• Preventable diseasesDeclaring Vaccine Hesitancy One of the Ten Biggest Health Threats in 2019 Is Unhelpful

    By Christine Stabell Benn

    The rhetoric is well-known: vaccines work, the science is settled, vaccine-hesitant parents are uninformed or misguided victims of the social media platforms where crooks spread fake science. It is taken as a given that vaccines are similarly and uniformly beneficial – aside from rare side effects – and no sane person would question that. But are vaccines similarly and uniformly beneficial? There is no doubt that vaccines can induce immunological “memory” against their target disease. And, at the population level, this reduces the risk of getting the target disease. Vaccine led to the eradication of smallpox, and we are close to eradicating two other serious infections: polio and measles. But we don’t have a lot of evidence about the overall health effects of vaccines. Everybody has been so sure that vaccines only protected against the target infection, nothing else, and so nobody studied the overall health effects. They were simply assumed to be proportionally beneficial. We do not have the evidence for all vaccines to tell vaccine-hesitant parents that it is overall beneficial for their child to receive each one of them. Rather, we have to acknowledge that there are things about vaccines that have not been investigated very well.

  • SuperbugsPowerful Potential Weapon May Overcome Antibiotic Resistance

    UNC School of Medicine researchers led by Brian Conlon, PhD, discover how molecules called rhamnolipids could make common aminoglycoside antibiotics effective against the toughest Staph infections.

  • Perspective: Biological warfareBashar al-Assad’s Updated, Sinister Version of Biological Warfare

    Biological warfare is generally understood as the deliberate wartime introduction of a lethal pathogen with the intent to kill or maim. Syria under President Bashar al-Assad is pursuing a sinister variation—one with long and dangerous historical precedents. Assad’s government has allowed pathogens normally controlled by public health measures—such as clean water, sanitation, waste disposal, vaccination, and infection control—to emerge as biological weapons through the deliberate destruction and withholding of those measures. The conflict has in effect reversed public health advances to achieve levels of disease not seen since the Napoleonic era.

  • Public healthGerman law would require measles vaccination to attend schools, kindergartens, daycare

    German children will have to prove they have had a measles vaccination before they would be allowed to attend kindergarten or go to school. A new draft law imposes steep fines on parents who refuse to immunize their children.

  • SuperbugsUN agency launches new vehicle to fund antimicrobial resistance

    The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has launched a new funding vehicle meant to accelerate the response to rising global rates of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The AMR Multi-Partner Trust Fund was developed through the joint efforts of the Tripartite—the FAO and sister UN agencies the World Organization for Animal Health, and the World Health Organization.

  • PerspectiveReligion and vaccine refusal are linked. We have to talk about it.

    As measles cases have surged across the US and Europe this year, there’s been a lot of talk about what’s causing the outbreaks. Among the most discussed issues: mistrust of the medical establishment, populist politics fueling vaccine doubt, and the spread of misinformation on social media. A comprehensive survey found that people in higher-income countries were among the least confident in vaccine safety — particularly in North America and Europe. Meanwhile, vaccine trust was highest in countries where preventable diseases still spread, such as Bangladesh and Rwanda. So the further people are from outbreaks, and the more distant the memory of diseases like whooping cough and measles, the more likely they are to shun vaccines. Julia Belluz writes in Vox that the survey also uncovered something that unites some of the communities where outbreaks have been spreading lately, and it’s not as easy to talk about: religious belief.

  • SuperbugsA first: Salmonella resistant to antibiotics of last resort found in U.S.

    Researchers have found a gene that gives Salmonella resistance to antibiotics of last resort in a sample taken from a human patient in the U.S. The find is the first evidence that the gene mcr-3.1 has made its way into the U.S. from Asia.

  • Truth decayRussian trolls, bots spread false vaccine information on Twitter

    A study found that Russian trolls and bots have been spreading false information about vaccination, in support of the anti-vaccination movement. The false information was generated by propaganda and disinformation specialists at the Kremlin-affiliated, St. Petersburg-based IRA. The Kremlin employed IRA to conduct a broad social media disinformation campaign to sow discord and deepen divisions in the United States, and help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

  • SuperbugsNew estimates aim to define the true burden of superbug infections

    By Chris Dall

    Millions of Americans who experience complications from an antibiotic-resistant infection each year. These infections place a substantial clinical, emotional, and financial burden on patients, their families, and the US healthcare system. But just how many people in the United States are dying from antibiotic resistance? Many researchers and epidemiologists wrestle with that question.

  • Considered opinion: Truth decay & measlesA global wave of measles cases fed by conspiracies and misinformation has health officials worried

    By Rick Noack

    The number of people infected with measles keeps rising in the Washington State and neighboring Oregon. Rick Noack writes that “complacency over vaccinations has been accompanied by outright rejection of the scientific evidence on measles vaccines that has saved over 21 million lives since 2000, according to the WHO. Unsubstantiated conspiracy theories on supposedly negative side effects of vaccinations, either against measles or in a broader context, have gained momentum in some communities, in the United States and other countries.” He notes that deliberately spreading misinformation on vaccines to suggest that citizens are being lied to by their leaders has become a go-to recipe of some populist politicians. Thus, after years of railing against vaccines and even proposing a law against them in 2015, Italy’s Kremlin-supported Five Star Movement is now part of the country’s government.

  • SuperbugsWidespread, occasional use of antibiotics linked to resistance

    By Karen Feldscher

    The increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance in the U.S. appears more closely linked to their occasional use by many people than to their repeated use among smaller numbers of people. A new study also found that antibiotic use varies across the nation, and that in areas where particular antibiotics are used more frequently, resistance to those antibiotics is higher.

  • Truth decayThe counties where the anti-vaccine movement thrives in the U.S.

    By Peter J Hotez

    As a pediatrician-scientist who develops new vaccines for neglected diseases, I followed the emergence of doubt over vaccine safety in the general public. Ultimately, in scientific circles, any debate ended when an overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrated there was no association between vaccines and autism. In Texas, however, the anti-vaccine movement is aggressive, well-organized and politically engaged. There are now at least 57,000 Texas schoolchildren being exempted from their vaccines for nonmedical reasons, about a 20-fold rise since 2003. I say “at least” because there is no data on the more than 300,000 homeschooled kids.

  • Truth decayVaccination myths must be debunked: Experts

    An analysis of anti-vaccine witness statements presented during the Texas Legislature’s 2017 session revealed recurring misconceptions that need to be challenged, according to an experts. The experts say that there are five recurring misconceptions about vaccines: that they are ineffective; herd immunity is a myth; vaccines “shed” and cause the spread of disease; the impacts of vaccine-preventable diseases are minor; and vaccine-exempt children are not spreading disease. “Each of these myths is inaccurate and unscientific,” the experts say.

  • SuperbugsRapidly identifying antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”

    When you get sick, you want the right treatment fast. But certain infectious microbes are experts at evading the very anti-bacterial drugs designed to fight them. A simple and inexpensive new test developed by UC Berkeley researchers can diagnose patients with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in a matter of minutes. The technique could help doctors prescribe the right antibiotics for each infection, and could help limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” which kill as many as 700,000 people worldwide each year.

  • SuperbugsSales of vet antibiotics in Europe decline

    A report yesterday from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) shows a significant drop in overall sales of veterinary antibiotics across Europe. The data from the EMA’s eighth European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) report show a 20.1 percent decline in sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals in 25 European Union (EU) countries from 2011 through 2016, with notable decreases in the sales of antibiotics that are critically important in human medicine.