Psychiatric Study into Autism causes Media to urge caution

A study conducted by the University of California’s MIND institute and published in Translational Psychiatry on September 22 has cased some outrage in the media.

Autism diagnosis rates in the US are currently around one in 88 children. The study explores seven antibody proteins found in expectant mothers could be the soul cause of an Autism diagnosis in a child.

They suggested that these antibodies somehow got into the brains of developing fetuses, causing autism in the children.  They even gave a name to this form of autism: maternal autoantibody-related, or MAR autism.

Forbes online contributor Steven Saltzer has blasted these claims as another way to “cash in” and make money out of Autism and its causes.

Writing on the Forbes website on September 23 he said:

“Perhaps the biggest red flag is that the two lead authors, Daniel Braunschweig and Judy Van de Water already have a patent on the proteins described in their paper, and Van de Water is involved with a company, Pediatric Biosciences (PBI), that is already marketing a test to predict autism based on this study.  Van de Water is the Chief Scientific Advisor for the company, which has licensed her patent for this specific test.”

In the journal of Translational Psychiatry the scientists claim to have a 98-100PC accuracy rate if the proteins are identified during testing then the child will develop Autism or be diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. The test was patented and reported upon in the International Business Journals last month.

As the test was very small scale, the next logical step would be to conduct a larger scale test group. Unfortunately the test has gone straight to production, and Mr Saltzberg urges pregnant women over 30 to think very carefully about the new test.

He writes:

Van de Water and her friends at Paediatric Biosciences seem far more interested in making money off the fears of prospective parents.  PBI is planning to charge about $800 for their test, which they’ll begin selling next year. Stanford University biostatistician Steven Goodman says that they are “peddling false hope that giving birth to autistic kids can be avoided.”

He continues:

This is unadulterated poppycock. As of this writing, the company website still claims that the test has “100% accuracy–meaning if a mother or prospective mother has developed the antibodies, then her child will later be diagnosed with AU or ASD [autism].”  That claim couldn’t be any more clear – or any more wrong.

With all the controversy over the causes of autism, and with the medical community still struggling to correct the tremendous damage caused by Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study linking vaccines to autism, the last thing we need is an erroneous claim that someone has found the cause of autism.  And it’s far too soon to start offering moms a test that tells them they’re going to have an autistic child.