Showing posts with label Immune system. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Immune system. Show all posts

Monday 27 May 2013

The Swedish Disease

Ted, (aged 12, and supposedly “normal”) and his brother Monty (aged 9, and now steadily becoming more “normal”, as this blog progresses) go to the same school as a Swedish family.  In Ted’s class is a Swedish girl, Charlotte, and her younger brother is in the Primary school along with Monty.  I have been both surprised and impressed, by how nice the kids in Primary are to kids with any kind of special need.  However, once they make the big leap to Secondary, they stop being so nice; it becomes cool to be critical and even cruel.

Ted’s Swedish friend, Charlotte, was explaining to their class that her younger brother had something called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but it was OK, because he only had 10% ADHD.  Ted of course then replied “and you have got the other 90%”.  Some of the other things they get up to are far, far worse; one reason why I put Monty down a couple of years in Primary.

But, the Swedish Disease is not ADHD.

During my research, I recently came across some references to so-called “Somali autism clusters”; this caught my attention and so I decided to delve deeper.

It seems that following the descent of Somalia into becoming a failed state, many refugees have been welcomed by the United States and Sweden, in particular.  In the US there are now communities living in Minneapolis and San Diego.  Not long had they arrived in their new homeland, when they started to produce large numbers of autistic children; sounds odd does it not?

Swedish researchers got on the plane to Minneapolis in the US, to launch a joint investigation and it was reported that Dr Wakefield wanted to go to San Diego to investigate.  The Swedes did not come up with an explanation that convinces me.  I think I have a much better one, and one that Dr Paul Ashwood, from the University of California might agree with.

The Swedish Somalis said they had never encountered autism before and so they named it the “Swedish Disease”.  The Swedish researchers concluded that since both Sweden and Minneapolis are far north, where the sun does not shine so much, the autism was the result of a lack of vitamin D.  That sounded odd to me; what about the cluster in San Diego that Dr Wakefield wanted to get in touch with?  Last time I was in California, the sun hardly ever went away.

A much more likely explanation is related to the immune system.  I have never had the pleasure of touching down in Mogadishu (the capital of Somalia, in case you did not know) but I did travel extensively in some poorer parts of Asia.  The level of hygiene and cleanliness in rural parts of India would really shock most westerners; the most effective strategy is just not to eat anything.  I came back 9 pounds lighter.

In my recent posts, I showed how the immune system plays a major role in the predisposition of children to autism; to me it is hardly surprising that first generation Somali children, born in ultra-clean Sweden and America, have a high incidence of disease related to the immune system, and to neuroinflammation in particular.  I dare say they never had much asthma in Somalia either.

The parents’ immune system has been toughened by all manner of parasites, bacteria and virus and has no doubt evolved to be prepared for it.  The children inherited their parents’ immune system, but it has stopped being challenged by any kind of serious attack.  Then in utero, or in very early childhood, a big oxidative shock came along and the immune system went crazy and over-reacted (a cytokine storm); massive neuroinflammation caused permanent brain damage and autism was the result.

It’s just my theory, but if you ever read that Somali immigrants are complaining about asthma and food intolerance, it might just be right.

More recently, the Swedes did a very large study looking at autism in all their immigrant population, here is an interesting link discussing the study:- 

Swedish study dissects autism risk in immigrants