Tuesday, February 02, 2010

point for science!

As we know, I'm a bit of a science dork but have used that to my advantage and have translated it into a job. So it may not surprise you that I found the following story somewhat satisfying (link to full story).

Back in 1998 the Lancet (the British medical journal) published a study by Wakefield that linked the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to autism spectrum disorder. This study was conducted in TWELVE (yes, twelve...not 12 000, 1 200 or even 120!) kids with colitis and implied that the vaccine caused colitis and that the complications related to that, caused autism spectrum disorder.

What happened? People panicked. Parents stopped vaccinating their children and guess what? Their kids got the measles. Since the study was published, there have been absolutely NO studies that could confirm the link. In fact pretty much all of the evidence published before AND after that study found that no, the MMR vaccine cannot be linked to autism.  In fact, some of Wakefield's colleagues disassociated themselves from both Wakefield and the study.

Did we hear much about all of the "no, this does not cause autism" side? No. No we didn't. Instead, we heard from Jenny McCarthy and then even MORE people stopped vaccinating their kids.

So today, news breaks that the Lancet has retracted the original article by Wakefield saying that he pretty much lied about too many things. The way he said the children were referred was false and the study was not in fact approved by a local ethics committee. Ethics approval- that's a pretty big one to lie about. Speaking of ethics though- the guy clearly had none- he took blood samples for study from the kids at his son's BIRTHDAY PARTY.  Seriously dude...not cool

Most people who have read the study, questioned the methodology in the first place, but of course that isn't nearly as sensational as "MMR vaccine causes autism!". So it is nice that not only has the publication of this study been retracted, but that the media is actually paying attention to it.

While I'm not sure it will undo all the damage the original study and publicity has done, I say POINT- science.

In other news, I was out running today and had stopped at a light. It was a fairly fast paced run, so I was breathing a little heavily but nothing crazy. Just as I was about to cross the street, a guy walks up to me and says "you shouldn't be running in this cold weather...it will damage your lungs". I thanked him for his concern and then kept on running. But it kind of got me thinking "gee, I'm pretty sure that the exhaust from the bus that just drove by is worse for my lungs than this cold air is". While I know that he's just one of those guys who just needs to tell you that what you're doing is wrong and I really don't care, I kind of wonder what he expected me to do- turn around and walk home?


S said...

I had the same reaction to seeing that story yesterday. Happily, I have yet to hear any reaction from Jenny M, even though I have previously seen her interviewed on regular evening news casts as though she is an autism expert.

Here's hoping kids dying from the measles goes back to being a thing of the past.

lu said...

i wonder how it got published in the first place? i think the bigger shame in this whole incident is that our academic research principles have been shaken and it might mean trust is lost in future studies. those idiots.

speaking of research, i am reading a great book right now called Wisdom of Whores, which is all about epidemiology and am loving it! will do a review on my blog when i am done.

Runner Leana said...

Yay for science!! It should be interesting to see what the anti-vaccination folks have to say about this.

Running in cold air is bad for your lungs? Oh well, I'm sure there are a lot worse things you could do...

Leslie's Keith said...

Damaging lungs by running in cold is an Urban Myth...lungs do not freeze from intake of cold air...but whatever you do...do NOT suck on the exhaust pipe of that bus!

Out for a wonderful run in the snowy cold...

Keith ;)

k said...

Yeah, there's definitely nothing wrong (or dangerous) about the cold air in my lungs except that it contained bus fumes :)

As for the research, I think that MOST researchers run their studies with integrity. It is just too bad that not all of the bad ones get caught.

kris said...