Whooping cough vaccine not as powerful as thought

Whooping cough vaccine not as powerful as thought

 

…Of the 18 students in the recent Cobb cluster, 17 were properly immunized with five doses of DTaP vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, health officials said.

 

…But scientists are struggling to understand why reports of pertussis cases have risen dramatically since the 1980s. It may reflect more testing or diagnosis; it may reflect the cyclical nature of the disease. It’s even unclear how often clusters like the one in Cobb occur.

 

About 10,000 cases and 20 infant deaths were reported in the United States last year, but some studies have suggested the number of people sickened each year may be closer to 300,000, CDC officials said.

Experts believe the disease is underdiagnosed and underreported in vaccinated school-age children and adults who often have milder symptoms and whose childhood shots have worn off. They believe that adolescents and adults are spreading the disease to vulnerable infants and children.

 

…While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, some parents are surprised and angry that a vaccine they trusted is failing to protect some children. And officials with the Georgia Division of Public Health said too many local doctors are not aware the disease is circulating in the community and can infect fully vaccinated children.

 

Nationally, school-age children diagnosed with the disease are generally teenagers, which is what prompted a CDC advisory panel in 2005 to recommend an additional pertussis booster shot at age 11 or 12.

To try to determine the magnitude of the problem at the four Cobb schools, last month CDC and local health officials gave voluntary pertussis tests to 108 children and staff who were currently coughing, and 22 of them showed evidence of recent infection, said Julie Gabel, a state health department epidemiologist.

Despite the study’s test results, some doctors refused to believe parents when they said that their children had pertussis. “More than one said to the parent: ‘Well, your child couldn’t have had pertussis, your child’s been vaccinated,” Gabel said, adding that the department is working to educate physicians.

At the four schools, health officials think the outbreaks are over or winding down. But whooping cough continues to be reported elsewhere. Georgia health officials aren’t aware of any other current whooping cough clusters.

…“The real issue is what the rate of vaccine failure is,” said Orenstein, a former CDC official who recently became deputy director for vaccine preventable diseases at the Gates Foundation in Seattle…

 

PERTUSSIS CASES

U.S.

2009* 1,699

2008 10,007

2007 10,454

2006 15,631

2005 25,617

2004 25,827

2003 11,647

 

* Year so far

Source: CDC

Flame retardant creates hyperactive mice

Flame retardant creates hyperactive mice

 

A commonly used flame retardant routinely found in people and house dust alters behavior and brain development in mice, causing hyperactivity and adjustment difficulties that worsened with age.

 

A chemical that makes electronics and other household products safe from fire disrupts behavior in mice, suggesting that the chemical alters brain development. The behavioral effects were seen at fairly low doses, were worse at the higher doses tested and grew stronger as the mice aged.

The findings indicate that very early life exposure to the chemical — called deca-BDE — has lasting effects on the brain. The chemical may affect behavior by interfering with a neurotransmitter — a nervous system signaling molecule — called acetylcholine.

Polybrominated biphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are common flame retardant chemicals used in consumer products. Foam padding in furniture, upholstery and electronics can contain the fire reducing agents.

Deca-BDE is a specific, widely-used type of PBDE. Two other commercial PBDE mixtures — octa and penta — are largely banned or discontinued in the US and around the world.

This is one of the first studies to examine how deca-BDE might affect the brain. Other studies find brain development effects from exposure to other forms of PBDEs.

In general, PBDEs are released from products and contaminate the indoor and outdoor environments. Most exposure for adults and children is likely through food and dust.

Levels in dust are higher in US homes than in Europe, and may be particularly high in California, the state with the strongest furniture flammability standards. A recent study found that PBDE levels in California homes were 4-10 times higher than in other US homes and up to 200 times higher than in European homes.

The same is true for people. Americans have between 10 and 100 times higher PBDE levels in their bodies than Europeans and Japanese. Californians have twice as much in their blood as other Americans.

Male mice in this study ate a single dose of 1.4, 2.3, 14 or 21 micromoles deca-BDE per kilogram of body weight on their third day of life. Their behavior and  nervous system were evaluated when the mice were adults, at 2 and 4 months old.

The treated mice showed significantly more hyperactive behavior (locomotion, rearing and total activity) and decreased ability to adjust to new surroundings at both 2 and 4 months old. The differences were more pronounced at the higher doses for both age groups and worsened in the older group as the animals aged.

The chemical in your baby’s bottle

The Chemical in Your Baby’s Bottle

 

…One chemical that has received a lot of attention lately is Bisphenol A, or BPA, an ingredient in plastics used to make reusable food and beverage containers (including baby bottles). It also coats the insides of food and beverage cans. Humans come in contact with it mainly through eating, but inhalation and absorption through the skin have not been ruled out. Regular exposure to BPA, including among infants and children, is shown by its presence in blood, amniotic fluid, umbilical cords, and breast milk. Additionally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected BPA in the urine of 92.6 percent of the more than 2,500 Americans examined; levels were higher in children and adolescents than adults.

