Microbe Matters Book Club: The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin

“A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on”

-Charles Haddon Spurgeon 1855

How many people do you know who haven’t vaccinated their children out of fear of giving them autism or mercury poisoning?

Have you or do you plan to vaccinate your own children?

Where did this fear of vaccines come from and why does it persist despite vastly overwhelming data pointing to their safety?

Why are we suddenly seeing outbreaks of diseases such as measles and whooping cough, diseases that we had thought controlled in this country decades ago?

Still Panicking about swine flu!

If you have ever thought about these questions go get a copy of The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin and start reading. This is an incredibly well-researched volume not just on the science behind the vaccine-autism controversy, but on the swell of emotions and public opinion that have allowed this claim to bleed over into mainstream culture and persist despite volumes of rigorously peer-reviewed research debunking the myth time and again. The importance of this movement from a public health standpoint cannot be understated, in some parts of the country we are dangerously close to losing herd immunity to many pathogens due to falling vaccination rates. We are currently seeing outbreaks of diseases in the US that have been effectively gone for decades: measles, whooping cough, HiB, and other pathogens are coming back and hitting the growing unvaccinated populations in our country.

Read on for a review of this well-written look into the vaccine-autism controversy… Continue reading

Designer immunity, vectored immunoprophylaxis and the future of medicine

Antibody Molecule
Antibody Molecule (Photo credit: sc63)

 

One of my very favorite aspects of being a scientist is being right on the cutting edge of modern research. I have the pleasure of working in an environment where new discoveries are made daily that span from the mundane to the revelatory. Today I want to take the time to write about a recent paper that for me came to my attention that falls solidly in the revelatory category.

 

 

This 2012 Nature paper by Balazs et al is a great example of modern virology in combination with immunology is being used in novel ways to combat different health issues. Read on to see how this group used a viral vector to give mice protective immunity against HIV infection. Continue reading

The importance of cold chains: Getting potent vaccine to those in need

Vaccines: proven life-savers
Vaccines: proven life-savers (Photo credit: Gates Foundation)

Many of us are familiar with vaccines. In the US where I live most of us have been vaccinated for major diseases such as whooping cough, Hepatitis A, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, the list goes on. However, due to our developed infrastructure and relative ease of access to medical care many of us have never worried about obtaining vaccines for our children or ourselves. This alone has contributed to some of the most startling gains in public health that we’ve ever seen.

In other parts of the world though, this is a very different story. Less infrastructure and fewer opportunities for medical care has made vaccinating large segments of the human population extremely difficult with serious consequences for those who are not vaccinated.

One major hurdle in the race to vaccinate the majority of people on this planets is the maintenance of cold-chains for vaccine delivery.

Click to learn more about this critical aspect of getting vaccines to the people who need them most. Continue reading