Vaccines, Mercury and Genetic Change

Introduction

Thimerosal, which consists of approximately 50 percent ethyl mercury, has been used as a vaccine preservative since the early 1920s. As the numbers of mandated vaccines have steadily grown, the quantity of mercury has also grown, culminating in the 1990s, when children commonly received 187.5 micrograms of mercury during their first six months of life (62.5 mcgs at two months, again at four months, and again at six months). At current safety limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)(1), which allows a maximum of 0.1 mcg of mercury per kilogram of body weight per day, children during the 1990s commonly received up to 100 times the safe dose of mercury on three separate occasions during their first six months. According to standard toxicology texts, the brain is a prime target for mercury (2). So it is not surprising that the current epidemic of childhood autism and learning disabilities reached their peaks during the 1990s, with one in 150 American children now recognized as autistic. (3) Currently the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that nine million American children under age 18 have been diagnosed with asthma, (4) whereas in 1979 asthma affected approximately two million children under age 14. (5) Four controlled studies, widely separated geographically, have shown that fully vaccinated children had significantly more allergic disorders, including asthma, than those with limited or not vaccines. (6-9)

Comparable increases have taken place in attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) with four million children between ages three and 17 being diagnosed with this condition. (4) These dramatic increases cannot be attributed to changes in classification or increased awareness. Could vaccine programs inherently be prone to cause these adverse trends aside and apart from the mercury issue?

The Thimerosal-Mercury Issue

From 1999 through 2004 a series of U.S. Congressional Hearings were held on issues of vaccine safety, largely concerned about a possible causal relation between childhood immunizations with their high levels of mercury and today’s epidemic of childhood autism and learning disabilities. An excellent review of these hearings is found in the book Evidence of Harm by David Kirby (10).

Space does not allow more than a brief recounting of the Thimerosal (mercury) story: In June 1999, in response to a U. S. Congressional mandate, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration revealed the amounts of mercury in all pharmaceuticals, which formerly had been listed in yearly Physicians’ Desk References in poorly understood codes. At the same time the FDA recommended but did not mandate that pharmaceutical companies remove mercury from vaccines. Not until 2003 was mercury finally removed from the routinely mandated infant vaccines (DTaP, Hib, and Hepatitis B), though at time of this writing (February, 2007) mercury does remain in most brands of flu and tetanus booster vaccines.

Although significant numbers of new autism cases are still taking place, in 2006, three years following removal of mercury from routine infant vaccines, a decline in new cases of autism has been reported for the first time since the commencement of autism statistics many years ago (11). Can anyone now seriously question the role of mercury in the current epidemic of childhood autism and learning disabilities?

Are Current Vaccine Programs Bringing about Human Evolutionary Retrogression?

Because of the extent of the childhood autism epidemic, this area may provide our best window into genetic alterations which may be taking place in modern times. A great deal is already known. Although the details are highly technical, the basic principles are simple and surround two biochemical cycles involving the interactions of methyl-donating vitamins (Vitamin B-12 and folic acid) and sulfur (thiol) groups in what is called the Methionine Cycle. By way of explanation, the methyl group (one carbon atom surrounded by three hydrogen atoms) is the basis of all organic life; sulfur compounds serve as body cleansers (detoxifiers) as well as vehicles for the methyl groups and other functions. Large quantities of methyl groups are constantly needed for maintenance of DNA (genetic) integrity as well as other functions; the greater the toxic exposures, the greater the need of the body for methyl groups. Reducing these cycles to their basic elements, methionine (a sulfur-containing amino acid) is the starting point of the Methionine Cycle. (See Figure 1)(12)

