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New study finds relationship between organic mercury exposure from Thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders

(07.09.2014)


Background
intra-muscular injection  of a vaccineThimerosal is a an organometallic compound containing mercury, commonly used as a preservative. In particular its use in vaccines meant to be injected in pregnant women and infants is heavily discussed, because of the well known toxicity of organic mercury compounds. While the toxicity of thimerosal cannot be denied, its use in vaccines is declared to be safe mainly because of the amount used is believed to be below any risk level and the metabolism is believed to take care for fast clearance from the body avoiding any bioaccumulation. However, both these factors are still controversially discussed.

The new study
In this new study, the researchers conducted a hypothesis testing case-control study to evaluate concerns about the toxic effects of organic-mercury (Hg) from Thimerosal-containing (49.55% Hg by weight) vaccines on the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs). They  examined automated medical records to identify cases and controls enrolled from their date-of-birth (1991-2000) in the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) project. ND cases were diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), specific developmental delay, tic disorder or hyperkinetic syndrome of childhood. In addition, putative non-Thimerosal-related outcomes of febrile seizure, failure to thrive, and cerebral degeneration were examined.

The cumulative total dose of Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccine administered within the first six months of life was calculated on a per microgram of organic-Hg basis, PDD (odds ratio = 1.054, p < 0.001), specific developmental delay (odds ratio = 1.035, p < 0.001), tic disorder (odds ratio = 1.034, p < 0.001), and hyperkinetic syndrome of childhood (odds ratio = 1.05, p < 0.001) cases were significantly more likely than controls to receive increased organic-Hg exposure. Overall, it was observed for 37.5 µg organic-Hg exposure (the maximum cumulative dose of organic-Hg examined) that cases diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (odds ratio = 3.0, 95% confidence interval = 2.3-3.8), specific developmental delay (odds ratio = 2.3, 95% confidence interval = 2.1-2.5), tic disorder (odds ratio = 2.2, 95% confidence interval = 1.5-3.1) or hyperkinetic syndrome of childhood (odds ratio = 2.9, 95% confidence interval = 2.5-3.2) were significantly more likely than controls to receive increased organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccines administered within the first six months of life.

In addition, analyses were conducted by separating the data by gender.

On a per microgram of organic-Hg exposure basis, male cases diagnosed with PDD (odds ratio = 1.07, p < 0.001), specific developmental delay (odds ratio = 1.04, p < 0.001), tic disorder (odds ratio = 1.03, p < 0.05) or hyperkinetic syndrome of  childhood (odds ratio = 1.05, p < 0.001) were significantly more likely than male controls to receive increased organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccines administered within the first six months of life. Overall, it was observed for 37.5 µg organic-Hg exposure (the maximum cumulative dose of organic-Hg examined) that male cases diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (odds ratio = 3.6, 95% confidence interval = 2.9-4.4), specific developmental delay (odds ratio = 2.5, 95% confidence interval = 2.1-2.9), tic disorder (odds ratio = 2.1, 95% confidence interval = 1.15-2.9) or hyperkinetic syndrome of childhood (odds ratio = 2.9, 95% confidence interval = 2.5-3.2) were significantly more likely than male controls to receive increased organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccines administered within the first six months of life.

On a per microgram of organic-Hg exposure basis, female cases diagnosed with specific developmental delay (odds ratio = 1.03, p < 0.001), tic disorder (odds ratio = 1.05, p < 0.05) or hyperkinetic syndrome of childhood (odds ratio = 1.04, p < 0.001) were significantly more likely than controls to receive increased organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccines s administered within the first six months of life. Overall, it was observed for 37.5 microgram organic-Hg exposure (the maximum cumulative dose of organic-Hg examined) that female cases diagnosed with specific developmental delay (odds ratio = 2.1, 95% confidence interval = 1.7-2.5), tic disorder (odds ratio = 2.9, 95% confidence interval = 1.4-4.7) or hyperkinetic syndrome of childhood (odds ratio = 2.5, 95% confidence interval = 1.7-3.2) were significantly more likely than female controls to receive increased organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccines administered within the first six months of life.

By contrast, for the putative non-Thimerosal-related outcomes of febrile seizures (odds ratio = 1, p > 0.50), failure to thrive (odds ratio = 0.98, p < 0.001) or cerebral degeneration (odds ratio = 0.95, p < 0.001), the cases were no more likely than the controls to have received increased organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccines administered within the first six months of life.

This study provides new epidemiological evidence supporting a significant relationship between increasing organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing vaccines and the subsequent risk of an ND diagnosis. The authors conclude that future studies should be completed to further evaluate the relationship between other sources of organic-Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing vaccines and other chronic disorders and to further explore potential sub-populations and the timing of exposure to organic-Hg from Thimerosal-containing vaccine administration associated with adverse outcomes.

The authors also express their position towards routine childhood vaccination as an important public health tool to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with infectious diseases. However, they emphasize that it is also a public health imperative to end the unnecessary addition of Thimerosal to vaccines based on data showing an association between its administration and adverse outcomes.



