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Of Antibiotics, Vaccines and Superbugs

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Can we liken doctors to sourcerer's apprentices pushing unworkable solutions to problems they should really be helping to prevent in the first place? Perhaps that analogy is not very far fetched.

Just in from the National Vaccine Information Center is an article by Barbara Loe Fisher which discusses the progression from widespread misuse - also called over prescription - of antibiotics to the now equally dangerous proliferation of ever new vaccines to keep in check the bugs created by ... the misuse of antibiotics.

The example is Wyeth's pneumococcal vaccine, Prevnar. The idea with this vaccine was to protect against a number of now antibiotic-resistant pneumococcal bugs that are associated with meningitis. But overuse of the vaccine now seems to result in a new batch of resistant bacteria. Where will all this lead, and isn't it time we got back to basics in health and medicine? After all, both antibiotics and vaccines are excellent business, but they don't seem to be equally good for our health...

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Antibiotic & Vaccine Pushing Doctors Create "Superbug"

by Barbara Loe Fisher

In the post-World War II days of the 1950's, I remember our family doctor came to our house when I
had strep throat and gave me a penicillin shot. By the early 1960's, doctors weren't making house calls anymore but every time my Mom took me to the doctor - whether it was for the stomach flu or a bad cold - the doctor wrote a prescription for a bottle of antibiotics. It didn't matter whether it was a viral or bacterial infection, at the end of the office visit he wrote a prescription for antibiotics.

Today, doctors who listened to drug company salesmen in the 1950's and 1960's and recklessly prescribed antibiotics for every sore throat or sniffle, are trying to blame the deadly increase in antibiotic-resistant superbugs cropping up around the world on the people they told to take the antibiotics in the first place. A quick Google search on the subject took me to a website operated by the Medical College of Wisconsin, which warns that

"Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of the medicines designed to cure or prevent infections. Over time, some bacteria have developed ways to dodge the effects of antibiotics. Widespread use of antibiotics is thought to have spurred evolutionary changes in bacteria that allow them to survive these powerful drugs. The bacteria continue to multiply, causing more harm..... "Our first step toward correcting the problem is to build public knowledge and awareness of when antibiotics work -- and when they don't," said Richard Besser, MD, CDC's medical director of the campaign. "We want Americans to keep their families and communities healthy by getting smart about the proper use of antibiotics."
( http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/1031002561.html ).

Hello, Dr. Besser! Antibiotics are prescribed by DOCTORS. People do not "use" antibiotics without a doctor's prescription. They don't wake up and say to themselves "I think I will take an antibiotic today and help bacteria evolve into superbugs that will kill thousands." No, that iatrogenic problem has been caused by a medical profession too narrow-minded, lazy and self-serving to look beyond drugs and vaccines to a more natural, less toxic and less expensive way to help people maintain wellness and heal from illness.

Antibiotics like penicillin should always have been reserved for the most life threatening bacterial infections. The rest of the time, doctors should have told us to get plenty of sleep, drink lots of fluids, eat nutritious food high in vitamin C and D and seek out non-pharmaceutical therapies so we could get well the old fashioned way and strengthen the natural healing ability of our immune systems.

It is too late for doctors to turn the clock back and refrain from pushing pricey antibiotics on patients for everything from an ear infection to a hangnail. The damage has been done.

However, doctors have an opportunity right now to stop making the same mistake with vaccines. The warning signs have been around for a long time but doctors have a habit of closing their eyes and putting their hands over their ears when they don't want to see the obvious: microorganisms which drug companies and government health officials have targeted for eradication by mandatory vaccine use are evolving into vaccine-resistant strains that may well end up killing and destroying the health of more people than would have been killed or made sick if the vaccines had never been used at all.

Case in point: Wyeth's pneumococcal vaccine, Prevnar.

Prevnar vaccine contains seven of the most antibiotic-resistant pneumococcal strains, although there are more than 80 strains of the organism, which live harmlessly in the noses and throats of most people and rarely cause disease. Why some people go on to develop serious pneumococcal disease is unknown but those with dysfunctional immune systems are thought to be at highest risk. In 2001, the CDC told America that pneumococcal infections cause approximately 700 cases of meningitis, 17,000 cases of blood stream infections and 200 deaths in American children under age five every year, with 35 of these deaths being caused by pneumococcal meningitis (Centers for Disease Control. Dec. 10, 2001 press release: ACIP Votes to Temporarily Revise Recommendations for Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine).