In brief, the Methionine Cycle performs two major functions: (1) The s-adenosyl methionine (SAM) phase of the cycle is a major supplier of methyl groups to tissues, including the body’s DNA, where the methyl groups serve to maintain the structural integrity of the body’s genetics. (2) As a spin-off of the Methionine Cycle, the transsulfuration cycle is the source of glutathione, a molecule normally present in all cells of the body but especially rich in the liver and intestinal tract, where it serves to intercept toxic chemicals and carry them out of the body. As shown in the lower portion of Figure 1, the folic acid derivatives (tetrahydrofolate, MethleneTHF), and the active form of vitamin B-12 (methylcobalamin) are suppliers of methyl groups to the Methionine Cycle, supported by cofactors including magnesium, zinc, selenium, vitamin B-6, choline, and others (13-14). Each step in the Methionine and interlocking Folic acid/B-12 vitamin Cycles is catalyzed by a specific enzymes. D. Quig (15)(1998) has pointed out that “among the most insidious toxic metals are the sulfhydryl-reactive metals, which include mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic,” and which are capable of poisoning these enzymes. This is especially true for mercury, generally considered one of the most toxic chemicals known to man (See Figure 2)(16). Such enzyme impairments, in turn, may result in reduced flow of SAM-dependent methyl groups to DNA (16-17). Experimental reduction of folic acid in human lymphocyte culture cells (with consequent reduction in flow of methyl groups) has been shown to result in increased chromosome breakage. (18).

In a chapter on genetics in Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 16th Edition, one finds the following quotation: “Mutations can occur in the germline (sperm or oocytes); these can be transmitted to progeny.”(19)

A landmark study by S. Jill James et al (20)(2004) of 20 autistic children compared with 33 control (normal) children did in fact show impaired SAM-dependent methylation capacity in children with autism.

In Summary: The above information is highly technical, which is unavoidable. However, for those unfamiliar with the terms, what does it all mean? As a personal interpretation, there are two interlinking biochemical wheels which are at the heart of life processes, at least as far as humans are concerned. One involves sulfur-containing amino acids derived from the diet, the starting point of which is methionine. It is the SAMe molecule, a derivative of methionine, that furnishes methyl groups which are constantly required in abundance for maintenance and regeneration of body tissues as well as the DNA of individual genetics. What are methyl groups? They are single carbon units, which form the basis for all organic life.

The other interlinking wheel involves vitamin B-12, folic acid, and their intermediaries, which provide the methyl groups to the methionine wheel. There is a specific enzyme for each step involved in these wheels. It is now known that these enzymes may in some instances be crippled by mercury, resulting in a decreased flow of methyl groups to body tissues and DNA. Although preliminary, there is experimental evidence that decreased flow of methyl groups to DNA results in an increase in chromosomal breakage, and if mutations from this breakage take place in sperm or ova, they could become inheritable.

Human experimentation in genetics being unthinkable in our society, we must wait perhaps another one or more generations to find out the effects of mercury-containing vaccines, or of vaccines in general, on the genetics of a generation of children. The good news is that, among certain circles of practicing physicians and scientists, effective treatments are being found for autistic children which help almost all to some extent, and bring apparent full recovery to some.(21) If there is genetic damage in these children, hopefully this also is being repaired.

Vaccines and Genetic Hybridization

Barbara McClintock, the 1983 Nobel Laureate “Corn Lady,” was the first to discover genetic mobility in the so-called “jumping genes” in the 1930s in her work with corn. In a publication in World Medicine in 1971, (22) scientists at the University of Geneva reported on experiments in which frog hearts were dipped into bacterial suspensions, resulting in a high percentage of bacterial RNA-DNA hybridization in the frog heart cells. The article concluded: “The implications of this work on transcession are enormous, for the Geneva work suggests that this phenomenon is going on the whole time – even in our own bodies…”

As purely genetic material, it would be expected that viruses are more prone to the process of jumping genes than other microorganisms. A report in Virus Research, (23)(1987) tends to support this hypothesis: In a study of 24 passages of a nuclear polyhedrosis virus through cell cultures, there were both genetic insertions and deletions in the virus, meaning that the virus both donated genetic material to the culture media and received genetic material from the culture media.

