Clinton and Obama parrot the “vaccine and autism connection inconclusive” line

Via Razib, Obama on vaccines:

“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

–Barack Obama, Pennsylvania Rally, April 21, 2008.

and Clinton:

I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines. I have long been a supporter of increased research to determine the links between environmental factors and diseases, and I believe we should increase the NIH’s ability to engage in this type of research. My administration will be committed to improving research to support fact-based solutions, and I will ensure that the NIH has the staff and funding to fully explore all possible causes of autism….We don’t know what, if any, kind of link there is between vaccines and autism – but we should find out.

Ugh. At least they don’t say there’s “strong evidence” to support it like McCain. I can certainly get behind more research on environmental factors in autism development (and of course, additional funding for biomedical research, period), but we’ve been there/done that for vaccines. I wonder if either of them are even aware of The National Children’s Health Study?

The National Children’s Study will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children.

Variables examined will include vaccinations received, and development of autism will be one of the outcomes examined. What more can you ask for? Obama and Clinton’s claims of ignorance on the part of the scientific community when it comes to vaccines and autism show that we don’t have any real science defenders in the running.

Sacrificing health for art

I realize art is, of course, subjective. I know what I like; sometimes I can explain why, and sometimes I’m not sure what it is about a piece that draws me to it. Certainly good art evokes emotion and can stir controversy and push limits. And like the notorious virgin Mary/elephant dung uproar, an undergrad at Yale has recently caused quite a stir with her own senior art project:

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts’ project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock . saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.

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The controversy surrounding the existence of nanobacteria

This is the sixth of 6 guest posts on infection and chronic disease.

By Courtney Cook

Kidney stone disease affects approximately 5% of Americans. While several risk factors are well-established, including genetic predisposition, metabolic diseases, lifestyle, and diet, there are still questions over the actual mechanism of calcium stone formation. Many cases do not have any kind of underlying disorder and therefore it is difficult to know how to treat these patients to prevent further stone formation.

This seemed to change when, in 1998, Kajandar and Ciftcioglu isolated an unusual microorganism in human kidney stones. Less than 100 nm across, the authors termed them “nanobacteria.” They claimed to observe self-replication as well as to have identified a unique DNA sequence. This seemed to indicate a living entity that may be playing a role in stone formation. Are they?

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A Deeper Look into Adenovirus-36 and Obesity

This is the fifth of 6 guest posts on infection and chronic disease.

By Whitney Baker

My previous blog post examined the idea of an infectious etiology for obesity by a group of possible infectious agents. While these pathogens have been associated with obesity in humans or animals, their causative role in human obesity has not yet been established. So for this round, I thought I’d focus in on the bug showing the most evidence for human obesity: Adenovirus-36.

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Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Milk

This is the fourth of 6 guest posts on infection and chronic disease.

By Ousmane Diallo

Last week in class we tackled an interesting topic, the role of Mycobacterium Avium Paratuberculosis (MAP) in the genesis of Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). The authors Saleh E. Naser (oops the name means in Arabic ‘The virtuous helper’) and colleagues detected using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques in a lab based case controls study “viable MAP in peripheral blood in higher proportion of individuals with Crohn than controls”. Not surprising after all since the pathology of Crohn’s mimics strangely the awful Johne’s disease in cows.

As noted earlier, I am from West Africa, the “black continent”, ‘the infectious disease belt’, ‘where people go around naked’, ‘TB and AIDS world’ etc., all those nice adjectives, which aren’t the purpose of this ‘discourse’, and, not yet known, I belong to the Fulani Nation, herders and shepherds of men. During the course, I kept wondering how come during my 12 years of medical experience (7 as a med. student, 2 as a urology spec. student, and 3 as a poor family practice doc) before migrating, like a good Fulani, to green pastures I have not seen more than one suspected case of Crohn’s disease.

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Infectious Disease-Chronic Inflammation-Cancer

This is the third of 6 guest posts on infection and chronic disease.

Does chronic IL-6 levels lead to epigenetic changes in DNA methylation that contribute to this pathway?

By Matthew Fitzgerald

How can infection be a carcinogen?

How do infectious diseases lead to cancer, if at all, is still a highly debated area of research. Do infectious diseases change the genetic information by insertions, mutation, or do bacterial toxins act as carcinogens? Does inflammation lead to free radical damage and cancer? While all of these and more are possible causes, another potential mechanism is that infection could change the epigenetics of cells at the site of infection. What is epigenetics? It is how our genetic information is controlled to tell cells what genes should be expressed and what genes should be silenced. For example what tells a stem cell to become a heart cell or kidney cell? Both contain the exact same DNA but are different because they express different genes, this is epigenetics.

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Big Questions, Little Answers: the debate over autism

This is the second of 6 guest posts on infection and chronic disease.

By Rachel Kirby

In light of April being Autism Awareness Month it is only natural that certain topics be brought about in the media. Until now I was not aware of the controversy behind the “risk factors” of autism. Let’s begin with the basics. Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. Having autism may or may not involve all three characteristics. Some may even have symptoms that are independent of the diagnosis, but that can affect the individual or the family. A small fraction of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show unusual abilities, such as memorizing an amazing amount of trivia or have extraordinarily rare talents. These are often highlighted in the media. Just this week for example the press covered a story about a girl that has an incredible gift of working with wild animals, as not many others can.

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Bacteriophages to Fight Bacteria: Is this the Beginning of the End?

This is the first of 6 guest posts on infectious causes of chronic disease.

By David Massaquoi

Is this the Beginning of the end of antibiotic resistant problem or just another scientific false hope of eradicating microorganisms that have co-existed with humans for millions of years? In the days before antibiotics, some researchers saw bacteriophages, viruses that can seek out and destroy bacteria, as a promising candidate for fighting infections. Now, as more organisms develop resistance to existing antibiotics, phage research is finding new favor.

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Student posts, assignment #2

My students are back with their second writing assignment, which I’ll be posting for the next few days. As I mentioned previously, constructive comments on their posts are appreciated, but keep in mind that they’re students doing this as an assignment and still learning–and comments that I feel are over the top (or attacking me via them) will be removed. Finally, these posts are the students’ own; I’m formatting them for publication here, but beyond that their words (and opinions) are their own.