The debate over vaccines continues as an Italian court ruled in favor of the Bocca family whose nine-year-old son became autistic after receiving the MMR (Measles/Mumps & Rubella) vaccine. I came across this case and felt it was a good idea to report on this as the vaccine debate has been a hot topic here lately. Although the case concluded in 2012, the information is just as relevant today.
UPDATE: We realize the controversy surrounding Wakefield and his study. Please also note that the story about Wakefield being paid to create data to due vaccine makers is a false story. At the time of this false story, vaccine makers were protected from even being able to be sued. He obviously can see no benefit in creating a “fake study” to sue people that cannot be sued. Instead of focusing on Wakefield, observe the other studies involved and the massive growing movement to re-think vaccines based on science and evidence. We also recognize that Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a wide range in how it affects people. A phenomenon due to vaccines could account for some type of Autism on that spectrum. On the other hand we recognize that there could be be some genetic differences within ones DNA that could result in showing behavior and other types of characteristics seen in what we have labelled as Autism or ASD.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a wide degree of variation in the way it affects people.
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BUENOS AIRES – Argentine writer Julio Cortazar once wrote: “Hope belongs to life, it is life defending itself.” This sentiment accompanies news of the first therapeutic vaccine against advanced lung cancer available to patients, which was discovered by an Argentine research team.
Indeed, Argentina will be the first country where the vaccine, called “Racotumomab,” will be available starting in July after it was approved by Argentina’s National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT).
The vaccine does not prevent lung cancer. It is meant as a complement to conventional therapies such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and helps combat the cancer by activating the body’s immune system. As such, it will help treat one of the toughest cancers, which causes 9,000 deaths per year in Argentina alone. It was designed and developed in Argentina with the participation of Cuban researchers over the past 18 years.
“When we started researching, our goal was to develop biological therapies that use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. We thought the product would be ready in five years, but it was much more difficult than we imagined. Still, we continued on. When we look back today, we can see it’s been a long road,” said Silvia Gold, co-head of the Grupo Insud, the consortium that developed the vaccine.
The consortium involves researchers from the public and private sector, including the Quilmes National University, Angel Roffo Institute of Oncology, Garrahan Pediatric Hospital, CONICET, Buenos Aires University, the Center of Molecular Immunology in Cuba, and Argentinian pharmaceutical company Elea Laboratories.
Mimicking the tumor’s antigens
Since the beginning of the project to the completion of clinical trials, more than 100 people from different fields have been involved – from molecular biologists to clinical oncologists. It is now patented in Argentina, the European Union, and the United States. It will soon be available in Brazil and other Latin American countries, as well as, India, Taiwan, South Korea, and Malaysia among others.
It all began with the study of substances called antigens, which are only found in human tumors. Given that they are not found in healthy cells, researchers thought that they could be targeted in a therapy to defeat tumors and prevent their dissemination. From then on, the researchers concentrated on the development of a vaccine that could awaken the immune response in cancer patients and attack cancer cells. They made it so that the immune system would start to recognize the tumors as “strangers.”
The vaccine is an antibody that mimics the tumor’s antigens. Thus, “it makes the immune system work and act against the tumor, without affecting healthy cells. It produces cells and antibodies targeted against the tumor cells. This was demonstrated through in vitro and mice studies. We then went on to the clinical trials with volunteers in three stages,” explained Daniel Alonso, director of molecular oncology at the University of Quilmes and scientific director of the consortium that developed this vaccine.
Clinical trials involving 600 patients showed that the therapeutic vaccine can triple the percentage of patients who live two years after its application, compared to the control group that only received radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Besides the ANMAT’s approval for its commercialization, the vaccine will be presented by Elea’s medical director Roberto Gomez at the annual congress for the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Risks of Edible Transgenic Vaccines
By Prof. Joe Cummins, Isis.org
Early tests of a hepatitis B vaccine in potato were hampered by the low levels of antigen produced in the plant, and by the safety requirement that only individuals previously immunized with injected vaccine should be exposed to the plant vaccine. The main safety concern is that the oral vaccine preparations will induce “immune tolerance”, thereby making the individual susceptible to the hepatitis B virus.
Oral tolerance is a fundamental biological response to ingested antigens, so that it is possible to eat proteins that would produce an immune response if injected. These difficulties appear to have cooled the fervour of clinical investigators and pharmaceutical companies. Though earlier, a vaccine for pig gastroenteritis produced in transgenic corn was claimed to be effective and ready for commercial release by 2003.
The two main concerns over transgenic vaccines are the contamination of food crops through cross pollination and of the vaccine itself in plant debris spreading as dust and as pollutants in surface and groundwater. The vaccine antigen may affect browsing animals and humans living in the area drinking vaccine-polluted water or breathing vaccine-polluted dust. The problem of inducing oral tolerance has already been pointed out above.
There is another kind of immune tolerance that could be acquired during embryogenesis. Burnet and Medawar found that the immune system established the difference between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ molecules in the developing embryo. Exposing the embryo to vaccine will cause the newborn to be tolerant to the vaccine and thus to regard both the vaccine and the infecting pathogen as ‘self’. Individuals born in the vaccine-polluted area may well not be able to produce antibodies to the vaccine antigen, and thus to lack protection against infection by the pathogen.
A number of transgenic plant vaccines currently being developed will be discussed. Cholera toxin gene was introduced into the chloroplast genome of the tobacco, the construction was geared towards high levels of vaccine-antigen production The chloroplast construction allowed 410 times higher antigen production than nuclear gene inserts.
Edible cholera B vaccines were produced in transgenic tomato. And an antigen gene from the malaria parasite in transgenic tobacco has been proposed as a malaria vaccine.
Mice fed transgenic alfalfa with a gene for an antigen to foot and mouse virus were found to produce antibodies against the foot and mouth virus. That study bears careful scrutiny because alfalfa pollen is known to spread to adjacent crops, and pregnant cows and sheep fed on the vaccine crop may give birth to offspring tolerant to the virus.
Transgenic tobacco was modified to produce vaccines against hepatitis B virus and cytomegalovirus. Virus-like particles were produced and concentrated in the tobacco seeds. However, the modified seeds did not provoke an immune response to hepatitis B and cytomegalovirus in mouse. Instead, a strong response to tobacco seed proteins was observed. This unexpected result ought to serve as warning of the unpredictable risks inherent to the transgenic process.
A transgenic potato was loaded with genes for cholera, E.coli antigens and rotavirus enterotoxin, and adult mice were found to produce antibodies to the toxins after feeding on the transgenic potatoes.
The alfalfa mosaic virus was used to produce rabies vaccine in spinach and tobacco. The experiments progressed to having people eat spinach leaves (salad) containing the vaccine. Such vaccines with recombinant viral vectors should have been handled with very great care to prevent the viral vector from recombining and spreading to infect crops in the field.
The rabies vaccination may be important for wild animals and humans, but problems associated with oral tolerance or exposure of children in the womb should be addressed before these vaccines are released to the environment, as the release could actually increase the spread of rabies.