HPV vaccine is reducing the rate of cancer

Ok, that’s a bit of a careless title. I’ll admit it. There’s only correlation, not causation.

But ten years ago the HPV vaccine was introduced in Australia, and then rapidly in 130 other countries. Since then the number of cases of cervical cancer have been halved.

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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Fear can drive people to believe the unbelievable

I had an argument with a colleague the other day about engaging people who disagree with you. She said why bother when people aren’t going to change their minds?

I’ve posted a lot about science communication, and being a voice of science and reason in the face of ignorance and fear. Even if it’s aggravating, even if it’s annoying, even if it’s frustrating, if scientist don’t engage than all people are hearing is the fear.

And this article speaks to that fear really really well. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child and fear for their autism, but hearing this perspective makes me even more resolved to keep talking.

So if anyone needs me, I’ll be engaging people on the internet (the wine helps).

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Four vaccine myths and where they came from

One of the many problems with science denial is figuring out where the rumors started.

In terms of the war on vaccination, Science has nicely provided a list of claims and where they originated. Read it here.

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Also as a bonus, see this pediatrician’s response to parents that don’t want to vaccinate their children. His post has recently gone viral (even though it’s been around for awhile), and is worth reading. He especially emphasizes that he is willing to answer every question that parents have about vaccines, but he’s just not willing to make exceptions.

Why Your Dog Can Get Vaccinated Against Lyme Disease And You Can’t

Lyme disease: a bacterial disease vectored by ticks that can cause long-term health issues.

It turns out that a vaccine was developed when lyme disease was first discovered to be a serious problem on Cape Cod. AWESOME! FIGHT THOSE TERRIBLE DISEASES!

But anti-vaccine advocates protested that the vaccine caused arthritis (a symptom which was never seen in clinical trials, and there is no evidence linking arthritis to the vaccine) and in the media backlash it was taken off the market.

So although it exists, and your dog can get vaccinated and live a lyme disease free life, we the people cannot. Read all about it here.

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Life, um, finds a way—except when it doesn’t

This week the LA Review of Books has my review of Unnatural Selection, a nifty new book in which ecological toxicologist Emily Monosson describes how living things evolve their way around the things we humans do to try and contain them.

… the introduction of the insecticide DDT rapidly led to the evolution of resistant mosquitoes, houseflies, and, yes, bedbugs. Decades of farming with the herbicide glyphosate, better known under the brand name Roundup, have led to the evolution of resistance in dozens of weed species. One after another, Monosson ticks off cases, dividing them into chapters corresponding roughly to biological classification. She goes beyond these headline examples to describe lesser-known triumphs of “resistance evolution,” such as viruses evading human immune responses and inadequate vaccination, cancer cells overcoming chemotherapy, and fish that survive water polluted by biochemical toxins.

This hits some of the same themes as that recent review about using evolutionary biology to solve major problems in the coming century, though I might have liked it if Unnatural Selection spent a bit more time discussing the cases when life doesn’t find a way—the myriad reasons we’re in the middle of the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. But I highly recommend the book for the folks in your life who may not realize how personal evolutionary biology can be.

THE Darwin Fish.

Looks like this guy:

Is the cartoon version of this guy:

Cuvier’s Bichir

It walks. It breathes air. And apparently it can adapt to terrestrial life relatively “easily”.

The scientists raised groups of bichir on land for eight months to find out how they would differ from bichir raised in the water. They found that the land-raised fish lifted their heads higher, held their fins closer to their bodies, took faster steps, undulated their tails less frequently and had fins that slipped less often than bichir raised in water. The land-raised fish also underwent changes in their skeletons and musculature that probably paved the way for their changes in behavior. All in all, these alterations helped bichir move more effectively on land.

 

There’s a video too!

Herd Immunity

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Over the past several years there has been a growing trend of parents that are terrified of vaccinating their kids citing reasons such as the debunked link to autism or that it just isn’t “natural.”   A healthcare blog run by several infectious disease doctors called Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention has run frequent stories reporting on the declining vaccination rates as well as problems that ensue because of that, most recently about the whooping cough epidemic in Washington and wondering why Jenny McCarthy has so much influence on national views on vaccinations.

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