Gov't: Girl’s Autism-Like Symptoms Linked to Vaccines
Federal Officials Say Vaccines Worsened Condition That Led to Autism Spectrum Disorder in Georgia Girl
WebMD News Archive
Autism-Vaccine Link: Hannah's Story continued...
Later in 2001, doctors found a defect in "cellular energetics" and
diagnosed a disorder of the mitochrondria.
Her father, Jon, then a neurologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore,
co-authored a paper describing how autistic spectrum disorders can be
associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. It was published in 2006 in the
Journal of Child Neurology.
Accepting his daughter's diagnosis was difficult, Poling tells WebMD. He
says the family was in denial initially that anything was seriously wrong.
"After six months of essentially our daughter being a zombie and gone, we
knew this wasn't going away," he says. "This was chronic. And we
had to come to grips with that."
Still, Poling says his daughter's experience has not turned him against
vaccines; he just wants any vaccination risks to be acknowledged and
"I want to make it clear I am not anti-vaccine," he says.
"Vaccines are one of the most important, if not the most important advance,
in medicine in at least the past 100 years. But I don't think that vaccines
should enjoy a sacred cow status, where if you attack them you are out of
"Every treatment has a risk and a benefit," he says. "To say
there are no risks to any treatment is not true.
"I don't think the case should scare people," Poling adds.
"Sometimes people are injured by a vaccine, but they are safe for the
majority of people. I could say that with a clean conscience. But I couldn't
say that vaccines are absolutely safe, that they are not linked to brain injury
and they are not linked to autism."
Poling hopes the fed's decision will trigger government action. "I hope
it will force government agencies to look further into what susceptibility
factors are out there for children to develop brain injury after vaccination,
to look into the susceptibility factors of people at risk."
His advice for parents? They should demand to know a vaccine's safety record
before agreeing to give it to their child, including any known links with
metabolic disorders and susceptibility to injury, he says.
Hannah Poling suffered from a form of mitochondrial disease caused by a
genetic defect in her mitochondrial DNA.
Mitochondria are organelles -- tiny bodies within our cells -- that carry
their own DNA, which we inherit from our mothers. Mitochondria provide the
energy cells need to function.
Edwin Trevathan, MD, MPH, director of the CDC's National Center on Birth
Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said at the news conference that when
children with mitochondrial disorders are placed under severe stress, such as a
high fever, their bodies don't make enough energy. This often damages the
brain, the body organ that needs the most energy.