Even the bottom-feeding journals seem to have some sense

Thanks to a reader by the moniker of “Lawrence,” I’ve come to find out that “Translational Neurodegeneration” has taken down the article by BS Hooker on MMR and autism. Now, we have this:

http://www.translationalneurodegeneration.com/content/3/1/16/abstract

The page where the article used to be now links to a PDF version of it with this message:

“This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.”

I call this journal a “bottom feeder” because, in my humble opinion, it has a lot of questionable articles in it and the impact factor of the journal is lacking. But the editorial board has done the right thing in wanting to take another look at the article.

I’m still left wondering how this paper got through peer review, or who did the peer review. They seem to not have bothered with checking the biostatistics or with looking back at the DeStefano paper.

Submitted for your approval

Imagine that you are a parent, and that your child has autism. Now imagine that you have swallowed the lie that your child’s autism is some sort of a curse, something so bad an unimaginable that you need to “do your own research” and get to the bottom of it. Then imagine that you have swallowed more lies about vaccines and about conspiracies between Big Pharma and the Government. Finally, to top it all off, imagine that you have been allowed to give a public comment at a committee hearing where people are coming together to figure out how to best help improve the lives of autistic children and adults.

What would you say?

Here is a mother who is convinced that vaccines had everything to do with her child’s autism. In her latest blog post, she writes:

“We testified this week at the IACC, although i know it might not mean much, its a feeling of healing that has helped me thus far. I am at peace. I know all things happen for a reason.

Its hard living this life, and having my son not be able to be a normal 8 year old,but thank The Lord he is alive, breathing, walking, running, and laughing.

I am so thankful for my daughters being able to speak on behalf of their brother, and many many other children that cannot speak for themselves.

These children are vaccine injured.”

And here is video of her testimony to the IACC, where she calls for “the leader” (of the committee?) to be taken away to jail for “obstruction of justice.”

I got the video from the Facebook page of one of the woman’s friends, so all credit goes to her. (I downloaded it because these kinds of things tend to disappear when they’re brought out to the light of day.)

So there you have it. Make of it what you will, but do tell me in the comments section below how many anti-vaccine points she hits in her brief statement.

Utilitarianism, Science, and Public Policy

One of the things that you hear over and over again from the anti-science crowd is that public policy should not “sacrifice” the life of one person for the good of the population. In the case of vaccines, many of the people who are convinced that vaccines cause autism will tell you that we should not “sacrifice” a child to autism even if it means preventing a whole lot of death and disability from vaccine-preventable diseases. Mind you, autism does not equal death for a child. But such is the mentality of the fanatic.

I wish that I could live in a fantasy world where there were no sacrifices for the good of the population, where no one in the absolute would have a reaction to a vaccine (no matter how mild). Unfortunately, such a world does not exist. However, there is this thing called science, and it prescribes the tools we can use to minimize the amount of suffering in humanity. With it, we’ve been able to cure diseases that used to kill people by the thousands (maybe millions) in centuries past. Sadly, there are those who have not benefited from the science and may have even been hurt by it. But such is life. Continue reading

Reading For Comprehension

Humor me and read the following abstract of a study:

Background The GARDASIL long-term follow-up (LTFU) study is an ongoing extension of a pivotal randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, 4-year study to investigate the safety, immunogenicity, and effectiveness of quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) on the incidence of HPV 16/18-related cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 2 or worse in 16–23-year-old women (Protocol 015).

Methods Follow-up of subjects will be accomplished in two ways: (1) registry-based follow-up for effectiveness data as well as safety data including but not limited to deaths, cancer, and hospitalisations; (2) active follow-up for blood collection for immunogenicity assessments at years 5 and 10 of the LTFU study. Effectiveness and safety analyses will occur approximately 2 years following completion of Protocol 015 and approximately every 2 years thereafter for 10 years. The current report represents the first of these efficacy and safety analyses. Cohort 1 included approximately 2700 subjects who received qHPV vaccine at the start of Protocol 015. Cohort 2 consists of approximately 2100 subjects who received placebo at the start of Protocol 015 and qHPV vaccine prior to entry into the LTFU. Vaccine effectiveness against HPV 16/18-related CIN 2 or worse was estimated by calculating the expected incidence of CIN 2/3 or worse in an unvaccinated (placebo) cohort using historical registry data. The primary analysis approach was per-protocol.