Even before Prevnar was licensed by the FDA in February 2000 and the CDC immediately recommended all babies under two get four doses, drug company officials heavily promoted it as an "ear infection" vaccine. They did this even though their own clinical studies demonstrated a less than 7 percent efficacy for preventing ear infections (Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories. Sept. 25, 1998 press release: New Investigational Vaccine Demonstrates High Efficacy Against Pneumococcal Disease in Children; Kaiser Permanente. May 4, 1999 press release: Investigational Vaccine Is First To Show Effectiveness Against Childhood Ear Infections).

Prevnar's safety was not scientifically well established, either. In the clinical trials that Wyeth conducted with the help of Kaiser Permanente, the experimental pneumococcal vaccine was compared against an experimental meningococcal vaccine. This meant the trial had no true placebo as the reaction profile was unknown for both experimental vaccines, fundamentally compromising the scientific validity of the safety trial. Children in the Prevnar group suffered more seizures, irritability, high fevers and other reactions. There were 12 deaths in the Prevnar group but they were dismissed by trial investigators as "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome." (Wyeth-Lederle Product Manufacturer Insert Pneumococcal 7- Valent Conjugate Vaccine (PREVNAR). Issued February 2000).

Wyeth remains the sole source for pneumococcal vaccine for American children today. Because company officials deliberately targeted the lucrative ear infection market, Prevnar became the best selling new pharmaceutical in 2000 and generated $461M for Wyeth that year. This spring, a Wall Street report entitled "Wyeth profit rises 12%, helped by vaccine sales" reported "First-quarter revenue for Prevnar, Wyeth's vaccine to prevent invasive pneumococcal disease in infants and young children, rose 43% to $617 million. U.S. net revenue increased 16% due to improvement in compliance rates, the addition of 250,000 doses to the CDC vaccine stockpile, as well as price increases." ( Wyeth profit rises 12%, helped by vaccine sales )

Bottom line: The pneumococcal vaccine was developed because doctors had over-prescribed antibiotics for four decades and the most serious cases of pneumoccocal disease were no longer responding to antibiotics.

There is always a big price to pay when doctors fool around with Mother Nature. The Prevnar vaccine that was developed by doctors to solve a problem with antibiotic resistance created by doctors has now created another monster: a vaccine-resistant virulent strain of strep that is causing ear infections in children that cannot be treated with any known antibiotic safe for use in children. This week doctors in Rochester, NY report Prevnar vaccine is becoming "less effective" as vaccinated children are coming down with a new and really nasty type of pneumococcal disease.

An Associated Press article reporting on the new vaccine-induced and vaccine resistant pneumococcal strain of strep said "Because these bacteria easily swap gene components to become even more hardy, new types may emerge that can both escape containment by vaccine and spread throughout the world," Dr. Daniel Musher of Baylor College of Medicine wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine last year." ( Vaccine Tied to 'Superbug' Ear Infection )

Currently, 13 US states mandate Prevnar vaccine for daycare entry: Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia. How many of the politicians who listened to doctors and voted for vaccine mandates in those states, knew that their action would contribute to creation of a "superbug" that may end up killing many more than the 200 children under five the CDC said died from pneumococcal infection every year when Prevnar was licensed?

The most sickening part of this story is that, according to the AP article "Wyeth anticipated this and is testing a second-generation vaccine. But it is at least two years from reaching the market, and the new strains could become a public health problem in the meantime if they spread hard-to-treat infections through day care centers and schools."

WYETH ANTICIPATED THIS WOULD HAPPEN?

In 2000, when Wyeth was hyping Prenvar as an "ear infection" vaccine, why weren't parents told this would happen? Doctors at Wyeth must have been at work on "second and third generation" vaccines since 2000.

Because, after all, there are more than 80 pneumococcal strains which presents scores of opportunities for lots of them to mutate into killer antibiotic and vaccine resistant "superbugs." That should keep pneumococcal vaccine creators and marketeers in the money for at least a century.

