A while ago, James (a.k.a. Dad of Cameron), the father of an autistic boy who also has a blog Autism Street
, informed me of a clinical trial
going on at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine supposedly studying chelation therapy for autism. The design of the study seemed fishy to me, as did the question of whether it had been approved by an approved Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects--not to mention the involvement of antivaxer Jeff Bradstreet. For one thing, like many mercury/autism advocates, rather than using standard tests for mercury, they use the nonstandard, not generally accepted method of chelation challenge, in which a chelating agent is given and then the mercury is measured. Worse, they used a nonstandard method of measuring urinary excretion of chelated mercury. Rather than collecting a 24 hour urine specimen and measuring total mercury excreted in 24 hours, they propose to measure an overnight specimen and express the results as mcg mercury/g creatinine, citing a paper in which the number of subjects was small, the control group was two years older than the experimental group, and the scatter in the data was such that the plots would look like a "star chart."
Now, James has published
his e-mail correspondence with one of the investigators of the trial. It's rather illuminating to see the dodging and the way that, at one point, the investigator buried him with a bunch of articles, most of which were irrelevant to the question at hand. (One was about arterial hypertension and mercury and its response to captopril; I'm betting that, if I were to look up all those papers, that the vast majority would not support the investigators' methodology.) He's also discovered that the investigators are using a dubious laboratory to measure mercury in the specimens, namely Doctor's Data, which has been lambasted
on Quackwatch and listed as a lab doing nonstandard tests.
I have to conclude that this trial is dubious at best, and it just goes to show that it doesn't take an M.D. or Ph.D. to figure out the fallacies behind the "mercury in vaccines causes autism" claim.