Thursday, August 30, 2012

NYT OpEd on Immune disorder causes of autism: extremely suspect

The NYT has published an opinion piece by Moises Velasquez-Manoff claiming that at least 1/3 of autism is fundamentally an intrauterine inflammatory disorder associated with a widespread increase in immune disorders arising from our parasite-deficient modern lifestyle.

The extended essay includes this key phrase: "Generally, the scientists working on autism and inflammation aren’t aware of this — or if they are, they don’t let on."

That's a telling phrase. What we have here is an expansive theory outside the established research community claiming a dramatic breakthrough.

Well, those things do happen - particularly in medicine. I remember prion disorders and helicobactor pylori discoveries; two Nobel prize winning discoveries that were initially radical.

Except this appears to be Manoff's theory, and he's not a scientist. He has a BA in Literature and an MA in science writing. The number of breakthrough insights into long researched disorders delivered by non-scientist non-researchers is essentially zero.

Maybe our lack of a parasites is a problem; I well remember early studies on treating ulcerative colitis with iatrogenic parasite infection. Maybe there are immune abnormalities that correlate with some causes of autism. Maybe intrauterine inflammation, of microbial or other etiology, play some role in brain injury. 

But putting them all together into one package claiming a major breakthrough by a non-researcher? That's multiplying improbabilites. 

The New York Times should never have put this on the OpEd page. 

Ignore it.

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