Well, sometimes things come from odd places.
The spouse comes home and tells me about a friend, who’s kid has autism, who tests positive for lyme (as does the kid) who finds a site dedicated to the ‘connection’ between the two.
First thing you know, I’m recruited to do some R&D via the web…
OK, another flaky theory, thinks I… But, “for the spouse”…
First off, there is the “Lyme Induced Autism Association”. Seems like everything gets an association and a web page these days. It has the usual collection of “decent medical references” along with “wild and crazy ideas”. (One link claims to cure lyme with a tablespoon of salt and 3 grams of Vit C per day…) But some of it looks like decent science… or at least it has some M.D. names on it. Looks like early speculative practice / research to me, but hey, at least someone on the team has a degree in the area.
At their site is a link to a TV News Report that is the usual ‘tear jerker’ about the autistic kid with Lyme who gets somewhat better once it is treated (but just doesn’t manage to recover fully with the implication that it was just too late for her, but for others if only treated sooner… )
Is one testimonial proof of anything? Nope. But it’s likely an example of how some benefit can come from reduction of at least one of the agents of illness.
Then I find a Wiki, of sorts:
That, being a ‘wikia’, is a bit more like a ‘group blog’ than the official wiki…
It has a list of 8 line items, some of which have to do with Autism and Lyme. Each a link to what looked like a decent reference. One in particular caught my eye:
Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(5):967-74. Epub 2007 Nov 5.
The association between tick-borne infections, Lyme borreliosis and autism spectrum disorders.
Bransfield RC, Wulfman JS, Harvey WT, Usman AI.
Department of Psychiatry, Riverview Medical Center, 225 State Route 35, Red Bank, NJ, United States. firstname.lastname@example.org
Chronic infectious diseases, including tick-borne infections such as Borrelia burgdorferi may have direct effects, promote other infections and create a weakened, sensitized and immunologically vulnerable state during fetal development and infancy leading to increased vulnerability for developing autism spectrum disorders. A dysfunctional synergism with other predisposing and contributing factors may contribute to autism spectrum disorders by provoking innate and adaptive immune reactions to cause and perpetuate effects in susceptible individuals that result in inflammation, molecular mimicry, kynurenine pathway changes, increased quinolinic acid and decreased serotonin, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and excitotoxicity that impair the development of the amygdala and other neural structures and neural networks resulting in a partial Klüver-Bucy Syndrome and other deficits resulting in autism spectrum disorders and/or exacerbating autism spectrum disorders from other causes throughout life. Support for this hypothesis includes multiple cases of mothers with Lyme disease and children with autism spectrum disorders; fetal neurological abnormalities associated with tick-borne diseases; similarities between tick-borne diseases and autism spectrum disorder regarding symptoms, pathophysiology, immune reactivity, temporal lobe pathology, and brain imaging data; positive reactivity in several studies with autistic spectrum disorder patients for Borrelia burgdorferi (22%, 26% and 20-30%) and 58% for mycoplasma; similar geographic distribution and improvement in autistic symptoms from antibiotic treatment. It is imperative to research these and all possible causes of autism spectrum disorders in order to prevent every preventable case and treat every treatable case until this disease has been eliminated from humanity.
Pretty good list of symptoms and correlations.
OK, which way does causalities arrow fly? Does the autism lead to more opportunities for illness that is not diagnosed and accumulates, or does the infection at an early and susceptible age lead to the autism result?
Nobody knows. However, in many cases the mother was found to be lyme positive and likely was at the time of pregnancy. Lyme is known to transmit across the placental barrier, so it’s possible that the kid gets the bugs early enough for them to be causal of the neurological effects (potentially also including the neuronal hypertrophy). OK, it’s a ‘possible’.
With positive titers of 22% to 30% for lyme, and 58% for mycoplasma, at the minimum a diagnosis of Autism ought to be followed by a prophylactic test for those two infections. Often the kid can’t tell you what hurts, so it’s up to us to find the “issues” that may be making them hurt.
It could also well be that the prevalence of autism among ‘geek couples’ has to do with their ‘back to the earth’ tendencies to wander out in the woods where the ticks live…
As autism is ‘multifactorial’, there is plenty of room for the ‘multi’ part. And the authors work at a medical center… ;-)
There’s enough here to be worth taking a look at it, and folks look like they are. If I had a kid with autism, I’d get them tested for those two bugs (and maybe more). Though even that is a bit tricky as lyme can play hide and seek with various tests for it so both symptoms and tests must be combined to reach a diagnosis.
Do I think lyme is “it”? Nope. There is most likely a mix of causal agents. A bit of genetic predisposition. Some environmental trauma (that might include metals, vaccines, leaky gut issues). And maybe, in some cases, infections are part of the trauma. But yes, I think it is worth a look.
It is also very possible that lyme, known to cause neurological symptoms, is just an ‘add on’ to a base level of some other process that causes actual Autism; or in some cases is a misdiagnosis without the underlying Autism. When two things can have the same symptoms, it can be hard to keep them correctly diagnosed. Perhaps since it is a diagnosis based on the appearance, it doesn’t really matter. It still counts. Or perhaps we’ll figure out that Autism is like cancer, actually many different diseases but each with similarities to the other.
At any rate, it’s an interesting thing that’s being explored.