The new study:

David A. Geier, Brian S. Hooker, Janet K. Kern, Paul G. King, Lisa K. Sykes, Mark R. Geier, A Dose-Response Relationship between Organic Mercury Exposure from Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 11 (2014) 9156-9170; doi:10.3390/ijerph110909156


Related studies (newest first):

B. Hooker, J. Kern, D. Geier, B. Haley, L. Sykes, P. King, M.R. Geier,  Methodological issues and evidence of malfeasance in research purporting to show thimerosal in vaccines is safe, Biomed. Res. Int., 2014 (2014) 247218. doi: 10.1155/2014/247218

D.A. Geier, J.K. Kern, P.G. King, L.K. Sykes, M.R. Geier, The risk of neurodevelopmental disorders following a thimerosal-preserved DTaP formulation in comparison to its thimerosal-reduced formulation in the vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS), J. Biochem. Pharmacol. Res., 2 (2014) 64–73.

K. Yoshimasu, C. Kiyohara, S. Takemura, K. Nakai, A meta-analysis of the evidence on the impact of prenatal and early infancy exposures to mercury on autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the childhood, Neurotoxicology, 44C (2014) 121–131. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2014.06.007

R.C. Marques, J.V. Bernardi, J.G. Dórea, M. de Fatima R Moreira, O. Malm, Perinatal multiple exposure to neurotoxic (lead, methylmercury, ethylmercury, and aluminum) substance and neurodevelopment at six and 24 months of age, Environ. Pollut., 187 (2014) 130–135. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2014.01.004

C.A. Wehe, I. Pieper, M. Holtkamp, G.M. Thyssen, M. Sperling, T. Schwerdtle, U. Karst, On-line species-unspecific isotope dilution analysis in the picomolar range reveals the time- and species-depending mercury uptake in human astrocytes, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 406 (2014) 1909–1916. doi: 10.1007/s00216-013-7608-4

T.M. Burbacher, L.B. Charleston, J.A. Charleston, A comparative study of thimerosal in vaccines with methylmercury in a nonhuman primate model,  Neurotoxicol. Teratol., 43 (2014) 91. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2014.04.049

S. Trümpler, B. Meermann, S. Nowak, W. Buscher, U. Karst, M. Sperling In vitro study of thimerosal reactions in human whole blood and plasma surrogate samples, J. Trace Elem. Med. Biol., 28 (2014) 125–130. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2014.01.006

J.K. Kern, B.E. Haley, D.A. Geier, L.K. Sykes, P.G. King, M.R. Geier,  Thimerosal exposure and the role of sulfation chemistry and thiol availability in autism, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 10 (2013) 3771–3800. doi: 10.3390/ijerph10083771

D.A. Geier, B.S. Hooker, J.K. Kern, P.G. King, L.K. Sykes, M.R. Geier,  A two-phased study evaluating the relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccine administration and the risk for an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis in the United States, Transl. Neurodegener., 2 (2013) 25. doi: 10.1186/2047-9158-2-25

L.T. Zimmermann, D.B. Santos, A.A. Naime, R.B. Leal, J.G. Dórea, F. Barbosa, M. Aschner, J.B. Rocha, M. Farina, Comparative study on methyl- and ethylmercury-induced toxicity in C6 glioma cells and the potential role of LAT-1 in mediating mercurial-thiol complexes uptake, Neurotoxicology, 38 (2013) 1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2013.05.015

J.K. Kern, D.A. Geier, T. Audhya, P.G. King, L.K. Sykes, M.R. Geier,  Evidence of parallels between mercury intoxication and the brain pathology in autism, Acta Neurobiol. Exp. (Wars.), 72 (2012) 113–153. full text link

D. Mrozek-Budzyn, R. Majewska, A. Kieltyka, M. Augustyniak, Neonatal exposure to thimerosal from vaccines and child development in the first 3 years of life, Neurotoxicol. Teratol., 34 (2012) 592–597. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2012.10.001

C.M. Gallagher, M.S. Goodman, Hepatitis B vaccination of male neonates and autism diagnosis, NHIS 1997–2002, J. Toxicol. Environ. Health A, 73 (2010) 1665–1677.