While BPA has its benefits, like preventing interactions between food items and metal cans, it has the biological actions of the female hormone estrogen. Why should we worry about that? Exposure to estrogenic chemicals during the time when our organs are developing, specifically during the fetal and neonatal periods and puberty, is a risk factor for breast and prostate cancers, malformations of reproductive organs, infertility, and alterations in brain development.

BPA was originally synthesized in 1891; in the 1930s it was considered for pharmaceutical use because of its estrogenic properties but was abandoned when diethylstilbestrol (DES) was found to be a more potent synthetic estrogen. DES was prescribed to at least 2 million women to prevent miscarriage under the assumption that during pregnancy “some estrogen is good, so more must be better.” By 1971, girls exposed to DES in the womb had developed an extremely rare vaginal cancer typically found in elderly women. This caused the Food and Drug Administration to ban its use by pregnant women.

 

…Since the chemical revolution when BPA and hundreds of other common chemicals containing hormonal agents were added to our lives, the incidence of many diseases and disorders has been on the rise, including early puberty, obesity, reduced sperm count, hyperactivity, genital malformations, breast cancer and prostate cancer. BPA has caused all of these in laboratory animals. Last year, a study of 1,455 adults, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, showed a positive correlation between urinary BPA levels and diabetes and heart disease.

BPA is regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which considers 50 parts per million of BPA per day to be a safe dose. However, over 100 animal studies have found effects well below this dose. In fact, scientists have yet to find a harmless dose of BPA.

Why hasn’t BPA been banned? Mostly because BPA exposure cannot be associated with a single disease; the effects can be subtle and complications may appear years later. Animal studies revealed that BPA exposure during gestation contributed to behavioral disorders, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and infertility. In 2007, 38 international specialists on BPA signed the Chapel Hill Consensus Statement at a meeting organized by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences: Such a wide range of harmful effects, though found in laboratory animals, provided “great cause for concern” for “the potential for similar adverse effects in humans.” Experts at the National Toxicology Program agreed….

Formal Complaint Filed Against Journalist Covering Autism and MMR Jab Controversy

Press Release
http://www.thoughtfulhouse.org/pr/complaint-against-brian-deer.htm
For Immediate Release:
Mar 12, 2009

Dr. Andrew Wakefield Submits Detailed Document to PCC Showing Examples of Erroneous Published Information

 Read Full Complaint: Submission to the UK Press Complaints Commission
http://www.thoughtfulhouse.org/pr/complaint-against-brian-deer.pdf

A formal complaint against journalist Brian Deer was delivered to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) today on behalf of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the physician whose autism research has been the subject of several articles in the Sunday Times. Deer is accused in the PCC document of publishing incorrect information and also of having a conflict of interest caused by his involvement in the General Medical Committee’s (GMC) investigation of Wakefield.

“Journalists clearly have a right and responsibility to report on matters of public interest”, Wakefield said. “But they also have an obligation to make certain their information is accurate–especially when someone’s livelihood and professional reputation are at stake. Mr. Deer has failed miserably as a reporter and has done great harm to me and many others conducting autism research.”

Information contained in the PCC filing listed numerous instances of Deer’s failure to obtain and report accurate information for a story in the February 9, 2009 Sunday Times that wrongly accused Wakefield of distorting data. As an example, Deer wrote that no doctors have been able to replicate Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet study that showed intestinal inflammation in children with autism. However, in the past four years three separate studies have all shown a similar association between autism and intestinal inflammation in children.

“Time and again, Mr. Deer cherry-picks information and ignores data that contradict his premise,” Wakefield added. “Further, he shouldn’t even be writing about my case since he is on record as having filed the original complaint with the GMC and has become complicit in the agency’s investigation by supplying documents and evidence from children’s medical records. This is hardly impartial journalism.”

Although Deer has consistently denied he is the source of the first complaint that launched the GMC”s investigation on Feb. 24, 2004, three days after he wrote his first article on Wakefield Deer contacted the GMC caseworker Tim Cox-Brown via email: “I write to ask your permission to lay before you an outline of evidence that you may consider worthy of evaluation with respect of the possibility of serious professional misconduct…”.

Deer, writing for a major publication under the pretense of objectivity, has also made numerous slurs on his website against Dr. Wakefield and his supporters. The biases, conflicts of interest, and inaccurate information used by Deer are all detailed in the complaint delivered to the PCC.

