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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

Mitochondial Disease continued...

The type of problem such children develop depends on the part of the brain that is affected. Some may become spastic and have trouble walking. Others may have seizures, problems with language, and sometimes problems with social behavior, Trevathan said.

Children who have mitochondrial disorders, even though they seem normal, are predestined to have a problem when they have stress," he said at the CDC news conference. "This is distressing for parents who watch their children suddenly deteriorate. Most are normal appearing until they exhibit signs of disease when placed under severe stress. Most do not have problems with autism."

Some researchers have suggested that mitochondrial diseases or disorders are more common in children with autism than in other children.

"If anyone said mitochondrial disease prevalence is higher among children with autism, that is a hypothesis and there is remarkably little data to support it," Trevathan said. "The truth is we don't know the prevalence of mitochondrial disease in the general population."

Mohan of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation tells WebMD that mitochondrial disease affects one in 4,000 children -- and maybe more. But he rejects the link to autism.

"Persons with mitochondrial disease don't necessarily have autism, and persons with autism don't necessarily have mitochondrial disease," Mohan says. "Just as with vaccines, there is no scientific proof vaccinations cause mitochondrial deficiencies or autism."

Trevathan notes that though doctors are urged to consider each child's individual risk, vaccinations are generally recommended for children with mitochondrial disorders.

"We do recommend immunizations, because many of the diseases we immunize against are associated with regression in children with mitochondrial disorders," he said.


Vaccine-Autism Link: More Info

The court has not yet decided on the amount of damages. That decision, those close to the case say, could take a few months or more.

The federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was set up to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines, stabilize costs, and to provide an avenue for individuals injured by certain vaccines. The CDC web site says the program was triggered by reports in the early 1980s of harmful side effects following vaccination with the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine.  As the number of lawsuits filed against vaccine makers increased, vaccination rates among children fell. Vaccine companies wary of liability began to drop out of the market. To help solve the situation, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act  of 1986 established the compensation program.

The American Academy of Pediatrics in a statement, says the case "raised many questions."

"The AAP leadership is seeking access to official documents in the case so medical experts can examine the science and consider whether it raises implications for other children. The AAP wants to ensure the public is provided accurate information about the safety and importance of vaccines. Our members are dedicated to the health of all children and urge parents to fully immunize their children," the statement says.

(WebMD senior writer Daniel J. DeNoon contributed to this article.)


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