Someone doesn’t understand the difference between a virus and DNA

A virus is an infectious agent that can replicate inside the cells of the host it infects. Did you read that? It is an infectious agent. It can replicate inside the cells of the host it infects. A virus is also made up of DNA or RNA (genetic material) encapsulated in an envelope made up of protein or lipid (fat) or both. If a jelly-filled doughnut is a virus, then the dough is the envelope. The jelly is the genetic material. This doughnut would need to be put inside an over (host cells) to replicate. It wouldn’t be able to do it without that over.

Not only that, but the over would have to be a specific type of oven. See, the viruses that cause hepatitis only infect liver cells. The viruses that cause common colds only infect the respiratory pathway. The virus that causes AIDS? It only infects immune cells called T cells. They really are that specific.

Not only that, but viruses are species-specific. Viruses that infect one species need to adapt in order to infect another species. There are viruses all over you right now, and you’re perfectly healthy because they’re not adapted to infect you. However, they might bring death to, say, a cat. Yes, there are viruses like the flu which cross from species to another, but that spillover is not easy. (“Spillover” is also a book you should read.)

So that’s your primer on viruses. Maybe I skipped a couple of things, but this is all you need to know for this post. Now, let’s look at what the anti-vaccine group NVIC has to say about viruses in pigs.

In this post, the author, who gives no indication in her LinkedIn profile of being science-educated, shows us why the word “science” appears a total of zero times on her profile:

“China has reported a mysterious spike in the number of dead pigs, including baby pigs, turning up near Shanghai. This is prompting our revisit of the pig virus contamination issue with rotavirus vaccines that raised some eyebrows in 2010.”

You may be wondering what deaths of pigs have to do with the rotavirus vaccine. She will let you know in a second.

“Even though the Agriculture Ministry has stated there is “no major swine epidemic,” one suspected cause of death is pointing to porcine circovirus (PCV), as samples of the deceased pigs have tested positive for the common pig infection that has not yet been shown to be harmful to humans.”

And then…

“Porcine circovirus types 1 and 2 (PCV1 and PCV2) have been in the news before as a potential threat to public health. Although PCV1 infection is thought to be relatively harmless in pigs, PCV2 is associated with a lethal wasting disease in baby pigs.”

And then, the money shot…

“In May 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) temporarily suspended use of GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix, because DNA from PCV1 was found in the vaccine. Merck’s RotaTeq was found to contain PCV1 plus PCV2 DNA fragments, but its use was not suspended.

Shortly thereafter, the FDA said use of Rotarix could resume because the vaccine had “strong safety records” and there is “no evidence that either PCV1 or PCV2 poses a safety risk in humans.””

There you have it. Rotatrix was found to have DNA fragments (doughnut jelly, not the whole doughnut) but we should be afraid that the jelly will do what a doughnut does and that we are the oven in which the doughnut multiplies the best. All this according to the author.

She’s calling us pigs!

According to the science, there is nothing to worry about. The vaccine is oral, and, unless you’re a cyborg, chances are overwhelmingly good that you’ve eaten viruses and bacteria and fungi today. Many of those are pathogenic (capable of causing disease) to other species and not you. This is why you’re not sick, though you may eat the most questionable foods in the world.

But NVIC and its “authors” are not known to be well-versed in science. She further wrote:

“But the pig virus DNA is still present in the vaccines and strong evidence that it is safe for infants to swallow pig virus DNA in live rotavirus vaccines is still missing.”

You know what else is missing strong evidence of safety for infants? Spinach. We have not had a randomized clinical trial on spinach’s safety, and many of us think it’s time that we do. I mean, you’re eating plant DNA when you eat spinach.

Look, the reason the vaccine was suspended when the poricine (pig-derived) picovirus DNA was detected was because it could have meant that other, more dangerous, contaminants may have gotten into the vaccine from the manufacturing process. That wasn’t the case. In fact, it is reasonable to expect some very, very tiny amounts of the stuff you grew the vaccine in to make it in with the vaccine. That’s how vaccine manufacturing works.

But we shouldn’t be surprised that this kind of scaremongering goes on at NVIC. It seems to me that they’ll grab onto any news headline and mix it into why vaccines are horrible. They’ve been doing it for centuries…

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Vaccines are turning people into animals since time immemorial

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22 thoughts on “Someone doesn’t understand the difference between a virus and DNA

  1. Okay, I’ll now stand in the corner with a pointy hat on.
    For the record I wouldn’t dream of stealing your analogy without due reference.
    And I still think virii is incorrect!
    Great site by the way. At least I can have a bit of fun here.