As found in a well-researched book Fowl! Bird Flu: It’s Not What You Think by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, (24) a virus called “endogenous avian retrovirus,” or EAV, has an associated enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which acts by copying RNA into DNA, the reverse of the normal flow of genetic information. Knowing how reverse transcriptase works in living cells, it is possible that vaccines containing reverse transcriptase are weaving viral genes (genes contaminated by prior culture media) into human DNA. As recently as 1999, Tsang et al also detected the presence of reverse transcriptase in measles and mumps vaccines. (25)

It is ironic that, with the potential hazards of the flu vaccine listed above, there are three published studies showing little if any effect on either the incidence or death rate from influenza. (26-28) As one example, father and son statisticians, David and Mark Geier, showed that although the flu vaccine rate tripled per capita between 1979 and 2000, there was negligible change in either the incidence or death rate per capita during these years. (26)

Evidence of Immune Derangements from Current Vaccine Programs

By way of background, the human newborn infant comes into the world with a relatively undeveloped immune system. The lymph nodes are small, the plasma cells are sparse in bone marrow, and immunoglobulin synthesis is low. Normally, soon after birth, the infant begins to respond to multiple antigenic stimuli, including viral and microbe infections, coming mainly through the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. According to standard medical texts, by one year of age all lymphoid structures are mature histologically, but lymph nodes do not grow to adult size until six years age. It is during these early periods, especially the first two years, that a child’s immune system remains highly vulnerable and susceptible to alterations.

The immune system is divided into two major classes: cellular immunity, involving the mucous membranes of the body, and humoral immunity, which involves production of antigen-specific antibodies by plasma cells in the bone marrow. For eons of time the mucous membranes of the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems served as primary sites of entry for a large majority of infectious microbes so that the cellular immune system evolved as the primary defense system, while humoral immunity served in a secondary or back-up role.

Both cellular and humoral classes are governed by TH lymphocytes, the “T” referring to the thymus gland, from which they are derived, and the “H” referring to a helper or activating activity. During infancy the uncommitted “naïve” TH lymphocytes are differentiated into either armed TH1 cells governing cellular immunity or armed TH2 cells governing humoral immunity. It has been found that this differentiation is profoundly affected by cytokines, which are produced by lymphocytes and serve as chemical messengers. Once one subset becomes dominant, it is difficult to shift the response to the other subset, as the cytokines from one tend to dominate the other.(29) In other words, once either cellular or humoral immune systems become predominant, they tend to maintain their dominance by the production of cellular messengers in the form of cytokines.

In The New England Journal of Medicine (30) and Thorax (31), articles have appeared stating that a healthy immune system has a “bias” towards the TH1 (cellular) system, while persons with allergies and asthma tend to have what is known as a “TH2-skewed” immune response. In the days before vaccines, the natural scheme of things presumably would have established a “health-biased,” TH1-dominant cellular immunity during infancy. Does today’s increasing incidence of allergies and asthma mean that modern vaccines are capturing infants’ immune systems in many cases and skewing them into TH2 dominance?

Paradoxically, the TH I-mediated autoimmune disorders, including Type I diabetes, Crohn’s disease (regional enteritis), and multiple sclerosis, are also increasing in incidence, with Crohn’s disease having doubled in some decades, particularly the 1960s and 1970s (32), and increases in Type 1 diabetes correlating closely with increases in asthma (33). Consequently it would appear that the TH-1 cellular and TH-2 humoral immune systems are both going awry, with significant increases in TH1-mediated autoimmune diseases and increased TH2-mediated allergic disorders.

This is an oversimplification of an extremely complex field, but it in no way alters the fundamental question: whether or not vaccines, given in ever increasing numbers at an extremely vulnerable time of life, are capturing, stunting, and skewing the immune systems of our children.

Philip Incao (34-35) has pointed out that the “minor” childhood diseases of former times (measles, mumps, chicken pox, rubella) served a necessary purpose in challenging and strengthening both the mucosal (cellular) and humeral (antibody) immunity, and that having eliminated these diseases with vaccines, many children are being left with stunted immune systems. It is true that there were occasional serious complications from these diseases, but by way of “natural therapies,” once they gain their proper places among the healing professions, these complications could be averted in most instances.

In regard to the trend towards giving increasing numbers of vaccines at one time, in an article entitled “Chronic Microglial Activation and Excitotoxity Secondary to Excessive Immune Stimulation: Possible Factors in Gulf War Syndrome and Autism,” R. Blaylock (2004)(36) pointed out that as a result of over-stimulation of the brain’s immune cells (microglia, astrocytes) by vaccines, these immune cells may overreact with damaging effects on the brain itself. This may be the explanation that significant numbers of autism cases are still occurring following removal of the mercury additive, Thimerosal, from childhood vaccines.

