Posts about vaccine

Poor Reporting and Unfounded Implications

Correlation is not causation. And reporting of the form, “1 time this happened” and so I report it as though it is some relevant fact, is sad. Take any incident that happened and then state random traits you want to imply there is some relevant link to (blue eyes, red hair, people that watch IT Crowd, people that bought a banana yesterday, tall, overweight, did poorly in math…) and most people will know you are ignorant.

Looking at random data people will find patterns. Sound scientific experimentation is how we learn, not trying to find anything that support our opinions. Statistics don’t lie but ignorant people draw faulty conclusions from data (when they are innumerate – illiteracy with mathematical concepts).

It’s not what the papers say, it’s what they don’t by Ben Goldacre

On Tuesday the Telegraph, the Independent, the Mirror, the Express, the Mail, and the Metro all reported that a coroner was hearing the case of a toddler who died after receiving the MMR vaccine, which the parents blamed for their loss. Toddler ‘died after MMR jab’ (Metro), ‘Healthy’ baby died after MMR jab (Independent), you know the headlines by now.

On Thursday the coroner announced his verdict: the vaccine played no part in this child’s death. So far, of the papers above, only the Telegraph has had the decency to cover the outcome.

Measles cases are rising. Middle class parents are not to blame, even if they do lack rhetorical panache when you try to have a discussion with them about it.

They have been systematically and vigorously misled by the media, the people with access to all the information, who still choose, collectively, between themselves, so robustly that it might almost be a conspiracy, to give you only half the facts.

Science education is important. Even if people do not become scientists, ignorance of scientific thinking is dangerous. The lack of scientific literacy allows scientifically illiterate leaders to make claims that are lacking scientific merit. And results in people making poor choices themselves, due to their ignorance.

Related: Bad Science blog by Ben GoldacreIllusion of Explanatory DepthIllusions – Optical and Otherposts on vaccinesposts on scientific literacy

Genes Counter a Bacterial Attack

Gene against bacterial attack unravelled

Humans have an innate defence system against deadly bacteria. However, how the step from gene to anti-bacterial effect occurs in the body is not yet known. To date, B. Pseudomallei, a bacterium suitable for bioweapons, had managed to elude medics. It can remain hidden in the human body for many years without being detected by the immune system. The bacteria can suddenly become activated and spread throughout the body, resulting in the patient dying from blood poisoning. AMC physician Joost Wiersinga and the Laboratory for Experimental Internal Medicine discovered which gene-protein combination renders the lethal bacteria B. pseudomallei harmless.

Wiersinga focussed on the so-called Toll-like receptors. These are the proteins that initiate the fight against pathogens. There are currently ten known Toll-like receptors which are located on the outside of immune cells, our body’s defence system. The toll-like receptors jointly function as a 10-figure alarm code. Upon coming into contact with the immune cell each bacterium enters its own Toll code. For known pathogens this sets off an alarm in the immune system and the defence mechanism is activated. Yet B. pseudomallei fools the system by entering the code of a harmless bacterium. As a result the body’s defence system remains on standby.

Yet some people are resistant: they become infected but not ill. Wiersinga found a genetic cause for this resistance. He discovered which toll receptor can fend off B. pseudomallei. He did this by rearing mice DNA in which the gene for Toll2 production was switched on and off. ‘The group where the gene for Toll2 was switched off, survived the bacterial infection’, says Wiersinga. ‘The other receptor that we investigated, Toll4, had no effect – even though for the past ten years medics had regarded this as the most important receptor.’ The ultimate aim of this study is to develop a vaccine.

PLoS paper: MyD88 Dependent Signaling Contributes to Protective Host Defense against Burkholderia pseudomallei

Related: Bacteria Can Transfer Genes to Other BacteriaDisrupting the Replication of BacteriaAmazing Designs of Lifeposts on medical research

Study Finds No Measurable Benefit to Flu Shots

Do Flu Shots For The Elderly Save Lives? Just Washing Hands Works Better, Says Study

The widely-held perception that the influenza vaccination reduces overall mortality risk in the elderly does not withstand careful scrutiny, according to researchers in Alberta. The vaccine does confer protection against specific strains of influenza, but its overall benefit appears to have been exaggerated by a number of observational studies that found a very large reduction in all-cause mortality among elderly patients who had been vaccinated.

