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Talk:Causes of autism

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Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment

Sciences humaines.svg This article was the subject of a Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment, between 23 August 2021 and 8 December 2021. Further details are available on the course page. Student editor(s): Blazer00. Peer reviewers: Delaney555, Samuel Raaflaub, Lydiaham.

Above undated message substituted from assignment by PrimeBOT (talk) 18:44, 17 January 2022 (UTC)

Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment

Sciences humaines.svg This article was the subject of a Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment, between 10 May 2021 and 6 August 2021. Further details are available on the course page. Student editor(s): Amaiya99. Peer reviewers: Jnsellers, Sey2020, Malmims, Crequijo18.

Above undated message substituted from assignment by PrimeBOT (talk) 17:01, 16 January 2022 (UTC)

Mercury: any reason not to include the following two review articles?

The review articles in question are:

'The relationship between mercury and autism: A comprehensive review and discussion'[1]

′The association between mercury levels and autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis′[2]


  1. ^ Kern JK, Geier DA, Sykes LK, Haley BE, and Geier MR. The relationship between mercury and autism: A comprehensive review and discussion. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2016;37(Supplement C):8-24. doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2016.06.002.
  2. ^ Jafari T, Rostampour N, Fallah AA, and Hesami, A. The association between mercury levels and autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2017;44(Supplement C):289-97. doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2017.09.002.

Although all authorities—such as NIMH (see here) and WHO (see here)—seem to agree (in their statements for the general public) that environmental factors may be important, they seem, at present, reluctant to single out any one environmental factor in particular.

This is why I would prefer to get some feedback before changing the substance of the text.

I think that, at a minimum, the following should be appended to the existing text in the section on mercury:

However, a 2016 comprehensive review found that 'the preponderance of the evidence indicates that mercury exposure is causal and/or contributory in ASD'[1], and a 2017 systematic review found that 'mercury is an important causal factor in the etiology of ASD'[2].


  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference Kern_2016 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference Jafari_2017 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

Note that, in the present form, the most recent source cited in that section is from 2008.

Reuqr (talk) 23:42, 28 November 2017 (UTC)

The first source says "The authors have been involved in vaccine/biologic litigation." A little research shows that the declared affiliation of several authors to "CoMed Inc" is this organisation, "Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs" - is an advocacy group with a "value statement"

We recognize that organic mercury-based compounds are a proven neurotoxic risk to susceptible men, women and children at levels below 1 part per billion

CONEM also seems to be an advocacy group.
The Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc shares a street address with Comed.
The remaining author lists Kentucky University as his affiliation, but according to his Wikipedia article Boyd Haley is a retired professor of chemistry, and an anti-vaxer. His article makes it clear why we should be wary of considering him a reliable source on this topic.
The second abstract I cannot comment on, except to note it is published in the same journal, which throws doubt on the quality of the refereeing.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 10:34, 6 December 2017 (UTC).
  • The second paper is a meta-analysis, and on page 296 notes the following limitation: "The major problem with case-control studies is the temporal relationship between exposure and outcome. It is possible, for example, that older children with ASD may exhibit more mouthing behavior than healthy controls, leading to increased levels of mercury (and other pollutants) in their biological tissues." In spite of this, on the same page the Conclusions are led by this sentence: "Results of the current meta-analysis revealed that mercury is a causal factor in the etiology of ASD." The limitation noted is spot-on, and fully undermines the primary conclusion. I have posted this concern in PubMed Commons for public feedback that the authors can see. I have also written directly to the journal's editor to re-assess the validity of this conclusion. — soupvector (talk) 12:43, 6 December 2017 (UTC)

Proposal: Add mitochondrial dysfunction sub-section to vaccine section

What is the prevailing opinion regarding adding a section for the mitochondrial-dysfunction hypothesis to the vaccines subsection?