Wakefield, who now lives in Austin, Texas, is continuing his research at Thoughtful House Center for Children dedicated to serving children with autism and other developmental disorders. Wakefield and his colleague from Thoughtful House, Dr. Bryan Jepson, are speaking at the Treating Autism 2nd International Biomedical Conference and Exhibition at the Bournemouth International Centre, Mar. 12-14.

About Thoughtful House: Thoughtful House takes a multi-disciplinary approach to treating autism and supports a ‘safety-first’ vaccination policy that gives parents the option of choosing a stand-alone measles vaccine for their children. The research program at Thoughtful House is dedicated to understanding the biological origins of childhood developmental disorders and establishing best practices in treating children affected by these disorders.

Contact: James C. Moore
512.300.9232
media@thoughtfulhouse.org

Corvallis lab comes up with drug to combat smallpox

Corvallis lab comes up with drug to combat smallpox

Scientists in a Corvallis laboratory, backed by $100 million in federal contracts, have concocted a drug they hope will never be needed, against a deadly virus that hasn’t infected anyone in more than 30 years.

The drug would treat smallpox, an ancient scourge eradicated by global vaccination. The last case of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949; the last worldwide, in Somalia in 1977. It is the only infectious human disease ever erased.

But since the 2001 terrorist attacks, concern that human error or bioterror could unleash the small remaining quantities of smallpox virus has renewed interest in drugs against such a disaster. With that interest, U.S. spending on biodefense has multiplied twentyfold, to about $8 billion in 2005.

Siga Technologies Inc. in Corvallis is a beneficiary of that fear.

Siga’s search for an antiviral smallpox drug started before 2001, but Sept. 11 accelerated its work and opened the federal spigot for research and development to counter biological warfare.

The drug is named ST-246. Siga hopes the Food and Drug Administration will approve it “sometime in 2010,” says Dennis Hruby, chief scientific officer.

“It’s phenomenal that we’re able to develop a drug that potentially could have global impact,” Hruby says. “It’s a real shot in the arm for Oregon.”

Smallpox is one of many devastating illnesses — including malaria, yellow fever, measles, typhus, typhoid fever and diphtheria — introduced to the Americas by Europeans.

Collectively, the diseases decimated Native tribes, who had no natural immunity to them.

About 54 million people lived in the New World when Columbus arrived in 1492, including 25 million Aztecs and 12million Incas, estimates geographer William Denevan, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin.

By 1700, that population had plummeted by nearly 80percent. Denevan calls the early American disease epidemics “possibly the greatest demographic disaster in the history of the world,” saying it eclipsed the Black Death of medieval Europe.

Still, Native cultures in the Northwest thrived into the late 1700s. But a century later, “These cultures were shattered,” anthropologist Robert Boyd has written.

Their numbers, throughout what is now Oregon and Washington, fell from 180,000 to about 40,000, Boyd says in his book, “The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline Among Northwest Coast Indians, 1774-1874.”

By statehood, Oregon’s Native population had dwindled to an estimated 7,000, says Judy Chambers, research librarian at the Museum of the Oregon Territory in Oregon City. Smallpox was a factor, along with war and violence.

How much of the infection was an early example of bioterror — intentional pollution of wells or distribution of infested blankets — remains a matter of fierce historical debate. But throughout the Americas, smallpox spread like wildfire.

“They didn’t have to pass out contaminated blankets,” says Stephen Greenberg, a researcher at the National Library of Medicine. “They just had to sit down and have dinner with those folks — and, bang, smallpox and measles would spread.”

A generation after smallpox’s eradication, society has become lax and naive about it, Siga’s Hruby warns.

Smallpox is as contagious as the common cold, spreading via airborne saliva droplets from the infected person, or contaminated clothes and bedding. Symptoms include high fever, fatigue, body aches and a rash. About 30 percent of those exposed die.

The federal government ranks biological warfare threats — A, B or C — by how lethal and contagious they are.

“A is for the really bad guys,” Siga’s Hruby says. Smallpox is one of six A-team “bad guys,” along with anthrax, botulism, hemorrhagic fevers (such as Ebola), plague and tularemia.

Smallpox is “one of the most dangerous potential biological weapons because it is easily transmitted from person to person, and because few people carry full immunity,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Congress seven weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks. People vaccinated before 1972, when the immunization requirement was lifted in the United States, “very likely have diminished immunity,” he testified.

The vaccine, discovered by English physician Edward Jenner in 1796, is made from a related pox virus and does not contain smallpox. CDC says it has enough vaccine stockpiled to immunize the U.S. population in an emergency.

Small quantities of the smallpox virus are kept under tight security in two laboratories, one in Russia and the other at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The World Health Organization, which originally recommended the stocks be destroyed, now favors their preservation for developing new vaccines, antiviral drugs and diagnostic tests.

