August 10, 2020
The Other Pandemic
By Michael D. Shaw
(Certain material contained herein is adapted from Michael J. Goldberg, MD.) In this article, we will need to be precise with our definitions, for reasons that will become clear. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines “pandemic” only as an adjective: “Denoting a disease affecting or attacking the population of an extensive region, country, continent, global; extensively epidemic.” Referring to the Oxford English Dictionary, we find: “A pandemic is a widespread epidemic that may affect entire continents or even the world.”
The pandemic on everyone’s mind these days, of course, is the scourge of COVID-19. However, Goldberg argues that there is another pandemic occurring that could involve perhaps 20-30 percent of Americans. This missed pandemic consists of a variety of unrecognized, untreated viral and immune connected issues that he refers to as Neuro-Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, or NIDS. Some of these issues are more popularly referred to as Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), ADD or ADHD, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/CFIDS). Many classic autoimmune diseases may have a treatable NIDS component.
The term “autism” was first used in 1911 by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, who presumably invoked the Greek autos, meaning “self.” Bleuler was describing the behavior of many schizophrenics, withdrawing into their own inner world. But it was the brilliant Dr. Leo Kanner, founder of child psychiatry, later assisted by Dr. Leon Eisenberg, who would produce the definitive works on this disease.
In a 1956 paper entitled “Early Infantile Autism 1943–1955,” Kanner and Eisenberg distilled the former’s five diagnostic criteria down to these two features, whereby the typical clinical picture would reliably present…
1. A profound lack of affective contact
2. Repetitive, ritualistic behavior, which must be of an elaborate kind
At the time, it was noted that this condition might be observed in one to two children per 10,000. Compare this today’s widely touted 1 in 54 figure. By any criterion, a condition affecting nearly two percent of our kids should be considered an epidemic—if not a pandemic. But, there is no such thing as an epidemic of a developmental disorder. Any epidemic or pandemic must have an underlying medical cause, which is almost always a pathogen.
Moreover, one of Kanner’s original criteria was “A fascination for objects, which are handled with skill in fine motor movements.” Thus, we have a big problem from the get-go. Contrary to Kanner’s precepts, most of today’s “autistic” kids are affectionate, and have lost gross or fine motor skills. Also, contrary to at least the spirit of Kanner’s work, today’s autism comprises an entire “spectrum” of symptoms and severity of symptoms, such that Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld, and Mark Zuckerberg have been put “on the spectrum” by some commentators.
Further complicating matters is that in a classic sense, a developmental disorder can be managed, but not cured. Yet, several studies including this one from 2013 as well as Goldberg’s own successes contradict this notion. What if today’s autism-like illness is not Kanner’s autism at all, but is rather a disease that partially mimics some of the symptoms? It is the contention of Goldberg and others that this “non-Kanner autism” is really a neuroimmune disease that can be treated medically.
Kanner must be spinning in his grave. A once-rare debilitating disorder has morphed into a “spectrum” encompassing mentally superior individuals, along with an occasional mockery of “neurotypicals.”
Looking for a pandemic? It is acknowledged in recent pediatric publications that 1 – 1.5% of newborns have Cytomegalovirus, but it is usually asymptomatic, and 1% of newborns have Human Herpesvirus 6 , but it too is mostly asymptomatic. As Goldberg points out, older physicians would not be quite so accepting of this. No healthy newborn should be born with a virus, and both viruses can cause serious diseases. Why are these viruses in newborns, and what can “asymptomatic” mean without follow-up for at least a couple of years in these patients?
The changing role of viruses and our failure to properly identify and treat viral infections—and those who are reactivated viral carriers—means we are presently in the midst of an overlooked medical pandemic. This includes medical disorders that could be treated, were they not passed off as either psychological problems or untreatable developmental disorders. Somehow, though, if the virus is SARS-CoV-2, there is no more urgent matter in the whole wide world.
We just can’t escape it: Everything in healthcare is a fad.