticated” parasites doctors can correct immune dysregulation.

To determine if this is feasible, a trial is under way at the Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The trial is using a medicalized parasite called Trichuris suis, known as a whipworm, to treat autistic adults.

The whipworm is native to pigs, and was first used medically to treat inflammatory bowel disease. It has shown anecdotal benefit in autistic children.

The article suggests that the future of treating immune dysregulation, and thus preventing diseases like autism and asthma, may lie in reintroducing parasites into the human body. Stay tuned for more updates on this truly fascinating science.

Read the full article by Moises Velasquez-Manhoff in the New York Times.

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4 Responses:

 
Sue
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
22 Dec 2012 9:56:10 AM PDT
This is fascinating. What a blessing it would be to be able to cure and prevent autism.

 
doctor d
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said this on
23 Dec 2012 1:52:25 AM PDT
Excellent

 
Judy
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingemptyratingempty Unrated
said this on
25 Dec 2012 11:02:53 PM PDT
Interesting, but why has the rate of autism increased in the last 30 years so much? Surely inflammation would have been present in mothers in prior generations.

 
Jackson
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
22 Sep 2014 2:40:32 PM PDT
Why has inflammation increased in the last 30 years? the parents have been over vaccinated. We are eating GMO foods now. We eat more grains. We eat more pesticides. We eat more sugar than ever before. We are more obese which causes inflammation. We have other things like WIFI EMF, cancer causing agents in our toothpaste, BPA and worse in our plastic dishes... lots of reasons for inflammation.




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Make sure that you ask the doctor how long she has to stop the supplements before you have her levels tested and be sure to take them all with you when you have the appointment so the doctor knows what she is taking.

Talk to your doctor. With your family history and symptoms he/she may be able to diagnose based on resolution of your symptoms and family history. Also check with your local hospital if it has it's own lab. Mine covered any labs at a greatly reduced cost based on a sliding fee scale. Did you have an MRI before they did the spinal? Celiacs with neuro impact will have white spots on an MRI that resemble the lesions found with MS. Many neuro doctors don't know this. I went through what you did and they did a spinal on me also based on the MRI results. If my doctor had know what the UBOs (unidentified bright objects) were I would have been diagnosed a couple years sooner than I was. Make sure if you supplement that you ask your doctor which ones you need to stop taking and for how long before they do a blood test to check levels. Sublingual B12 is a good idea when we have nervous system issues, but needs to be stopped for at least a week for an accurate blood level on testing. I hope you get some answers and feel better soon.

Thanks for that. Will get her tested for deficiencies. I did take her to a naturopath and get her on a bunch of vitamins, but she never was tested via bloods, so will get on to that, thanks

Hi Could a mod please move this post: and my reply below to a new thread when they get a chance? Thanks! Matt

Hello and welcome Firstly, don't worry about it but for ease your post (and hopefully my reply) will probably be moved to its own thread. That will make it easier for others to see it and reply and also help Galaxy's own thread here on track and making sense. The antibodies that the celiac tests look for can drop very quickly, so... maybe? Celiac is difficult to test for, there are different tests and sometimes someone doesnt test on one but does on the other. If you can get a copy of the tests and post it here the community may be able to help explain the results. It may have shown damage to the villi, the little tendrils in your intestine that help you extract nutrients from your food. Celiac is one, but not the only, way in which they can get damaged leading to a vast number of potential symptoms and further making diagnosis a tricky proposition. Definitely, there's a connection. Here's a page that explains it in detail: https://stomachachefree.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/liver-disease-in-celiacs/ Fantastic It sounds as if your doctors were happy to diagnose you on the basis of the endoscopy? It may be then that you've found your answer. I hope so, you've clearly had a rotten and very scary time. I'm sure with the positive reaction to the diet you want to go on and get healthy, but I would only add that you should discuss this with your doctors, because they may want to exclude other potential causes if they've not confirmed celiac at this point. Check out the advice for newly diagnosed here: To your family I'd simply say that celiac is a disease of the autoimmune system, the part of our body that fights diseases and keeps us safe. In celiac people the autoimmune system see's the gluten protein found in wheat, barley, or rye grains as a threat to the system and it produces antibodies to attack it and in doing so attacks it's own body as well. It's genetic in component so close family members should consider a test if they have any of the many symptoms. There's roughly 1 person in 100 with celiac but most of them don't know it and are risking getting or staying sick by not finding out. There's further info for them and you here: https://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/announcement/3-frequently-asked-questions-about-celiac-disease/ I'm going to ask a mod to move your post and my reply to a new thread, but wanted to give you an answer first The good news is you've found a great site and there will be lots of support for you here. You've also got 'lucky' in that if you're going to have an autoimmune condition, celiac is a good one Most react really well to the gluten free diet and you will hopefully have much more healing to come! Best wishes Matt