U.S. spending on biodefense has its critics. They consider the threat to public health overblown and the money it gets disproportionate to the need. Meanwhile other needs, from HIV to diabetes research, get shortchanged.

It’s not cheap, fast or easy to measure the effectiveness of a drug for possible use against a disease pronounced dead.

Siga’s ST-246 smallpox drug cannot be tested for efficacy in people because no human being has the disease. Monkeys are the closest animal match. But the drug can be tested for safety and side effects in humans without smallpox. Siga tested the drug against the actual smallpox virus in tissue culture and animals at the CDC lab, which is under top-grade security.

“The virus never leaves Atlanta,” Siga’s Hruby says.

The Corvallis lab, which employs about 50 people, has no direct financial ties with Oregon State University. But the two share what Hruby, an OSU graduate, calls “a close working relationship.”

If ST-246 gets approved, Hruby expects it to be sold in bulk to the military and the federal government for storage in the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile. Some may also be sold to hospitals or large private employers for use in case of an emergency. He envisions the capsules packaged in vivid blister packs…

 

Smallpox Vaccine Appears Safe and Immunogenic

Smallpox Vaccine Appears Safe and Immunogenic

SAITAMA, Japan, March 10 — A live attenuated tissue-cultured smallpox vaccine — first used in children in the 1970s — is safe and immunogenic in adults, researchers here said.

The “third-generation” LC16m8 vaccine showed an immune response in nearly 95% of previously unvaccinated participants and in about 87% of those who had earlier been immunized, according to Yasuhiro Kanatani, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Defense Medical College in Saitama, Japan, and colleagues.

 

In a cohort of 3,221 participants, the researchers saw only two “possibly severe” adverse events that might have been caused by the vaccine, the researchers reported in the March 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

 

Aside from those two cases — one allergic dermatitis and one erythema multiforme — the researchers saw no signs of such adverse events as progressive or generalized vaccinia, encephalitis, or symptomatic myopericarditis.

 

Although smallpox has been eradicated worldwide, stocks exist for research in both the U.S. and Russia and there has been concern that bioterrorists could get their hands on — and unleash — the virus.

 

In the U.S., two vaccines are licensed, an older medication called Dryvax and ACAM2000, which was approved in 2007. But serious side effects — including encephalitis and endocarditis — have been reported for both.

 

LC16m8 has been licensed in Japan for 25 years and a U.S. phase I/II trial, reported in 2005, found promising immunogenicity with few side effects. (See: ASM: Investigational Smallpox Vaccine Shows Fewer Adverse Events)

 

In the 1970s, more than 100,000 Japanese children were given the vaccine, with good immune responses and few adverse events, Dr. Kanatani and colleagues said.

 

For this study, they examined clinical and immunological responses in adults, including 1,529 who had not previously been vaccinated.

 

The participants were examined 10 to 14 days after vaccination to determine if they had developed a major skin reaction, or “take,” and monitored for adverse events for 30 days.

 

Neutralizing antibody responses in a subset of 200 participants were assessed using a plaque-reduction neutralization test 30 days after vaccination.

 

The researchers found:

 

  • Nearly 95% of vaccine-naive participants — 94.4% or 1,443 of 1,529 — had a “take,” compared with 86.6% (or 1,465 of 1692) of those who had previously been vaccinated.
  • Seroconversion was studied in 45 vaccine-naive participants, but four did not “take” and were excluded. Among the remaining 41 volunteers, 37 (or 90.2%) had neutralizing antibody responses that indicated seroconversion.
  • Among 155 previously vaccinated participants, neutralizing antibody responses indicated an effective booster response in 93 (or 60%).
  • Most adverse events occurred with a frequency of less than 1%, except that 9% of participants reported swelling of axillary lymph nodes and 2% had low-grade fever.

 

The researchers noted that the study was too small to rule out severe adverse events, but they observed none — “consistent with past studies in children.”

 

They also pointed out that myopericarditis — observed in the U.S. program — has been a major concern surrounding adult smallpox vaccination.

 

“The sample size was limited to sufficiently verify the absence of myopericarditis,” the researchers said. “In addition, asymptomatic myopericarditis could not be excluded, because the sensitivity of ECG and measurement of troponin T levels 30 days post-vaccination is limited. A more appropriate time to perform ECG and quantify troponin T levels to detect myopericarditis is seven to 14 days after vaccination.”

 

The vaccine “appears to be a viable alternative to first-, second-, and other third-generation vaccines in a smallpox preparedness program,” they concluded.

Autism Timeline

Autism Timeline      

  in  Newsweek     1943-2009 (full timeline)

  

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