    Much as I love Doubtful News it does sometimes seem to be a little humourless on the comments section (Don’t nag too much Sharon, I really do love your site).

    • Peebs, if you want to be technical, there is no plural for virus. However, I was educated way back when to use virii over viruses or virus as a plural.

        • Actually, I like viron when referring to viral particle. The latter was discouraged when I learned about what a virus was.
          Small hint, I was born in ’61.

          Small tirade:
          When I went to school, my junior high school had an observatory, several electron microscopes, culture incubators and we worked with real chemical reagents.
          Our eldest child is turning 30 soon. The youngest, a year and change younger. Both went to the junior high school and high school that I did.
          No observatory any longer. No electron microscopes. No culture incubators. Their chemistry class used M&M’s.
          In spite of the deficit in their education, OK, because I insisted on teaching them what little I knew of science (OK, for a layman, it’s a lot. As in conversing with physicians and physicist on technical topics a lot. Still, I’m no college graduate. I’m only rather bright.).
          Our eldest became an RN. Her preference was to go into veterinary medicine, but getting a spot in school was a pistols at dawn level problem. Her second choice was RN.
          I suggested nurse anesthetist, after she gets some RN experience under her belt. The more time on the lines, the better care she can provide as a higher level professional.
          Our youngest was sabotaged as “the baby” by my parents, by enough that both expressed regret later in our lives. She is certified as a chef, never worked as one though.
          Now, in spite of suggestions on a professional career, she’s enrolled into a medical transcriptionist program.
          One thing, Reuben, she’ll never be antivax. She knows that I’d ream her out so royally that she’d be stone deaf. Even from the grave. πŸ˜‰

          Our eldest, the RN, shocked me some time back.
          I call it “The Tale of Two Nurses”. She went to school with another RN, they graduated from the same class.
          Our daughter is staunchly pro-vaccination.
          Her classmate is strictly antivax.
          Our daughter cannot figure out *how* that happened, as they went through the same science and medicine classes.
          I explained, one can lead the horse to the water of knowledge, some horses refuse to drown in the basking waters of wisdom.
          Instead, they choose the path of the external os of the rectum.
          We all know the vulgar name for that.
          Somehow, I’m certain that antivax RN, who I honestly believe should no longer hold a license, would not comprehend the slight made above.

  2. At one time I reviewed Babs’ website for inaccuracies about vaccines…and found a boatload. Now that she has this new *science writer*, I’ll be reviewing it again.

    I’ve bookmarked the spinach Facebook page and I’ll be sending off to all my buddies.

      • Horrible news came out of the CDC today.

        “CDC study: recommended vaccines for young children do not increase risk of autism

        A new study has found no link between the number of vaccines given to children on one day or in the first 2 years of life and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study, published online in the Journal of Pediatrics , March 29, 2013, can help allay parent concerns about perceptions that the current vaccine schedule advocates too many vaccines too soon in a child’s life. The study further strengthens the conclusion of a 2004 comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that there is no relationship between certain vaccine types and autism. For more information on vaccine safety and autism, see http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/Autism/Index.html.”

        Horrible, as if people actually listen for a change, you’d be out of things to blog about. πŸ˜‰

  3. Yesterday during a very long walk I listed to This Week in Virology. They were going through the emails, and there were lots of mentions of the pigs in China. They made a point to say that the virus does not affect humans, and we eat viruses everyday. We eat the same viruses when consuming pork (mmmm, bacon!), and even more with cabbage. So imagine how AoA would react if they knew how much viruses were in their sausage and sauerkraut!

    Hmmm, I have not made choucroute garnie for a while. (a French version of pork and sauerkraut)

    • One thing, Chris. We usually cook meat before eating it. I’m not acquainted with virii that withstand cooking.
      Of course, people handle raw meat and far too many people fail to wash their hands often enough…
      Still, if one wished to pass along some level of angst to them, mentioning pigs in the path of influenza in the past, then mention of those virii would quite likely put said people off of their feed.

      • Do you always cook cabbage before you eat it? The comment in the podcast was that they are covered with more! And sauerkraut is fermented, not cooked, when made (it actually uses some of the microbes in the process).

        Anyway, they pointed out that this particular virus (which is not an influenza virus) is not transmittable to humans. It was also pointed out that the lack of regulation and poverty is most likely the reason tens of thousands of dead pigs were placed in the river.

