Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Can Swine Flu Alter Genes and Cause Autism, Alzheimer's and Schizophrenia?

A genetic epidemiological researcher who has worked in statistical genetics at the National Human Genome Research Institute/NIH, has posted an article Swine Flu Can Change Genes of Unborn at Blisstree.com suggesting that swine flu in pregnant women may change the genes of unborn children resulting in damage to the hippocampus. Grace Ibay points out that damage to the hippocampus is associated with a number of mental disorders including autism, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Ms Ibay refers to a study of pregnant mice injected with the swine flu (H1N1) virus published in the medical journal European Neuropsychopharmacology in which the newborn offspring had reduced hippocampus by 15% and 12 other altered genes. The journal article is Prenatal viral infection of mice at E16 causes changes in gene expression in hippocampi of the offspring in European Neuropsychopharmacology Volume 19, Issue 9, Pages 648-653 (September 2009).

The article abstract comments generally that the hippocampus governs memory formation and emotional regulation, that there is widespread evidence of hippocampal dysfunction in psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and autism and that there is abundant evidence that prenatal viral infection may play a role in development of schizophrenia and autism.

The abstract reports that the authors of the study, a research team led by S. Hossein Fatemi, of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, observed:

"significant changes in gene expression in the offspring .... including a number of candidate genes for autism and schizophrenia ... qRT-PCR verified the direction and magnitude of change for 5 of the genes from the microarray data set and revealed mRNA changes for additional genes associated with schizophrenia and autism."

Ms Ibay, who is reported to be the mother of young children in addition to being a genetic epidemiological researcher, refers to this study as confirmation of the public health recommendation that pregnant women be vaccinated against the H1N1 (swine flu) virus. She makes no mention of any possible damage to the genetic makeup of unborn children that might result from injecting their mothers with the H1N1(swine flu) vaccine.




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7 comments:

Marni Wachs said...

It's simply insane to be pushing an untested vaccine with EVIDENCE that it can damage genes in the unborn to pregnant women and young children, or similarly to anyone.

Roger Kulp said...

Here's a better article


https://sfari.org/news-and-commentary/all/-/journal_content/56/12736/090724-AUTISM-SCHIZOPHRENIA

Before this, scientists had depended mostly on indirect evidence to tie schizophrenia to the MHC region. For example, children born to mothers who had the flu during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia6. Some evidence suggests that autism, too, stems from maternal flu.

Several genetic and physiological studies of people with autism have linked the disorder to genes that regulate immune function and autoimmune diseases, illnesses that occur when the body's immune system attacks its own healthy cells.

Matthew Cline said...

I'm not going to comment on whether this means that pregnant women should avoid the flu vaccine. However, you've made a misunderstanding about the article you linked to. The article talks about "gene expression", which is what controls which genes are on or off. A change in gene expression is not a change to the gene itself, but merely whether or not the protein the gene encodes for is produced or not. So it's wrong to say that the flu damaged the genes of the fetuses/embryos.

Autism Reality NB said...

Thank you Matthew Cline.

The comment about genes being changed was taken from the article by MS Ibay, who is described as "a genetic epidemiologist by training, ... has worked with the best minds in statistical genetics at the National Human Genome Research Institute/NIH".

The article states that H1N1 CHANGES THE GENES that control brain growth and development in the unborn child:

"Neuroscientists found that the H1N1 changes the genes that control brain growth and development in the unborn child, and some of those genes are tied to the development of the hippocampus,"

Matthew Cline said...

The article by Grace Ibay itself quotes the European Neuropsychopharmacology study, which says: "In the current study, we have examined gene expression". I'm guessing Grace Ibay didn't proofread her article throughly enough to catch her writing error.

Autism Reality NB said...

Matthew Cline

Thank you for your further comment. I checked the article abstract to which you linked. It states:

"We observed significant changes in gene expression .... AND revealed mRNA changes for additional genes associated with schizophrenia and autism."

(I put the AND conjunction in all caps for emphasis). That last part of the statement, unless I misunderstood it, refers to changes in the GENES association with schizophrenia and autism?

Also whether it results from gene expression change or changes in the genes themselves the point of the article was that there was some evidence that swine flu could result in hippocampal dysfunction associated with autism and schizophrenia.

IF the virus itself can cause such a result is it not reasonable to ask whether the vaccine also delivered to pregnant women could have the same result?

Matthew Cline said...

"We observed significant changes in gene expression .... AND revealed mRNA changes for additional genes associated with schizophrenia and autism."

mRNA is how an active gene is expressed (and hence is what we look for to study gene expression). When a gene turns on it generates its associated mRNA; when a gene turns off its mRNA goes away.

IF the virus itself can cause such a result is it not reasonable to ask whether the vaccine also delivered to pregnant women could have the same result?

The flu shot vaccine uses a dead virus (the live virus flu vaccine is the nasal spray). Since its dead it can't infect the cells. However, getting inside of the cells isn't the only way for the virus to effect gene expression, since symptoms like fever can also change gene expression. Unfortunately, the abstract doesn't say if any of the baby mice had not been infected (it was the mothers who were injected with the virus) yet were still affected, which would mean that it was the symptoms the mother was going through that changed the gene expressions.

Assuming that it is the mother's symptoms which cause the change, then pregnant mothers would want to avoid getting the flu, but an adverse reaction to the flu vaccine might cause the same symptoms as the flu. So, the questions with regards to taking the flu vaccine or not are: 1) how likely the mother is to catch the flu, 2) how likely the vaccine is to cause an adverse reaction which gives some or all of the same symptoms of the flu, 3) how much more intense and long lasting the flu's symptoms would be compared to the adverse reactions from the vaccine.