Results There were 1080 subjects that contributed to the follow-up period out of a total of 2195 eligible subjects in the per-protocol population in Cohort 1. In these subjects there were no cases of HPV 16/18-related CIN 2 or worse observed. There were also no cases of HPV 6/11/16/18-related CIN, vulvar cancer, and vaginal cancer observed. However, the follow-up time in person-years is insufficient to make a definitive statement about the effectiveness of the qHPV vaccine for the current time period.

Conclusions The qHPV vaccine shows a trend of continued protection in women who were vaccinated up to 7 years previously, although there is as yet insufficient data to confirm that protection is maintained. The qHPV vaccine continues to be generally safe and well tolerated up to 6 years following vaccination.”

You can go ahead and re-read it if you didn’t quite catch something. Continue reading

This is rich! She thinks this is research!

I’ve told you before that it’s okay to do your own research, but you have to know what you’re looking at. What kind of research would someone who wants to believe that vaccines are the source of all evil do? Well, here you go. It’s the kind of “research” that professors like to tear into because it’s cherry-picking at its finest and, what is worse, it’s drawing the wrong conclusions from what the studies are telling you. So, shall we begin? Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Dr. Paul Offit

Happy Birthday, Dr. Paul Offit

Dr. Paul Offit (right) and his colleague, Dr. H. Fred Clark, worked together on developing a vaccine against rotavirus. Rotavirus causes severe diarrhea, dehydration, and — left untreated — death in children. The vaccine they developed along with Dr. Stanley Plotkin is credited with saving many, many lives. Today is Dr. Offit’s birthday.

Connecting the dots between cause and effect

When I was a child, my teachers used to give us connect-the-dot drawings. I used to happily connect the dots and take the resulting drawing home to my parents. My mom or dad would then post the drawing somewhere for everyone in the home to see. I was really proud of my work, even if it wasn’t real work. All I had to do was go from #1 to #2 and so on until the picture revealed itself to me.

It was something like this:

Not hard to do at all

I’ve often wondered how the mind of someone who believes in outlandish conspiracy theories works. Do they just put the dots together but in a different way?

For example, let’s take this post at the notorious anti-vaccine blog of the (non-existent) epidemic of autism. It starts like this:

“My daughter, Megan, regressed in her physical, mental and social health after vaccinations. Her life forever changed, I am committed to finding out both cause then cure to improve her quality of life, along with so many like her. As a result, I spend a good amount of time reading research and scientific papers to help clarify any connections. Those connections would include immune issues, autoimmunity, mercury and vaccines.”

I highlighted in bold the main gist of that opening statement. This mother, looking for someone or something to blame for her daughter’s atypical neurology, has taken it upon herself to do research. Here’s an article blog post about the author of that post. Here is her Facebook profile. I keep looking and looking and looking some more, and I can’t find anything to tell me about her scientific background.

By the way, she proposes that her daughter developed autism after (and thus because of?) the MMR vaccine:

“Her regression into autism at 18 months developed after her MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.”

I mean, if she’s going to do scientific research and dive into scientific studies, then she must have a scientific background that allows her to explain what the studies and papers say to a lay audience, right? If anyone finds out what her background is, please feel free to mention it in the comments. But let’s go back to her blog post on that notorious anti-vaccine blog of the (non-existent) epidemic of autism.

In that post, she mentions that her daughter has an auto-immune disease. So, connecting the dots and using a scientific dissertation and subsequent published paper, she concludes that the mercury in the MMR vaccine caused an auto-immune disorder in her daughter, wich may have led to her daughter’s autism. Never mind that the MMR vaccine never had thimerosal to begin with.

