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What's Up Magazine

An Autism Update

Jan 11, 2011 12:33AM ● By Anonymous

First, BMJ, the British medical journal, joined the well-deserved vilification movement against Andrew Wakefield, the researcher responsible for the 1998 study falsely linking autism to vaccinations. In a just-published first installment of a three-part story, BMJ goes so far as labeling Wakefield as not merely incompetent, but an outright fraud who “doctored” his results. The harmful effect of his pronouncement went well beyond supplying false hope for a reason behind autism; it actually caused illness, and reportedly deaths, in unvaccinated children. An increase in the incidences of whooping cough, measles, mumps, and chicken pox can be directly linked to avoiding vaccinations. And now there’s even an entire book on the subject. The Panic Virus, A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear, by Vanity Fair contributor Seth Mnookin coming out this week. We can only hope that the vaccine debate will finally be put to rest.

But now there is a new study to worry about: Children conceived within a year of their older sibling have an increased change of being diagnosed with autism. Researchers at Columbia University looked 660,000 second-born children in California between 1992 and 2002. The study, published this week in the journal Pediatrics and funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, measured the time the second child was conceived relative to the first child, and then looked at autism diagnosis of the second child. The study found that second children who were conceived less than 12 months after the first child were three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism that children spaced further apart. Second children conceived less than two years after the first had almost twice the chance of an autism diagnosis. Experts caution much more research is needed.

One thing is apparent: There are still way too many pieces missing from the puzzle to get a clear picture of autism.

Read “The Autism Puzzle: Why won’t the pieces fit?” from our January 2010 issue.