Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations

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Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations
The authors note that the prevalence of pervasive developmental disorders has increased in recent years. Links with the measles component of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and the cumulative exposure to thimerosal through other vaccines have been postulated. They set out to estimate the pervasive developmental disorder prevalence in Montreal in cohorts born from 1987 to 1998 and evaluate the relationship of trends in pervasive developmental disorder rates with: (1) changes in cumulative exposure to ethylmercury (thimerosal) occurring through modifications in the immunization schedule of young children and (2) trends in measles-mumps-rubella vaccination use rates and the introduction of a 2-measles-mumps-rubella dosing schedule during the study period. They surveyed 27,749 children born from 1987 to 1998 attending 55 schools within the English Montreal School Board. Children with pervasive developmental disorders were identified by a special needs team. The cumulative exposure by age 2 years to thimerosal was calculated for 1987-1998 birth cohorts. Ethylmercury exposure ranged from medium (100-125 microg) from 1987 to 1991 to high (200-225 microg) from 1992 to 1995 to nil from 1996 onwards when thimerosal was entirely discontinued. Measles-mumps-rubella coverage for each birth cohort was estimated through surveys of vaccination rates. The immunization schedule included a measles-mumps-rubella single dose at 12 months of age up to 1995, and a second measles-mumps-rubella dose at 18 months of age was added on after 1996. The authors found 180 children (82.8% males) with a pervasive developmental disorder diagnosis who attended the surveyed schools, yielding a prevalence for pervasive developmental disorder of 64.9 per 10,000. The prevalence for specific pervasive developmental disorder subtypes were, for autistic disorder: 21.6 of 10,000; for pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified: 32.8 of 10,000; and for Asperger syndrome: 10.1 of 10,000. The authors concluded that the prevalence of pervasive developmental disorder in Montreal was high, increasing in recent birth cohorts as found in most countries. Factors accounting for the increase include a broadening of diagnostic concepts and criteria, increased awareness and, therefore, better identification of children with pervasive developmental disorders in communities and epidemiologic surveys, and improved access to services. The findings ruled out an association between pervasive developmental disorder and either high levels of ethylmercury exposure comparable with those experienced in the United States in the 1990s or 1- or 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations.
Vol. 118
no. 1
July 2006
Fombonne, Eric, Rita Zakarian, Andrew Bennett, Linyan Meng, and Diane McLean-Heywood. “Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations.” Pediatrics Vol. 118, no. 1 (July 2006): 139–150.
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