Since autism was described in the 1940s, multiple unfounded theories of causation and corollary “treatments” have been offered. Psychiatry, then a psychoanalytically oriented discipline,
posited a psychosocial explanation that blamed “refrigerator”
mothers for the child's withdrawal into the autistic bubble, only to be reached by the interpretations of therapists engaged in long-term play therapy. To name only a few more recent such theories taken from both the psychosocial and biological realm of explanations, facilitated communication and secretin infusion enjoyed widespread support up to the point when the systematic accumulation of carefully controlled clinical trials consistently failed to provide support for their efficacy.1,2 In the last decade, 2 hypotheses on autism-immunization links were raised that have had a profound impact in the field of autism research and practice and on public health at large. One incriminated the measles component of the triple measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine,3 the other the amount of thimerosal (about 50% of which is ethylmercury)
contained in most other childhood vaccines.4 The 2 hypotheses are separate, since MMR vaccines never contained thimerosal. Both hypotheses relied on the claim of an autism “epidemic” that apparently coincided with the introduction of MMR and/or the increased exposure to ethylmercury due to the increased number of recommended childhood immunizations in the first 3 years of life.
Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.
Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.
Err on the side of full disclosure.
If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.
Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.
Fombonne E. Thimerosal Disappears but Autism Remains. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(1):15–16. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2007.2
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: