A recent study conducted in Britain on 11 boys and one girl hypothesized that the MMR vaccine leads to a condition in the gut in which non-permeable peptides are absorbed, leading to bowel abnormalities and developmental disorders, mainly autism. Out of the twelve children studied, nine had autism and in eight of these cases parents claimed that the condition appeared shortly after the children were vaccinated. Althoug this may seem like a sound argument against MMR vaccination, one needs to ask whether this finding points to a correlation or to an actual causation. Interestingly, children in Britain typically receive the vaccine at 2 years of age, which is when autism normally appears. Therefore it is safe to assume that some of the cases of autism reported following vaccination were due to the normal appearance of autism and not the vaccine itself. This argument can be further substantiated by the fact that the MMR vaccine was not introduced into Britain until 1988, but a rise in autism had begun a decade before. Furthermore the introduction of the vaccine did not appear to increase the incidence in any way. Despite this evidence, which clearly denies a strong causal relationship between autism and the MMR vaccine, parents are still skeptical as to vaccinating their kids. Vaccination rates have been falling and there is concern that this may hamper the elimination of rubella in Britain, which up until this point was becoming quite probable.
VEE Outbreaks May Now be Predictable
Research at the CDC by Deborah Spotts and John Roehrig indicates that outbreaks of Venezuelan equine encephalitis are predictable based on the virus' sensitivity to interferon. Interferons are instrumental in the clearance of pathogens such as viruses from the body. Certain strains which are not resistant to interferons cannot replicte to the levels necessary for the virus to be transmitted to humans by the mosquito vector. Virus isolated from mosquito vetors can be assayed to establish the virus' sensitivity to interferons. The virus can then be monitered to predict if and when resistance is acquired and take whatever precautions may be necessary to prevent an epidemic.
The rubella virus, like any other virus shows certain sequence variations in its genome in order to optimize its replication abilities in different environments and conditions. Sequencing of the genome can be a major tool for clinicians studying the virus and its related diseases. One such advantage is the ability to identify the formation of new strains of virus that my pose a threat to an immunized population as well as strains that are harmless. A recent example of such technology comes from a child who was born from a woman vaccinated with the RA 27/3 strain while she was pregnant. The same strain was identified, through gene sequencing, on a throat swab from the healthy infant. The conclusion derived was that the vaccine strain can infect the infant during gestation and yet yield no harm. This piece of information is extremely useful in the stride towards eliminating congenital rubella syndrome since it allows for the vaccination of pregnant women, ensuring that they won't become infected with rubella and pass the virus on to their child, while using a strain which is known to produce no birth defects.