Friday, August 04, 2006

Vaccination, Toxins and Autism

The article examines how drugs and other environmental agents may contribute to autism. Children with autism typically have trouble communicating, interacting socially, and controlling their behavior. Various treatments sometimes reduce symptoms, especially if children are diagnosed early, but there is no cure for autism. Some scientists believe environmental factors are at play because autism appears to be increasing rapidly. They argue that genetic factors alone can't account for such rapid growth. A highly controversial piece of the autism picture has been the issue of whether childhood vaccines can trigger the disorder. Much of the current research on autism is in early stages. Payoffs in treatments or preventive measures are likely to be years to decades away. Environmental agents under scrutiny in autism research include drugs, vaccines, viruses, and poisonous substances such as lead and mercury. Some scientists suspect that maternal viral infections are one of the principal noninherited causes of autism. Support is growing for the idea that immune system problems in a pregnant woman or developing child set the stage for autism. As in other diseases, finding the roots of autism is challenging because things can go awry at so many points on the long and complicated road to normal human development.