Sunday, April 13, 2008

Does a 9-year-old with autism show link to vaccines?

A Georgia 9-year-old, Hannah Poling (pictured above), was diagnosed with autism after a number of vaccines for infectious diseases, according to The New York Times.

"Late last year government lawyers agreed to compensate the Poling family on the theory that vaccines may have aggravated an underlying disorder affecting her mitochondria, the energy centers of cells," the NYT health blog says April 12. "Vaccine critics say the Hannah Poling settlement shows the government has finally conceded that vaccines cause autism. But government officials say Hannah’s case involved a rare medical condition, and there is still no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism."

Interestingly, Hannah's father is a neurologist and wrote about his daughter's case in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution April 11, where he asked public health researchers to look into mitochondrial conditions like his daughter's.

"National public health leaders, including those at CDC, must now recognize the paradigm shift caused by this biological marker with regard to their current position of dispelling a vaccine-autism link," Dr. Jon S. Poling wrote. "In light of the Hannah Poling concession, science must determine more precisely how large the mitochondrial autism subpopulation is: 1 percent, 7.2 percent, 20 percent?"

Medical researchers who argue there is no connection between vaccines and autism say Hannah Poling's diagnosis and condition add no information to the debate.

The New York Times covered the government's settlement with the Polings March 8.