Recently I was sent some appallingly misleading nonsense on Twitter regarding Dravet (pron. druh-vay) syndrome and vaccination. Or more specifically that Dravet (a rare intractable form of epilepsy) is a “vaccine induced genetic mutation”.
The phrase appeared on a screen grabbed page (below) full of harmful misinformation. It took advantage of the fact that in around 80% of cases Dravet is linked to a de novo genetic mutation. More specifically the uninherited SCN1A mutation leads to the development of dysfunctional ion channels in the brain.
Seizures develop within the first year of life and infants develop normally until this time. The first seizures infants experience may often be associated with fever. Later seizures can present without heat triggers or illness. Nonetheless the first seizures often occur around six months of age and are associated with vaccination. Although it begins in infancy Dravet syndrome is a lifelong condition. It is also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI).
A range of health challenges accompany Dravet syndrome including a higher incidence of SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy). According to The Dravet Syndrome Foundation other conditions which require proper management and treatment include:
Behavioral and developmental delays, movement and balance issues, orthopedic conditions, delayed language and speech issues, growth and nutrition issues, sleeping difficulties
chronic infections, sensory integration disorders, disruptions of the autonomic nervous system (which regulates things such as body temperature and sweating)
Whilst the screenshot below offers a copious amount of rubbish and does so with absurd confidence, we can see how important facts have been abused to push a fearful message of misinformation. Firstly the presence of a de novo (new, not inherited) genetic mutation. Secondly the association of vaccination with the first seizure.
McIntosh et al (2010) state:
Vaccination might trigger earlier onset of Dravet syndrome in children who, because of an SCN1A mutation, are destined to develop the disease.
That statement is quite unambiguous. Infants are destined to develop the disease because of the genetic mutation. Not because of vaccines. Vaccination may trigger a seizure; the early onset of Dravet syndrome. In what may be considered a firm conclusion that vaccinations do not cause Dravet syndrome, they continue:
However, vaccination should not be withheld from children with SCN1A mutations because we found no evidence that vaccinations before or after disease onset affect outcome.
We’re now in a better position to judge how misleading this insult to evidence is.
Interestingly I have not been able to source it. Nonetheless it is intellectually offensive to see so much effort go in to falsely accuse the scientific and medical communities of hiding information. Apart from targeting the WebMD page on Dravet syndrome, the piece merely insists “the medical establishment” studied six children “who had previously been diagnosed with vaccine induced Dravet”. Then the children were “re-diagnosed” as not vaccine injured. Keep an eye out and one can see a “pattern of coverups like this…”.
Below is a short audio of Dr. Linda Laux, MD, of Lurie Children’s Hospital speaking on behalf of Dravet Syndrome Foundation [Which can also be accessed here]. She is quite clear in stressing that in Dravet, vaccinations can trigger seizures. “It is not the cause of the epilepsy syndrome. But it may precipitate seizures just the way an illness may precipitate seizures”.
Dr. Laux argues this was first shown by “an Australian group” (McIntosh et al) wherein the authors chased up adults who had previously been compensated for vaccine encephalopathy. They checked for Dravet and found the majority were positive for the SCN1A gene mutation. As we saw above there is good evidence to continue vaccinating. Laux reminds us that vaccine preventable diseases would trigger seizures for such a cohort.
The researchers checked the sample’s seizures as children. They defined the “vaccine proximate group”, who had their first seizure within two days of a vaccine. The second group who had their first seizure not associated with a vaccine, was labelled the “vaccine distant group”. Then the researchers studied subsequent seizures, severity of seizures and development of both groups.
They found no difference in the prognosis of these variables. This suggests that in this study Dravet syndrome seizures initially triggered by vaccination did not lead to a more deleterious prognosis than Dravet syndrome seizures initially triggered by another means.
Another study (Pediatrics, 2011) by Reyes et al entitled Alleged Cases of Vaccine Encephalopathy Rediagnosed Years Later As Dravet Syndrome, includes in the abstract:
It was reported recently that a proportion of patients previously diagnosed with alleged vaccine encephalopathy might possess SCN1A mutations and clinical histories that enabled a diagnosis of Dravet syndrome, but these results have not been replicated. We present here the cases of 5 children who presented for epilepsy care with presumed parental diagnoses of alleged vaccine encephalopathy caused by pertussis vaccinations in infancy. Their conditions were all rediagnosed years later, with the support of genetic testing, as Dravet syndrome.
Verbeek et al studied data of 23 children with epilepsy onset after vaccination. In October 2014 they published in Pediatrics Etiologies For Seizures Around The Time Of Vaccination. They write in their abstract conclusion:
Our results suggest that in most cases, genetic or structural defects are the underlying cause of epilepsy with onset after vaccination, including both cases with preexistent encephalopathy or benign epilepsy with good outcome. These results have significant added value in counseling of parents of children with vaccination-related first seizures, and they might help to support public faith in vaccination programs.
The constant theme that emerges as one pursues research on vaccination and Dravet syndrome is that the SCN1A mutation underlies Dravet, and as demonstrated by Verbeek et al, “genetic or structural defects are the underlying cause of epilepsy with onset after vaccination”. The valuable work of McIntosh et al, reinforces the importance of maintaining vaccination regimes for these at-risk populations.
As for nonsense claiming Dravet syndrome is a “vaccine induced genetic mutation”, supporters of vaccine programmes should be aware that perpetrators of these lies can distort facts to cause fear and confusion in the unaware. Evidence to confirm vaccination does cause Dravet syndrome has not been forthcoming.
Fortunately the medical establishment has never tried to hide the truth. Vaccines can trigger seizures in infants with the SCN1A mutation at a rate of 1:16,000 – 1:21,000. The reality is that if not a vaccine causing a fever, then another trigger will certainly bring Dravet syndrome to the fore. Evidence suggests there is no difference in prognosis between the vaccine proximate and vaccine distant.
Dravet syndrome remains a very rare condition and there is still no vaccine conspiracy.