There are many studies coming out about autism these days and many of them try to tell us where to find the cause(s). Recently, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry HERE looking at twins and shared environmental factors found that non-identical twins had a diagnosis of autism much higher than previously reported and that shared environmental factors in-utero or in the first year of life have more influence than even genetics in resulting in the disorder.
If genetics were the sole predictor of autism then 0% of non-identical twins would both have autism and 50-100% of identical twins would both have autism. This is called “concordance” in genetics-speak. Genetics was my worst subject in medical school with statistics close behind; but, my interpretation of this study is that we MUST look at these “shared environmental factors” more closely if we want to find the causes of autism and prevent the pain and suffering that is caused to an increasing number of families.
What happens to the developing fetus that can cause such an insult to the development of the neurological pathways in the brain and in the gut? What exposure to what toxins in the air, water and food do we need to avoid when pregnant? Are the multiple vaccinations received in the first year of life damaging to some individuals with slightly out-of-kilter immune responses? How do we predict and test for those susceptibilities? Is there a virus out there, previously unknown, that is waiting to be discovered?
Where is the passionate demand for results that drove the research for the answers to the AIDS epidemic? Is it because these are children? Or because they are not dying? What do we have to do to generate the interest and the money needed for this research?
The name calling and polarization that both sides of the vaccination debate have generated has definitely not been helpful. We should be listening instead of accusing.