Dr Andrew Wakefield: 'Many autistic children can be treated using diet or conventional anti-inflammatory drugs'|
LONDON, UK: The controversial doctor who started the MMR scare will return to Britain this week to issue a stark new warning about autism and claim that many child victims do not need psychiatric help.
Dr Andrew Wakefield will claim that thousands of children with autism should not be receiving psychiatric help, but should be treated with drugs and a change in diet.
His assertion will anger the British government and doctors, who are desperate to draw a line under claims by Dr Wakefield in 1998 that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was linked to autism and bowel disease.
Dr Wakefield will tell a conference on autism in Bournemouth that many children receive inappropriate care because it is largely considered a neurological condition. He is convinced that many are suffering from the bowel condition autistic enterocolitis and could be relieved of their symptoms - both physical and behavioural - if doctors were willing to treat it "properly."
He claims a climate of fear among doctors after the MMR controversy means few are willing to consider a link between autism and bowel disease.
Britain's National Autistic Society says that some doctors are unaware of the treatment options. But it warns there is no established link between autism and bowel conditions.
"Most children diagnosed with autism tend to receive a psychological or behavioural programme because no other medical condition is indicated," said Richard Mills, director of research at the charity.
Dr Wakefield's rare trip back to Britain from America to speak at the Autism Is Treatable conference - funded by the parents of autistic children - comes amid growing criticism of his work.
At least 31 studies have found no association between MMR and autism and he has been ostracised by the medical profession.
But Dr Wakefield, who faces a General Medical Council hearing into his conduct this year, remains convinced there is a link.He said: "The view among the medical profession is that autism is an incurable, untreatable problem, which it is not. The treatment is largely in the domain of psychiatrists. But it is not a psychiatric disease and it is not just a neurological disease. It is a disease that affects the brain, rather than being simply a brain disease.
"A lot of the children's behaviour is linked to the pain they suffer. The children do something entirely appropriate for someone in pain whose ability to communicate is impaired. The changes we found in the intestines of some autistic children can be treated using diet or conventional anti-inflammatory drugs. When they are treated, a lot of the intestinal and behavioural problems are resolved.
"However, many children diagnosed with autism are not getting the treatment they need and, if they are, it is clandestine. There is a real fear among the medical profession about becoming involved in this whole area."
About one in 100 children is thought to suffer from autism.
Darryl Burke was two years old when a doctor found he was not speaking, making eye contact and had behavioural problems. He was diagnosed as autistic. He also suffered from chronic diarrhoea, but NHS tests found no cause for the problem.
Then his mother, Joanne, was advised by a neighbour to change his diet. After four days of cutting out dairy and gluten products, his bowels were much improved.
Encouraged by the results, Mrs Burke found a diet on the Internet for allergy-induced autism. She said: "Within a week, he was looking at us, his bowels improved and he said his first words. He was almost four."
Unable to get further help on the NHS, Mrs Burke and her husband, Peter, went private. "We couldn't believe the difference between NHS testing and the private testing," she said. "The private tests showed up all kinds of things - blood in the stools, bad bacteria, inflammation of the gut and the fact that he was lacking essential vitamins and minerals."
Mrs Burke, 36, from Manchester, said: "These children are treated for a psychological disorder, but they have underlying medical problems. Treating these can lead to real improvements."
Darryl, now seven, attends a school for children with learning difficulties.
(Source: Evening Standard, February 3, 2007)