Here are the details: In its 5-year scientific agenda, released February 2011, the Centers for Disease Control's Immunization Safety Office discussed the need to research the relationship between vacciness, mitochondrial dysfunction, and what it termed "neurological deterioration," listing the need to research this hypothetical relationship as a "high priority" [1] (page 31 Item A-V). The CDC listed 9 bullet points to support its opinion that this research was highly necessary. It explained: what mitochondrial disorders are, two studies that show that some children with mitochondrial disorders may have autistic features and that some children with "autistic" spectrum disorder may also have mitochondrial disease, and numerous studies that suggest that children with metabolic disorders including mitochondrial disease are vulnerable to experiencing neurological deterioration at times of physiologic stress (such as taking vaccines). The CDC stated that a number of studies were in progress or completed, and it stated that the outcome would be to develop guidelines for investigations of adverse events following the vaccination of children with underlying mitochondrial disorders.

Other reputable researchers have echoed the need for this research. In this 2008 study published in PLOSOne and co-authored by scientists from institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, and Massachusetts General Hospital, the authors wrote, "Large, population-based studies will be needed to identify a possible relationship of vaccination with autistic regression in persons with mitochondrial cytopathies." [2]

Mitochondrial dysfunction has been mentioned twice in the archives here, but never in relationship to the research that the CDC pushed. [3]

I'm not aware of the outcomes of the CDC's research efforts, but I do think the fact that the hypothesis has had the serious attention of the CDC is worth mentioning. What do others think? Kekki1978 (talk) 14:09, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

Per MOS:MED we generally avoid the truism that Further research is needed. Or is there a suitable source with some actual knowledge on this topic which may be used? Alexbrn (talk) 07:25, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
Anecdotally speaking--and I realize this is not research, but Dr. Richard I. Kelley of Johns Hopkins University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute wrote (2009): "Our clinical experience at Kennedy Krieger Institute over the last 15F years has shown that a deficiency of mitochondrial complex I is a common cause of regressive autism...Regression often can be dated to a specific event, most often a simple childhood illness...or viral syndrome, or, rarely, an immunization, most often the MMR vaccine or the former DPT...Regression occurs either acutely during the illness or within 14 days of immunization with the MMR attenuated virus vaccine...The nature of the regression and its timing suggest that mitochondrial failure is caused by immune-mediated destabilization of mitochondria as part of a TNF-alpha/caspase-mediated apoptosis cascade." (He gave the caveat, "This summary reflects the clinical experience with a single institution’s autism population and diagnostic laboratories.") [4]. I believe he has written an updated document [2018], and when I find it I'll post.
Regarding the research that has gone on, per the CDC scientific agenda (pdf above): "CISA [the CDC's Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project] is currently [2011] conducting retrospective vaccine safety studies of children with mitochondrial disorders at all six CISA sites. Evaluation of immunization rates and AEFIs [Adverse Events Following Immunization] among children with mitochondrial disorders at Northern California Kaiser (NCK) and other sites are conducting similar studies." Also, the "MINI" study (Metabolism, Infection, and Immunity in Inborn Errors of Metabolism) at the U.S.' National Institutes of Health has been looking at this issue [5].
Does anyone know of the findings of these research studies?
(Regardless, the article already mentions numerous causes as hypotheses, with the need for further research implied. Vitamin D deficiency and oxidative stress are 2 examples.) Kekki1978 (talk) 12:51, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

The CDC stated that its goal in fostering research in this area is for CISA to "develop guidelines for clinical investigations of individual adverse events following immunizations that might occur in children with underlying mitochondrial disorders" (source above). Is anyone aware of relevant updates to its guidelines? Kekki1978 (talk) 22:43, 26 September 2018 (UTC)

The CDC's website currently says that so far vaccines have not been shown to cause mitochondrial disease but more research is needed, it also says that some infectious diseases can trigger a regression to mitochondrial disease[6]. This makes me wonder if the immune response to a vaccine could cause mitochondrial disease, but it looks like there is not enough info to add anything about vaccines and mitochondrial disease to wikipedia at this time. Tornado chaser (talk) 23:15, 26 September 2018 (UTC)

Proposal: Add mitochondrial dysfunction to the "Related disorders" section

And what is the opinion of adding mitochondrial dysfunction to the "Related disorders" section of the article--not in the vaccine section? At least describe it as an "association", and indicate that causality is not yet established? The research regarding an association is clear, and has been cited by the CDC [source above] as well as in this research below, and other studies. [I will try to follow up and make proper cites here. For now, I'm putting links to abstracts or articles.]

