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Autism’s False Prophets Questions – Part II

vaccines-save-livesA second installment in questions referring to Paul Offit’s book, Autism’s False Prophets. These questions mark the last of those we will cover for this book.

Autism’s False Prophets                                                                           Name:

Chapter 11 Questions

A Place for Autism

  1. What evidence is there for a genetic cause of autism?
  1. Other than genetics, what other things may cause autism?
  1. Who is the Autism Diva, and where did she come from?
  1. Who is Peter Hotez, and how did he get involved in the public conversation about autism?
  1. What does Peter Hotez think is the hardest part of being parent to an autistic child?
  1. What does Kathleen Seidel say is a problem about the way that doctors and scientists see the world?
  1. As always, at the end of a book like this, I like to ask for your feedback on whether you found this book important, what it might lack, and whether you think that I should keep using it in future classes.
 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Autism’s False Prophets Questions

I’ve been having a difficult time logging into ‘Blackboard’ today to post the questions for chapter 10 of Autism’s False Prophets. Although I don’t like posting any required material here, I’d rather get it out there, so if you are in my pathology class, please spread the word to other students to check in here.

Before you start, check out this video mentioned towards the back of the chapter…

Autism’s False Prophets                                                                           Name:

Chapter 10 Questions

Science and Society

“For many parents, the advice given by heathcare professionals about vaccines is just one more opinion in a sea of opinions offered by the internet.”

-Offit, chapter 10

  1. What is the problem with Dan Burton’s assessment of what he saw at the Stop Autism Now Conference?
  1. How would you interpret the actions of policymakers at the CDC who ‘invariably give these vaccines to their own children and grandchildren’? If you have read Offit’s other book, Vaccinated, do you recall who vaccine maker, Maurice Hilleman, insisted were the first to receive the Hepatitis vaccine made from human blood?
  1. What does Offit say is even more important than reporting the source of funding for scientific investigation on? Why is this so?
  1. What is ‘the price’ of empowering parents to make medical decisions about their childrens’ healthcare?
  1. How does the ‘Scientific Method’ differ from what people often do in their day-to-day lives? How is it similar?
  1. Using the scientific method, data serves to _____________________________ the null hypothesis. What can it NOT do? Why not?
  1. Why is it evolutionarily successful to make ‘the best connections’? What flaws in logic can this leave?
  1. What quotation did Stephen Strauss, former director of NCCAM keep framed on his office wall? What is the meaning of this quotation?
  1. How many people, since 1958, have died from poisoned Halloween candy? (http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp)
 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Ignorance and Misinformation Assist in Measles Resurgence

 

 

Measles cases are on the rise again in the US. Why is it that this ‘eradicated’ (in the USA) virus is still causing harm?

ImageIt’s been about 15 years since Andrew Wakefield first suggested that:

We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella [(MMR)] immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.(1)

Wakefield clarified this statement in an interview with Brian Deer:

I have to say that there is sufficient anxiety in my own mind of the safety, the long term safety of the polyvalent, that is the MMR vaccination in combination, that I think that it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines. (2)

Reading the initial publication, there is not a very convincing argument made for the vaccine causing autism. And it would be curious why Wakefield would make such a connection –  except that he was also in the process of forming a company with a patented test for “autistic enterocolitis” that could produce $43 million (US) in revenue for investors according to the prospectus.(3) That might be reason enough. Further, the primary interest that lead to the investigation of whether the MMR vaccine might cause autism came not from a sound scientific hypothesis, but from lawyers willing to pay for study results that could be used in their ongoing prosecution of drug manufacturers. According to the British Medical Journal, Wakefield received $674,000 in compensation as payment for doing this research and also in support of Wakefield’s new diagnostic company, Carmel Healthcare Ltd. (4)

Over the years Wakefield has bobbed and weaved like a boxer shifting his hypotheses on how MMR vaccine causes autism from Measles proteins migrating from the location of the shot, to the gut and then to the brain – to the Mercury preservative, thimerosal – to the number of antigens (immune-stimulating particles) children are faced with as they receive their first vaccines. Nevertheless, his results have not been duplicated (to the extent that they were shown to begin with) and no additional evidence has come forward supporting any of these speculations.

The resulting controversy dealt a heavy blow to immunization efforts in the UK. Meanwhile, in the United states, which officially eradicated Measles in 2000, record numbers of cases are now being reported. So far 20 cases of the disease have been reported in New York (5), while another 32 have been reported in California which “allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children if they fill out a form stating they don’t believe in vaccinations.”(6)

ImageThanks, Dr. Wakefield. Most of us have forgotten what Measles looks like. Now we can remember.

For more information about Measles, see the WHO fact sheet:

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  •  In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

 

 

References:

1. RETRACTED: "Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children" AJ Wakefield, SH Murch, A Anthony, J Linnell, DM Casson, M Malik, M Berelowitz, AP Dhillon, MA Thomson, P Harvey, A Valentine, SE Davies, JA Walker-Smith The Lancet  28 February 1998 (Volume 351 Issue 9103 Pages 637-641 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(97)11096-0)
2. http://briandeer.com/wakefield/royal-video.htm
3. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/11/autism.vaccines/
4. "Secrets of the MMR scare: How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money" 2011. http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5258
5. "Measles Outbreak Now Up To 20 Cases In New York City"20 March 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/19/measles-new-york_n_4994100.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular
6. "Surge in measles cases continues: California now has 32 in 2014" 14 March 2014. http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/03/14/42809/measles-cases-continue-to-rise-in-california/
 
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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Vaccinated, chapter 10: An Uncertain Future

ImageA lot has been made of the putative link between vaccines and autism since the 1998 publication of ‘Illeal-lymphoid-nodular, non-specific colitis and pervasive developmental disorder in children‘ by Andrew Wakefield. In chapter 10 of Vaccinated, we will be discussing how this article started an epidemic of fear amongst the parents of young children that had a drastic effect on public health.

The author quotes Philip Roth’s The Human Stain as a testimony to the power of suggestion. “To hear the allegation is to believe it. No motive for the perpetrator is necessary, no logic or rationale is required. Only a label is required. The label is the motive. The label is the evidence. The label is the logic.”

In our discussion of this paper we will review the circumstances surrounding its publication, the data presented by the paper, what they mean and don’t mean and what efforts have been made to research the possibility of such a causal link.

A good review of the work done to examine the evidence for any such connections can be found here. We will review the data presented in this article and since that article is a secondary source, we will uncover some of the primary data that this review discusses as see how it compares to the original paper.

In putting this together, I am reminded of an interesting TED talk about how science is done and the necessity for critical examination of data. The talk, by Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree is well worth the listen:

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Science Denialism … A TEDed lesson

Michael Specter, a science journalist at The New Yorker and author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives gives a remarkably powerful talk on the treatment of science in modern times. He asks, ‘Why do we mistrust scientific authority?’ and encourages us to listen to the data even as we keep our skepticism.

This is a really good talk. I wish I had given it. Follow this link to the TEDed page with this talk and some questions. He mentions Paul Offit, the author of Vaccinated, the book we are reading in Microbiology this semester. Although the mention is brief, it does expose the ugly mob mentality that takes over public discourse sometimes. 

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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