PubMed, the search engine for the National Library of Medicine (NLM), recently announced a new program called PubMed Commons. It is all about freedom of thought and the unfettered exchange of ideas.
It is a way published authors can comment about other publications, without having the comments censored by journal editors. The idea was to increase the interchange of theories and facts between published authors. It was not clear to me if PubMed Commons’ comments were going to be seen by the general public.
I was invited to participate in the PubMed Commons beta program. I have about 24 papers listed on PubMed. So I started commenting.
I wrote about 50 comments and posted them to various PubMed abstracts that mostly linked a dysfunctional immune system to autism in which the authors failed to mention vitamin D’s role in immunity. My posting is reprinted below in its entirety.
Two days after I posted, I got an email from a Mr. David Brodsky of the National Library of Medicine informing me my ability to comment on PubMed Common had been suspended. This is my most recent email from Mr. Brodsky:
Dear Dr. Cannell,
Thank you for your correspondence. We reviewed the 53 posts made from your account into the system before making our decision to suspend your account, in the light of the current system operating at PubMed Commons. As indicated in our email to you yesterday afternoon, systems and processes for PubMed Commons are in development, and we anticipate that these developments would enable a re-consideration of this suspension within weeks. We will notify you if these developments lead to re-instatement of your account.
National Library of Medicine
To the best of my knowledge, I did not violate any of the PubMed Common rules, yet I have been suspended. I have reason to believe some of the authors did not like what I posted and complained to the National Library of Medicine. Again the segment below is a copy of my posting. See if I violated any of the rules.
Please complain to Ms. Kathleen Cravedi, who is the Director of the Office of Communications and Public Liaison of the NLM: email@example.com
Also, please complain to the Director of the National Institutes of Health, who oversees the NLM. His name is Dr. Francis Collins: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is what I wrote on the 50 or so postings:
The authors reported that immune system dysregulation is common in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Vitamin D deficiency produces very similar immune dysregulation.
Thus the vitamin D theory of ASD (vitamin D deficiency being the environmental risk factor for this highly heritable disorder) is consistent with the authors work. Three recent studies, using community controls, have found 25(OH)D levels are significantly lower in children with ASD. Two of the studies below (Mostafa et al and Gong et al) also found ASD severity, as rated on standard ASD rating scales, is inversely correlated with 25(OH)D levels. Mostafa et al found an R value of -.86 for the association of serum 25(OH)D with ASD severity.
There is a plethora of basic science explaining why low gestational or early childhood 25(OH)D levels would adversely affect brain development.
Eyles DW, Feron F, Cui X, Kesby JP, Harms LH, Ko P, McGrath JJ, Burne TH. Developmental vitamin D deficiency causes abnormal brain development. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009 Dec;34 Suppl 1:S247-57. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.04.015. Epub . Review.
DeLuca GC, Kimball SM, Kolasinski J, Ramagopalan SV, Ebers GC. Review: the role of vitamin D in nervous system health and disease. Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2013 Aug;39(5):458-84. doi: 10.1111/nan.12020.
Eyles DW, Burne TH, McGrath JJ. Vitamin D, effects on brain development, adult brain function and the links between low levels of vitamin D and neuropsychiatric disease. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2013 Jan;34(1):47-64. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2012.07.001. Epub 2012 Jul 11. Review.
Furthermore, the vitamin D theory of autism explains most of the epidemiological facts of ASD.
Seventy percent of American toddlers do not take the American Pediatric Association’s recommended vitamin D supplement of 400 IU/day and few toddlers or pregnant women get any sunshine due to the sun scare. As vitamin D fortified milk consumption and sun exposure have declined, so have toddlers’ and pregnant women’s vitamin D levels. The dramatic increase in the incidence of ASD occurred during the same time vitamin D levels were falling in toddlers and pregnant women.
Some autism researchers seem cognizant of the entire body of autism research. For example, a group of well-known European ASD researchers, including Professor Christopher Gillberg of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatric Institute, have recently called for the need for “urgent research” into the vitamin D deficiency theory of ASD.
Until all autism researchers become cognizant of the wider body of scientific research, we will continue to wonder how to prevent – and perhaps even treat – this modern day plague.
John J Cannell, MD