MMR back in the News:
That most famous of triple vaccines was back in the news this week. MMR is a combined vaccine against the childhood illnesses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella. It has been alleged to have been associated with both autism and Crohn's disease but neither of these allegations, based on actual medical research, has stood up to further rigorous research. Nevertheless the allegations have made big news over the past few years.
This week the man responsible for the linkage (in the public eye at least) of MMR and autism, Dr Andrew Wakefield came under fire because he apparently did not declare that he was being paid by the Legal Aid Board to determine whether parents of children allegedly adversely affected by the vaccine had a case. This is suggestive of him having a vested interest in the result which lessens the researcher's objectivity. Being objective is critical in science so this news was the medical controversy of the week with a heavy attack on the scientist and the whole MMR issue being labelled as a 'phoney scare'. To Dr. Wakefield's defence sprang the Daily Mail which correctly pointed out that much medical research is undertaken by people with a vested interest in the outcome. The government's vaccine safety bodies are funded by pharmaceutical companies who clearly would love to prove beyond any doubt whatsoever that vaccines are safe. Still the Lancet described Wakefield's original study as 'entirely flawed' and as far as I know that most prestigious of medical journals is not funded by anyone with a vested interest in the matter.
More fishy news
Autism was also in the news this week when the men in white coats in Columbia University warned that pregnant women who eat a lot of tuna might have a higher chance of producing autistic children. Apparently tuna and swordfish can have high levels of mercury and as the developing brain is highly sensitive to mercury poisoning it might be damaged in utero. A proper study will now be conducted on 100 000 Norwegian children to test this hypothesis. If it's true, it will be ground-breaking medical news. For the moment though, I still enjoy my tuna mayonnaise sandwich. Still if I were a pregnant woman, I might not eat huge quantities of fish that might have a high mercury content.
With salmon getting some bad press last month, fish have had a rough time in the news this year. A few years ago it was British meat that was getting the knife thrust into it. Maybe the vegetarians are right after all...Nobody accuses organic vegetables of causing serious diseases after all.
Finally some good news. Melatonin is a hormone that helps us sleep by keeping our serotonin levels down at night. It has been claimed that the highest levels of melatonin are found in young cows milked at dawn. Sainsbury's jumped on the bandwagon and are selling these cows milk as Night Time Milk at 89p a pint! I'd like to see some research that shows that Night Time Milk gives better sleep than other milk. Still our grandmothers used to prescribe a cup of warm milk at night to help us sleep. I wonder if heating up the milk makes the melatonin more effective ;-)
Homeopathic Tip of the Week: Homeopathy & Vaccination
There is no such thing as an 'homeopathic vaccination'. Homeopathic remedies can be made from orthodox vaccinations but there is no proof that they actually give any protection against any diseases. Patients frequently ask me for natural alternatives to vaccinations but I have to tell them that they do not officially exist. If a patient has a bad reaction to an ordinary vaccine, homeopathy can be useful in treating this. The most famous homeopathic remedy for treating the 'never well since vaccination' syndrome, is Thuja. Sometimes a homeopathic remedy made from the vaccine that apparently caused a reaction, can be described. It is wishful thinking however (and neither science nor true homeopathy) to use these homeopathic remedies as 'vaccines'.