"Thimerosal/autism link improbable"
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|Sat, 04-12-2003 - 11:28pm|
NEUROPATHOLOGISTS WRITE IN "PEDIATRICS" THAT A LINK BETWEEN
THIMEROSAL AND AUTISM IS IMPROBABLE
"Thimerosal and Autism?" appeared as a commentary article in the
March issue of "Pediatrics." It is written by two
neuropathologists, Karin B. Nelson, MD, of the National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and Margaret L.
Bauman, MD, of Harvard Medical School.
After reviewing the scientific literature, the authors conclude
a link between thimerosal exposure and the development of autism
is improbable. The article, which clearly demonstrates that the
characteristics of mercury toxicity and autism are so dissimilar
that it would be difficult to confuse them, will be useful to
physicians in allaying parents' concerns about thimerosal
content in vaccines.
Following are the article's two concluding paragraphs:
Mercury poisoning and autism both affect the central nervous
system but the specific sites of involvement in brain and the
brain cell types affected are different in the two disorders as
evidenced clinically and by neuropathology. Mercury also injures
the peripheral nervous system and other organs that are not
affected in autism. Nonspecific symptoms such as anxiety,
depression, and irrational fears may occur both in mercury
poisoning and in children with autism, but overall the clinical
picture of mercurism--from any known form, dose, duration, or
age of exposure--does not mimic that of autism. No case history
has been encountered in which the differential diagnosis of
these 2 disorders was a problem. Most important, no evidence yet
brought forward indicates that children exposed to vaccines
containing mercurials, or mercurials via any other route of
exposure, have more autism than children with less or no such
Continuing vigilance is necessary regarding the safety of
vaccines, as is open-minded evaluation of new evidence. However,
such evidence must be of sufficient scientific rigor to provide
a responsible basis for decisions that influence the safety of
children. When information is incomplete, as it is at present
for thimerosal-autism questions, a balancing must be made of
risks posed by vaccine constituents and the benefits of disease
prevention achieved by keeping immunizations widely available.
On the basis of current evidence, we consider it improbable that
thimerosal and autism are linked.
Most articles in "Pediatrics" are available only to subscribers.
We commend the editor of "Pediatrics" for making this important
article available to the broad health care community on the
Internet. To access a camera-ready (PDF) copy of the complete
article from the "Pediatrics" website, go to:
Physicians will be interested in referring parents to Jane
Brody's synopsis of the "Pediatrics" article, "Vaccines and
Autism, Beyond the Fear Factor." To access it from the "New York
Times" website, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/health
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