Nevertheless, let’s look at the paper titled “Regulatory Roles for NKT Cell Ligands in Environmentally Induced Autoimmunity“. First, some terminology. “NKT” stands for “natural killer T-cell”. A “ligand” is a molecule that sends a signal, traps another molecule or element, or just plain does something. From an immunology point of view, ligands can make immune responses more vigorous, or even less, depending on the ligand.

The long and short of it is that these researchers gave mice an auto-immune condition by exposing them to inorganic mercury. (Mercury in thimerosal is organic, bound to carbon molecules and, thus, behaving differently.) On top of that, the mice were bred in such a way that exposure to inorganic mercury and even some bacteria would cause their immune systems to go haywire.

I’ve told you before that mice are not people.

How did these mice get an induced auto-immunity, exactly? Like so:

“Mercury-induced autoimmunity was induced according to a standard protocol by three s.c. injections of 30 μg of HgCl2 in 100 μl of sterile PBS at days 0, 2, and 4.”

They got 90 micrograms of inorganic mercury over the course of four days. How much organic mercury in an MMR vaccine? None. How much inorganic mercury in a can of tuna? None. How much organic mercury in a can of tuna? About 70 micrograms.

See what I’m getting at? Organic, inorganic? It’s like saying that salt — aka “Sodium Chloride” — is the same as chlorine gas. It’s not. It’s all in the chemistry. And that’s an important thing to note when you’re talking about these papers to a lay audience of anti-vaccinationists.

The paper continues to note that, yes, and as per their protocol, the mice developed an auto-immune disease. The researchers then went on to look at how the ligands behaved under these circumstances. But that’s not what matters to the blog post author. She hangs on the whole “mercury causes auto-immunity” and “my daughter has an auto-immune condition” and “she also has autism” to basically state that “mercury causes autism”. If this trope sounds familiar to you, it should. It should sound familiar because it’s the trope that a certain British doctor tried to use in hid fraudulent study to link the MMR vaccine to autism. Except that he was smart enough not to say that the MMR vaccine had mercury, which it never did.

She goes on to rant about the ligands, stating that they have been added to vaccines in order to increase the potency of vaccines. In short, it’s all evil. The ligands, the mercury, the non-existent mercury in MMR. Everything. It all causes auto-immune diseases, and, in their mind (the author and the people commenting on her blog post), autism is an auto-immune disorder.

To all this, she concludes:

“It appears that mercury, “abundance as a pollutant, and presence in dental amalgams, cosmetics, preservatives, fumigants, and vaccine preparations ” can cause immune and autoimmune disease via Toll Like Receptors (TLR) activation and then additionally, Man-made, Toll Like Receptors could also have their own influence on immune issues, and very possibly autoimmunity.”

It appears to me that this person, if presented with the brontosaurus connect-the-dot picture above, would come up with this:

If you see a dinosaur, you’re being fooled by the Man

I’m not surprised that this person displays little knowledge of understanding the paper she herself used as evidence. It happens a lot with anti-vaccine and anti-science people. They say that there is a conspiracy, that researchers are being paid by “Big Pharma”, and then they use that same research to try to prop-up their theories.

Someone in the comments section of that blog quoted this paper as clearly showing that vaccines caused all sorts of horrors. Here’s the “Results” section:

“Only in 1 analysis for tics was there some evidence of a higher risk with increasing doses (Cox’s HR: 1.50 per dose at 4 months; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.02-2.20). Statistically significant negative associations with increasing doses at 4 months were found for general developmental disorders (HR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.81-0.93), unspecified developmental delay (HR: 0.80; 95% CI: 0.69-0.92), and attention-deficit disorder (HR: 0.79; 95% CI: 0.64-0.98). For the other disorders, there was no evidence of an association with thimerosal exposure.”

The commenter in question did not understand what “statistically significant negative associations” meant. It means that higher doses showed reduced risk. He or she thought that it meant “negative”outcomes, as in “bad”.

That’s the problem. You have non-scientists trying to make heads or tails out of scientific papers and studies, and they’re misinforming the public in the process.

Merry Christmas, by the way.