Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Short Life of a Diagnosis

The title concerns an issue reported in the N Y Times this morning. It raises some interesting ideas that I would like to mention and perhaps see some comments on. So come along to a conclusion I have reached and play detective with me. Where the issue raised In the Times concerns humans, as a veterinarian I shall add a bit about lower animals to help reach my final thoughts. First there are clues that we must accept. The first one being that pregnant mammals can, by what is ingested, affect developing embryos. The history of pregnant women injuring their developing embryos by what they eat must be agreed upon. An example is the resulting babies born defective from the mothers having ingested the drug, Thalidomide. the second clue, in lower animals an example is a cow ingesting a plant that must be called poisonous when deformed calves are produced after a mothers eating it.
The subject in the Times report was autism and the Asperger Syndrome which together are considered one by many experts.
The next clue concerns the observation of autism. It appeared in a significant number of cases about 1940 and Aspergers was first reported in German in 1944. Prior to those dates if the problem existed, it had not been recognized worthy enough to be named. I believe a case can be made that the problem did not exist prior to about those dates. That statement may be suspect and should be investigated.
Let's go on. If autism is a new disease, science has focused on symptoms and not cause. With such a newborn problem, what are the possible causes? Science must place it in the group with problems such as ALS, cancer and the likes. With autism, could it be in the catagory with such as gastric ulcers?
Between the cause and treatment of gastric ulcers in humans was a 20 or so year period during which time the veterinary profession had identified the cause and treatment for hogs as a bacteria and the treatment. For the higher mammal during the years to find the answer it was speculated that it had a psychological answer and patients were cataloged as certain types of personalities that were involved. scientific papers were published until someone made the discovery that the vet profession had solved that cause and cure 20 years before. The human solution was the same one that cured the pigs without addressing their personalities. My point here is that perhaps the vet profession could help solve the autism problem not even recognized in lower animals. So we are nearing some possible answers. The first question may be, "What could have happened in the environment at around 1940 that could have caused such a problem as autism?" Now let's leave that question to ask again shortly. In about 1940 a new problem appeared in the vet world. It was called hip dysplasia in dogs. It was reported in the literature as a genetic problem but and that but is important because the problem was soon identified in all breeds and genetic traits don't spread from one breed to all breeds in dogdome. Now we can ask the identical question asked above,namely,what could have happened in the environment at around 1940 that could have caused such a problem?" That presents another question, "Could there be something new in the environment that could have affected both humans and canines simultaneously?" Another question comes to mind, "But the problems are so different." an answer could be, "So are the species."
I have tried to answer that question and find that a substance classed as "grass" became popular at about that time and should be suspect until proven otherwise. The word grass stands for, "generally regarded safe." With such a classification and I don't know how that was arrived at, is it possible a toxic substance has flooded our food without having been thoroughly investigated? Of course with new preservatives and combination's of additives, could our testing of combinations of additives fallen through cracks?
We all know that preservatives starting with heating have saved countless human lives but if it is a preservative that depends for effectiveness on the rolling of the dice with some helped and others helped into the grave, a pause is suggested for investigating a possible injurious one.


  1. Wikipedia has an article regarding GRAS (Linking isn't allowed on here I guess) and it contains many other links which are interesting reading. There are so many substances to be considered if attempting to determine a chemical cause for Autism, as well as a combination of substances (as you've stated) it would be miraculous to see funding for such a project. I'm going to continue to read the labels, as I have for years, and steer clear of additives, although I'm not at risk for having a child with autism.
    Oh wait! Maybe your post is a hoax? I just don't know anymore!

  2. Doc, this dove-tails with your comments on autism back in Aug. stating that perhaps preservatives and citric acid may be part of the problem. So how does one now publish these thoughts so that some research can be done? I like reading your blog and think you make some great points, now how do you take them to the next level?