The study included more than 700 matched elderly subjects, half of whom had taken the vaccine and half of whom had not. After controlling for a wealth of variables that were largely not considered or simply not available in previous studies that reported the mortality benefit, the researchers concluded that any such benefit “if present at all, was very small and statistically non-significant and may simply be a healthy-user artifact that they were unable to identify.”

“Over the last two decades in the United Sates, even while vaccination rates among the elderly have increased from 15 to 65 percent, there has been no commensurate decrease in hospital admissions or all-cause mortality

Related: New and Old Ways to Make Flu VaccinesStudy Shows Why the Flu Likes WinterOver-reliance on Prescription Drugs to Aid Children’s Sleep?

Autism and the MMR vaccine

Science Tuesday: Back into the hornets nest is a thoughtful follow-up post on the decision of a scientist to vaccinate his child.

Autism isn’t like tuberculosis, there’s not a bacteria that causes the disease. In fact,most researchers believe that “autism” is not a discrete disorder, rather “autism is a clinically defined pervasive developmental disorder with phenotypically diverse neuropsychiatric symptoms and characteristics. These manifest as a spectrum of social and communicative deficits, stereotypical patterns and disturbances of behaviour.”¹

If a particular trait’s heritability is 100% then the trait is due entirely to genetic variation, if the heritability is 0% then the trait is due entirely to environmental variation. By some estimates, heritability of autism spectrum disorders exceeds 90%

repeated studies have found that autism diagnoses continue to rise even after the removal of thimerosal from the vaccine.

Finally, when thinking about the environmental influences on autism, it’s important to explore the role of the environment on genetics. Many of the types of genetic changes that have been identified as causative in autism are indicative of some sort of DNA damage – DNA damage that may result from exposure to an environmental toxin. Many scientists, and I count myself in their number, feel that the recent autism ‘epidemic’ is due primarily to improved screening and diagnosis. In other words, prior to the 1980’s, many people suffering from autism were diagnosed as “slow” or misdiagnosed with another type of mental retardation. Unfortunately, there is no way to quantify this hypothesis.

This is one of the examples of what is so good about blogs. Great content that probably would not be available but through a blog.

Related: Scientists Reconsider AutismAutism, Science and Politicsposts on vaccination

Autism, Science and Politics

Clinton and Obama parrot the “vaccine and autism connection inconclusive” line by Tara C. Smith:

Ugh. At least they don’t say there’s “strong evidence” to support it like McCain. I can certainly get behind more research on environmental factors in autism development (and of course, additional funding for biomedical research, period), but we’ve been there/done that for vaccines. I wonder if either of them are even aware of The National Children’s Health Study?

The National Children’s Study will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children.

Variables examined will include vaccinations received, and development of autism will be one of the outcomes examined. What more can you ask for? Obama and Clinton’s claims of ignorance on the part of the scientific community when it comes to vaccines and autism show that we don’t have any real science defenders in the running.

Related: Scientists and Engineers in CongressScience and Engineering in PoliticsThe A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science

Vaccine For Strep Infections

Engineered Protein Shows Potential as a Strep Vaccine

A University of California, San Diego-led research team has demonstrated that immunization with a stabilized version of a protein found on Streptococcus bacteria can provide protection against Strep infections, which afflict more than 600 million people each year and kill 400,000.

Group A Streptococcus (GAS). GAS causes a wide variety of human diseases including strep throat, rheumatic fever, and the life-threatening “flesh-eating” syndrome called necrotizing fasciitis. Studies were performed using M1 protein, which represents the version of M protein present on the most common disease-associated GAS strains.

“We created a modified version of M1 with a more stable structure, and found that it is just as effective at eliciting an immune reaction, but safer than the original version of M1, which has serious drawbacks to its use in a vaccine.”

Related: New and Old Ways to Make Flu VaccinesMRSA Vaccine Shows PromiseNew Approach Builds Better Proteins Inside a Computer