March 1, 2020
Are COVID 19, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, And Autism Spectrum Disorder Linked?
By Michael D. Shaw
A guest column by Michael J. Goldberg, MD
At present, there are around 74 million children (age 17 and under) in this country. Using the CDC’s one in 54 statistic, this means that nearly 1.4 million of them are afflicted with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The number is likely rising. ASD is a debilitating condition that renders each child completely dependent on family and/or government services to survive. The annual cost of these services was estimated at $268 billion (for 2015) with $461 billion projected for 2025. As large as these numbers may be, they do not address the emotional and functional devastation wrought on the families of these children, nor the welling threat to national security.
If one looks medically at Chronic Fatigue Syndrome aka Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFS/CFIDS) in adults and ASD in children, it is clear that there are several aspects of immune dysfunction and viral processes creating these conditions, and this observation is supported by many articles and researchers over the years. Regrettably, these concepts have not received the attention they deserve, yet they provide a pathway directly to an understanding of what is happening today with COVID-19.
Consider someone fighting chronic congestion, or a chronic lingering infection. They become a much more vulnerable target for further opportunistic infections. As such, anyone with chronic illness, or background immune or viral stress, also becomes more vulnerable to any other dangerous virus. Could it be that COVID-19 may not be acting strictly as a viral pneumonia? Instead, there is a large triggering of intense immune cascades (as in a series of sequential interactions), and that is the cause of death!
These immune cascades are not limited to COVID-19. They are already happening in many adults and children with CFS, ASD, and other related chronic immune and chronic viral related disorders. This immune disruption in COVID-19 mirrors the childhood missed medical pandemic that has existed for over 37 years. How many friends and family members know children or young adults labeled “autistic” who are not healthy, but are chronically ill, and are suffering multiple immune-related issues without real resolution or treatment? Sadly, over the last three decades, we have created–iatrogenically–a vulnerable, at-risk population.
Following the expenditure of untold hundreds of millions in research during those three decades, there are but two objective findings: First, no researcher can define a single gene or chromosome that explains this childhood disorder. Second, there are additional Immune markers, and immune-related discoveries that researchers speculate are indicative of some new form of immune-connected autism. A more objective conclusion would have been to consider an ASD phenotype. That is, an unidentified immune mediated disease manifesting with autistic-like symptoms.
Evidence of autoimmune factors and chronic viral activation can provide a rapid and complete understanding of how the SARS-CoV-2 virus operates. If one acknowledges the science and logic behind the ideas of complex immune system and viral interactions, then it is much easier to understand the real risks we are facing today, and how to deal with them effectively.
Failing to acknowledge the changing role of viruses has facilitated the explosion of serious diseases, including COVID-19. If we recognize the mistakes our medical system has made, we could begin to reverse the spiraling cost of healthcare, and see a reemergence of private care and preventive medicine.
Recognition of this underlying missed medical pandemic can and will completely change education. We are presently devoting a massive amount of our resources trying to care for, educate, and rehabilitate children whose brains–and very often bodies–are not working properly and are not receptive to learning. Imagine the difference if children were healthy again. Imagine the difference if families became a healthy “nuclear unit” once again. Nothing would be a greater win for our country and our citizens!
As a pediatrician, I passionately believe that now is the time to do everything possible to bring attention to the real problem, come together, and strongly encourage the White House to formally recognize that these ASD children are ill and not mentally defective. The mischaracterization of ASD is enormous with 1:54 children involved, and is much bigger than COVID-19. All of this deserves urgent investigation, focus, and solutions now, to avoid an even bigger crisis in our future.
People are always looking for ways to improve healthcare. Why don’t we start with examining how immune dysfunction and viral load are affecting so many of us?