  • "Frequency and association of mitochondrial genetic variants with neurological disorders" (2018). [7]
  • "Clinical and Molecular Characteristics of Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorder" (2018). [8]
  • "Metabolism-Associated Markers and Childhood Autism Rating Scales (CARS) as a Measure of Autism Severity" (2018). [9]
  • "Mitochondrial dysfunction and autism: comprehensive genetic analyses of children with autismand mtDNA deletion" (2018). Excerpt of abstract: "Mitochondrial dysfunction is not rare in ASD." [10] Kekki1978 (talk) 13:35, 25 September 2018 (UTC)
Well you've listed a bunch of unreliable (i.e. non-WP:MEDRS) sources. So the question remains: is there accepted knowledge on this topic that can be found in a reliable source? If not, we can't add anything. Alexbrn (talk) 13:58, 25 September 2018 (UTC)
Is the characterization of these sources as being unreliable based solely on the perception that they are primary and not secondary? Kekki1978 (talk) 16:48, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
That is a problem, yes. Alexbrn (talk) 17:06, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
Is that the only reason for the characterization as unreliable? Kekki1978 (talk) 21:47, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
Dunno. The purpose of this page is to discuss ways of improving the article with proposals in line with the WP:PAGs, not to enter into quasi-legalistic Q&A sessions. Have you got anything constructive to propose? Alexbrn (talk) 06:43, 27 September 2018 (UTC)
I'm merely trying to be efficient in spending time sourcing. I've read the policy, but not your mind. If you believe the examples given fail WP:MEDRS in more ways than one, it would be constructive to communicate the reasons for your opinion. Thanks. Kekki1978 (talk) 10:25, 27 September 2018 (UTC)
The use of the word "yet" in "causality is not yet established" tells me someone seems to have a pre-formed opinion here. HiLo48 (talk) 22:46, 25 September 2018 (UTC)
Disagreed. Clearly communicating the difference between association (comorbidity) and causality is of the utmost importance. The topic of the Wikipedia article is causality; the topic of the section is related disorders. There's a risk of confusing the reader unless the difference is clearly communicated. Kekki1978 (talk) 16:46, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
"Yet" is a problematic, loaded work beloved of POV-pushers. Alexbrn (talk) 17:06, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
There's a difference between expressing that something isn't written robustly enough to communicate an encyclopedic tone and assuming something negative about a stranger's motivation. WP:GF The CDC itself discussed comorbidity. There's no personal POV here. Kekki1978 (talk) 21:47, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
There was no need to use the word "yet". HiLo48 (talk) 03:24, 27 September 2018 (UTC)
The article is already structured to imply "yet" in numerous locations, and I was writing my comment to fit the structure. For example, as of 27 September 2018, "hypothesis" (an implied "yet") is used 8 times. The "Related disorders" section itself is an example, emphasis added: "Environmental factors that have been claimed to contribute to autism or exacerbate its symptoms, or that may be important to consider in future research, include...[list of elements]." No need to assume anything about anyone's motivation. I will keep the "yet" concern in mind when editing. Thanks.Kekki1978 (talk) 10:25, 27 September 2018 (UTC)

"Social construct" theory

I moved this theory out of the "Discredited theories" section. No source was provided for the claim that it has been discredited. You can't call a theory "discredited" unless you (at a minimum) you have a reliable source calling it that. (Really, to call a theory "discredited", you want multiple high quality reliable sources saying that; a bar which is rather easy to reach for vaccine-related theories, but I don't think it is going to be reached for social constructionist theories.) SJK (talk) 01:09, 19 July 2020 (UTC)