One of the prominent names in autism research is that of Vijendra Singh, Ph.D., Department of Biology, Utah State University, reported a study in which he found that a large majority of autistic children tested had antibodies to brain tissue in the form of myelin basic protein (myelin is the fatty insulating tissue surrounding nerve cells). He also found a strong correlation between myelin basic protein antibodies and antibodies to measles (almost all of the children had been immunized with the MMR vaccine, and none had had measles as a disease. (37)

In conclusion of this section, it is appropriate to cite a little noted letter was published in 1984 in The New England Journal of Medicine, which reported a significant though temporary drop of T-helper lymphocytes in 11 healthy adults given routine tetanus booster vaccinations.(38) Special concern in this study rests in the fact that drops in T-helper lymphocytes are characteristic of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and in four of the 11 recipients the T-helper lymphocytes dropped to levels seen in active AIDS patients. This was the effect of a single vaccine in healthy adults. One must wonder, then, what effects on T-helper cells are taking place in infants routinely receiving the DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis), Hib (Hemophilus influenza), IPV (polio), Hepatitis B, and Prevnar (pneumoccus) vaccines at two months, again at four months, and again at six months, with additional vaccines apparently pending.

As far as is known, this testing of T-helper lymphocytes before and after vaccines has never been repeated. It is a sobering thought to consider what the results might be if done before and after current routine infant vaccines.

Startling Findings from Stem-Cell Research

By definition, all cells of the organs and tissues of the body are derived from undifferentiated, primitive “stem cells.” In a recent announcement on stem cell research from the University of Rochester, (39) low levels of toxic substances cause critical stem cells in the central nervous system to prematurely shut down. The report continued:

“That is the conclusion of a study published today in the on-line journal PLoS Biology. This research, which is the first to identify a common molecular trigger for the effects of toxicant exposure, may give scientists new insights into damage caused by toxicant exposure and new methods of evaluating the safety of chemicals.

“Establishing the general principles underlying the effects of toxicant exposure on the body is one of the central challanges of toxicology research,” said University of Rochester biomedical geneticist, Mark Noble, Ph.D., senior author of the study. “We have discovered a previously unrecognized regulatory pathway on which chemically diverse toxicants converge and disrupt normal cell function.”

Noble and his colleagues exposed a specific population of brain cells to low levels of lead, mercury, and paraquat, one of the most widely used herbicide in the world. These cells called glial progenitors, are advanced-stage stem cells that are critical to the growth, development, and normal function of the central nervous system.”

Although mercury has largely but not entirely been removed from vaccines (it is still used in the early stages of many vaccines and then extracted, according to Physicians’ Desk, References, leaving only traces.) However, by their very nature, vaccines will always require preservatives with varying degrees of toxicity.

Are Vaccines Necessary in Their Present Forms, Numbers, and Schedules?

There is a general impression today that vaccines in the form of mass or herd immunization programs have been largely responsible for controlling former epidemics of killer diseases in the U.S.A., but the facts do not bear this out in most instances. In the case of smallpox epidemics of former years, very limited vaccines along with quarantines proved quite effective in third world countries. In more modern times, according to the records of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, from 1911 to 1935 the four leading causes of death from infectious diseases among children and adolescents in the U.S.A. were diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough (pertussis) and measles. However, by 1945 the combined death rates from these causes had declined by 95 percent, before implementation of mass immunization programs (40). Information from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, July 30, 1999 (41) drew much the same conclusion, reporting that improvements in sanitation, water quality, hygiene, less crowded housing, and the introduction of antibiotics have been the most important factors in control of infectious diseases in the previous century. Although vaccines were mentioned, they were not included among the major factors.

Conclusion

There is little doubt that the time is rapidly approaching when public opinion will overwhelmingly demand that current vaccine programs be completely rethought and revised. This will occur largely from today’s epidemic of childhood autism and its growing impact on society as these children grow into their teenage and adult years.

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