By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We have long known that the incidence of autistic spectrum disorder is increasing. It now occurs in just under one in 50 births.

One thing we know for sure is that some of the increase is due to better diagnostic procedures. Many children who used to be classified as intellectual disability are now classified as autistic. The spectrum of autism has also expanded so more children are eligible for that diagnosis. However, these things alone do not explain the large increase that we have seen.

One thing we do know is that when this kind of thing happens, it is usually multifactorial in nature. That means that there is a genetic predisposition to develop the condition. However, the genetic condition requires a trigger to turn it on.

For a number of years pesticides have been suspected as a cause. However, it has been difficult to separate out exposure to pesticides to exposure to other substances.

The only study that has been done to suggest a real relationship was done in rats. It is not clear that this is relatable to humans.

In the 1990s Monsanto produced crops that were genetically engineered. They had genetics that allowed them to be resistant to glyphosphate. Glyphosate is the herbicide that is present in the product Round-up. Round-up has been linked to lymphoma in professionals who use the chemical in large amounts.

What this then allowed for was the genetically modified crops to be sprayed with glyphosate. It would kills the weeds but the crops would survive fine.

Academic centers and other researchers have shown rising levels of glyphosphate in human urine for years. Recently the CDC sampled 2,310 urine samples. The samples represented different age groups. They came from different parts of the country. 

The result was that 80 percent of the samples (1,885) contained detectable traces of glyphosphate. About one-third of the samples were from children aged 6 to 18 years.

I have included a chart of the incidence of autism in the state of California. It shows that the incidence began to rise in 1990. It could be just coincidence that the number of cases of autism started climbing around that time. It could be coincidence that we see so much of glyphosate present in using samples. It could be coincidence that glyphosate causes an autistic -like picture in rats.

Or, there might be a relationship that we are ignoring in the name of harvesting crops. Right now there is no way of knowing for sure. However, it would be beneficial to find out more about the possibility before the incidence climbs any further.

COVID update- Nationally, the number of new cases has gone from 937,000 two weeks ago to 897,000 last week to 910,000 this week. So it has remained fairly steady.

The total number of cases in Sussex County has gone from 161.38 per 100,000 people last week to 257.02 per 100,000 people this week. As far as actual numbers go, Sussex County has gone from 470 last week to 539 this week. 

The number of inpatient beds with COVID patients has gone from 6.5 percent last week to 6.4 percent this  week. That remains in the low risk zone

New COVID admissions have gone from 18.1 per 100,000 people down to 14.6 per 100,000 people. That keeps us within the medium risk zone (between 10 and 19.9 admissions per 100,000 people) for that measurement.

Since the total number of cases has climbed above 200 per 100,000 people, that puts Sussex County back into the high risk zone. What that means on a practical level is that masks are recommended for indoor stays in public places.

As I mentioned last week this BA.5 mutation appears to make the virus more infectious. I also indicated that it does not appear to be more severe than previous mutations. The fact that number of cases have increased with decreased admissions is consistent with this.