Friday, January 23, 2015

Is their a link between autism and lyme disease? No.

Some patients have asked about a link between autism and lyme disease. There does not appear to be a significant link. - JR


Correlation Debunked

Researchers find zero evidence for Lyme-induced autism.


The hypothesized link between autism and Lyme disease loses ground with a new study that found no evidence of an infection in patients with the social development disorder. The results, published today (April 30) in the Journal of the American Medical Association, imply that antibiotics against the Lyme disease pathogen—a popular new strategy for autism—will not ameliorate most patients’ symptoms.

“The data don’t address whether a single case of autism was ever caused by Lyme disease, but it rules out the suggestion that it does so with any frequency,” said Armin Alaedini, an immunologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York and an author on the study. “I think that for me, this is the end of looking into the link between autism and Lyme.”  

In recent years, some doctors have anecdotally noted that many of their autism patients have Lyme disease. Two small studies listed in a booklet from a 2007 meeting of the Lyme-Induced Autism Foundation, a Corona, California-based organization that advocates an “eclectic healing approach,” reported that 1 in 5 autistic patients had the tick-borne disease. Websites on the topic now put that number closer to 9 out of 10. These statistics, however, have not been peer-reviewed. Nonetheless, some doctors prescribe antibiotics to autistic children and say the therapy quells their symptoms.

To systematically assess the prevalence of Lyme disease among people with autism, Armin Alaedini, an immunologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, and his colleagues analyzed blood samples from 120 children and teens: 70 participants had autism, and 50 served as healthy controls. Alaedini looked for antibodies against the bacterium underlying Lyme, Borrelia burgdorferi, and found that not a single participant tested positive for the infection.

“This means that you wouldn’t see 20 percent of children with autism getting their disease from Lyme,” Alaedini said. He entered into the study objectively, he said, wanting to explore a correlation that had gained traction among doctors and the public. “Autism has become a hot topic, and a lot of people are publishing findings that are bogus but still alarm parents.”

M. Ajamian et al., “Serologic markers of Lyme disease in children with autism,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 309: 1771-72, 2013.

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