C.S. Price, W.W. Thompson, B. Goodson, E.S. Weintraub, L.A. Croen, V.L. Hinrichsen, M. March, A. Robertson, E. Eriksen, E. Lewis, Prenatal and infant exposure to thimerosal from vaccines and immunoglobulins and risk of autism, Pediatrics, 126 (2010) 656–664. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-0309

M.E. Pichichero, A. Gentile, N. Giglio, M.M. Alonso, M.V. Fernandez Mentaberri, G. Zareba, T. Clarkson, C. Gotelli, M. Gotellii, L. Yan,  Mercury levels in premature and low birth weight newborn infants after receipt of thimerosal-containing vaccines,  J. Pediatr., 155 (2009) 495–499. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.04.011

H.A. Young, D.A. Geier, M.R. Geier, Thimerosal exposure in infants and neurodevelopmental disorders: An assessment of computerized medical records in the Vaccine Safety Datalink, J. Neurol. Sci., 271 (2008) 110–118. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2008.04.002

M.E. Pichichero, A. Gentile, N. Giglio, V. Umido, T. Clarkson, E.  Cernichiari, G. Zareba, C. Gotelli, M. Gotelli, L. Yan, Mercury levels in newborns and infants after receipt of thimerosal-containing vaccines, Pediatrics, 121 (2008) e208–e214. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-3363

C.M. Gallagher, M.S. Goodman, Hepatitis B triple series vaccine and developmental disability in US children aged 1–9 years, Toxicol. Environ. Chem., 90 (2008) 997–1008.

R.C. Marques, J.G. Dórea, M.F. Fonseca, W.R. Bastos, O. Malm, Hair mercury in breast-fed infants exposed to thimerosal-preserved vaccines, Eur. J. Pediatr., 166 (2007) 935–941. doi: 10.1007/s00431-006-0362-2

M. Bigham, R. Copes, Thiomersal in vaccines: Balancing the risk of adverse effects with the risk of vaccine-preventable disease, Drug Saf., 28 (2005) 89–101. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200528020-00001

T.M. Burbacher, D.D. Shen, N. Liberato, K.S. Grant, E. Cernichiari, T.  Clarkson, Comparison of blood and brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to methylmercury or vaccines containing thimerosal, Environ. Health Perspect., 113 (2005) 1015–1021. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7712

N. Andrews, E. Miller, A. Grant, J. Stowe, V. Osborne, B. Taylor, Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: A retrospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association, Pediatrics, 114 (2004) 584–591. doi: 10.1542/peds.2003-1177-L

T. Verstraeten, R.L. Davis, F. DeStefano, T.A. Lieu, P.H. Rhodes, S.B.  Black, H. Shinefield, R.T. Chen, Vaccine Safety Datalink Team, Safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines: A two-phased study of computerized health maintance organization databases, Pediatrics, 112 (2003) 1039–1048. full text link

A. Hviid, M. Stellfeld, J. Wohlfahrt, M. Melbye, Association between thimerosal-containing vaccine and autism, JAMA, 290 (2003) 1763–1766. doi: 10.1001/jama.290.13.1763

S.S. Ellenberg, M.M. Braun, Monitoring the safety of vaccines: Assessing the risks, Drug Saf., 25 (2002) 145–152. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200225030-00001

M. Tan, J.E. Parkin, Route of decomposition of thiomersal (thimerosal),  Int. J. Pharm., 208 (2000) 23–34. doi: 10.1016/S0378-5173(00)00514-7

G.V. Stajich, G.P. Lopez, S.W. Harry, W.R. Sexson, Iatrogenic exposure to mercury after hepatitis B vaccination in preterm infants, J. Pediatr., 136 (2000) 679–681. doi: 10.1067/mpd.2000.105133



Related information

U.S. House of Representatives' 2003 report: Mercury in Medicine - Taking Unnecessary Risks (the result of a 3-year investigation)
FDA: Thimerosal in vaccines
FDA: Mercury in Food and Drugs
CDC: Thimerosal in Vaccines: A Joint Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service
Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD): Calls for Ban on Mercury in Vaccines
Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD): Documents related to the use of thimerosal  in vaccines
Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD): The Viability of Using Non-mercury Preservatives in Vaccines



Related EVISA Resources

Link database: Toxicity of Organo-mercury compounds
Link database: Research projects related to organo-mercury compounds
Link database: All about thimerosal (thiomersal)



Related EVISA News

July 17, 2012: World Health Organization Fails In Its Effort To Defend Mercury In Vaccines Before United Nations
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October 28, 2011: WHO worries mercury treaty could affect costs and availability of vaccines 
August 8, 2011: UNEP Global Mercury Treaty May Include Ban on Mercury in Medicine
June 19, 2011: Committee for Socio-economic Analysis agrees on two draft opinions on restriction proposals for mercury compounds under REACH
March 17, 2011: Researchers Urge the Removal of Mercury From Flu Shots
September 25, 2010: The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) calls for comments on reports proposing restrictions on mercury and phenylmercury
August 16, 2010: Methylmercury: What have we learned from Minamata Bay?
September 24, 2009: Huge field experiment for assessing human ethylmercury risk starting in october
July 15, 2009: New Study Finds: Thimerosal Induces Autism-like Neurotoxicity
May 15, 2008: New study will investigate the influence of environmental factors in autism
May 3, 2006: Texas Study Relates Autism to Environmental Mercury
March 24, 2006: Mercury Containing Preservative Alters Immune Function
February 11, 2005: New findings about Thimerosal Neurotoxicity
April 4, 2005: New results about toxicity of thimerosal
March 24, 2006: American lawmakers initiate mercury probe for vaccines
 

last time modified: September 7, 2014









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