        • Actually, I do cook cabbage before eating it. I also tend to cook sauerkraut, replacing its juices with apple cider vinegar quite often.
          When we have lettuce or other vegetables known to accumulate contaminants from animal excrement, I use a sodium hypochlorite 10% solution bath for ten minutes, then rinse the solution off. Old habit from being deployed to unpleasant places that were notorious for poor sanitation.

          I’ve never grasped the concept behind placing any dead animal into a waterway for disposal. All one does is potentially contaminate a water source.
          Still, it’s an annoyingly common practice in some regions. :/

          I tend to view a virus epidemic amongst livestock with a jaundiced eye. It wasn’t all so long ago that rinderpest managed to thrive in humans. While highly unlikely, one never knows when a virus will suddenly mutate into a form that can be pathogenic to humans or a misdiagnosis of a novel virus permits spread to populations considered impossible under the erroneous diagnosis. I tend to trust such only after reading a DNA sequence report on the causative agent.
          Humans are interacting in areas of nature hitherto never interacted with, due to population growth and spread. Hence, we find new pathogens from time to time.
          Thank goodness for our medical professionals and those great sages, the epidemiologist, the ones who understand both infectious disease and the dark arts of statistics.

            • I’ve read enough epidemiological studies to firmly call statistics used there as a dark art of magic. πŸ˜‰
              Thankfully, there are software packages out there for those out front to use, such as Epi Info.
              Had to set it up twice in my life, so I’ve tracked it over the years. The latest version is much, much better. And loaded with the dark arts of statistics to enable finding an answer to the cause of an epidemic.
              I was only the knuckle dragger that asked questions, configured the software (always had a knack with technology) and handled collection and logistics.
              I just asked the professional what questions needed to be asked, suggested a few at times, asked groupings of questions, etc. Then, got the information and let them figure it out, so that we could begin treatment and elimination of the source of infection when possible, suggest mitigation, if not possible to eliminate, to the locals.

              So, I have a perspective that many don’t. That of personally seeing polio, measles and the rest of “the poxes” go through a village, killing young and old alike, as well as those more able bodied.
              We’ll suffice it to say, the woman in your story who said, “To prevent diseases that are no more deadly than the common cold?” would feel in danger for her safety, were she to say that in my physical presence.
              But then, it isn’t what one would do that counts, it’s what others perceive what you may do that convinces them to retain civility and some semblance of sanity. πŸ™‚
              The worse I’m prone to actually do, beyond drilling them in basic facts and the scientific method, is to become flatulent when one pulled my finger. πŸ˜‰
              Well, maybe without pulling my finger. Such are the indignities of beginning to age.

          • Ah, so you have your reasons. And the danger are issues with river water downstream, but not just from one virus.

            And as noted in the podcast the real issues in the situation are an inadequate infrastructure, poverty and lack of any oversight. Some of the issues do happen in the USA (E-coli in spinach), the the problems there have raised by several magnitudes.

        • Saw your issue with comments over at Orac’s. If you post a link or two in the comments, the system thinks you’re spamming. No worries… I’m always looking out for comments and spam and such. Just be glad I don’t make you register like ScienceBasedMedicine.org does.

          • I’m registered all over the place, in places of varying interests. Some under my name, some under my nickname given by my teams.
            We’ll suffice it to say, this name is known in the DoD, along with my given name.
            So, those who count know my real name. You know it from here, in my e-mail.

            I just hate some CAPTCHA systems, some give me real heartburn in figuring out what they are. Maybe from the lattice degeneration I have, maybe not. :/
            But, those discourage me more than anything.

  4. I was pondering your words about species specificity of virii, then had a thought that always makes me shudder.
    The thought of a wide range of host virus, such as rabies, in a more casually infectious virus, such as the common cold or influenza.
    Something even worse than the usual nightmare scenario of airborne capable ebola.

    Thankfully, nature selects against such highly virulent, quickly lethal virii, for those would kill the host population before further spread, causing such an organism to become extinct.
    Save, in our rapid travel world, where it could move at speeds previously considered impossible.
    Which, of course, is the subject of quite a few books, some theoretical and warning, others as fiction and range from as improbable as a black hole hitting the Earth to reasonably probable, should a novel virus arise.
    Our only defense is the epidemiologist and public health care professional.
    Something for the intrepid reader to consider, whenever our congresscritters wish to cut CDC and NIH budgets.

  5. It’s pretty cringe-worthy that such mythical beliefs haven’t really changed much in hundreds of years. You did a fine job of showing the full circle of dumb there Reuben.

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