Ah, Brave New World. And when will the majority of Americans wake up, stand up, and "just say no" to laws forcing them to serve up their children as guinea pigs while vaccine-obsessed doctors and drug companies ignorantly destroy what remains of the earth's ecological balance and the biological integrity of the human race?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


"Prevnar prevents seven strains responsible for most cases of pneumonia, meningitis and deadly bloodstream infections. But dozens more strep strains exist, and some have flourished and become impervious to antibiotics since the vaccine combats the more common strains. If the new strains continue to spread, "it tells us the vaccine is becoming less effective" and needs to be revised, said Dr. Dennis Maki, infectious diseases chief at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Hospitals and Clinics. Wyeth anticipated this and is testing a second-generation vaccine. But it is at least two years from reaching the market, and the new strains could become a public health problem in the meantime if they spread hard-to-treat infections through day care centers and schools....."It is very worrying," said Dr. Keith Klugman, an infectious diseases specialist at Emory University. "With the eradication of all the other types in the vaccine, this one is emerging....Because these bacteria easily swap gene components to become even more hardy, "new types may emerge that can both escape containment by vaccine and spread throughout the world," Dr. Daniel Musher of Baylor College of Medicine wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine last year." - Maryilyn Marchione, Associated Press (September 18, 2007)

Vaccine Tied to 'Superbug' Ear Infection

Associated Press
September 18, 2007

by Marilyn Marchione

(Original)

CHICAGO (AP) - A vaccine that has dramatically curbed pneumonia and other serious illnesses in children is also having an unfortunate effect:

promoting new superbugs that cause ear infections.

On Monday, doctors reported discovering the first such germ that is resistant to all drugs approved to treat childhood ear infections. Nine toddlers in Rochester, N.Y., have had the bug and researchers say it may be turning up elsewhere, too.

It is a strain of strep bacteria not included in the pneumococcal vaccine, Wyeth's Prevnar, which came on the market in 2000. It is recommended for children under age 2.

Doctors say parents should continue to have their toddlers get the shots because the vaccine prevents serious illness and even saves lives. But the new resistant strep is a worry.

"The best way to prevent these resistant infections from spreading is to be careful about how we use antibiotics," said Dr. Cynthia Whitney, chief of respiratory diseases at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Avoiding antibiotics when they are not needed is the best way to ensure they will work when they are, she said.

Prevnar prevents seven strains responsible for most cases of pneumonia, meningitis and deadly bloodstream infections. But dozens more strep strains exist, and some have flourished and become impervious to antibiotics since the vaccine combats the more common strains.

If the new strains continue to spread, "it tells us the vaccine is becoming less effective" and needs to
be revised, said Dr. Dennis Maki, infectious diseases chief at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Hospitals and Clinics.

Wyeth anticipated this and is testing a second-generation vaccine. But it is at least two years from reaching the market, and the new strains could become a public health problem in the meantime if they spread hard-to-treat infections through day care centers and schools.

"I don't think the new strains are moving fast enough to call it a race, but the fact is that certain strains are increasing," said Peter Paradiso, a scientist at Wyeth Vaccines, the Collegeville, Pa., division that makes Prevnar.

"It is very worrying," said Dr. Keith Klugman, an infectious diseases specialist at Emory University.

"With the eradication of all the other types in the vaccine, this one is emerging."

Several research teams reported on the situation Monday at microbiologists meeting.

A different pneumonia vaccine has long been available for adults but it doesn't work in children, so Prevnar was hailed as a breakthrough. It is used in dozens of countries and had sales of more than $1.5 billion last year. In the United States, it is given as four shots between 2 months and 15 months.

Before the vaccine, many babies and toddlers developed pneumonia, meningitis and serious blood infections that led to hearing loss, brain damage and even death. Drug-resistant ear infections also were a problem.

"Prevnar has done a remarkable job. Over the last seven years, it's prevented thousands and thousands of infections," not just in vaccinated kids but also in unvaccinated family members, said the CDC's Whitney.

But it is a unique vaccine because it covers only seven of the 90-odd strains of the germ. By contrast, measles is caused by one type of virus. Booster shots are needed for chickenpox, mumps and measles because immunity wanes, not because the germ changed.

Prevnar, however, is losing its punch because strains not covered by the vaccine are filling the biological niche that the vaccine strains used to occupy, and they are causing disease.

One strain in particular, called 19A, is big trouble. A new subtype of it caused ear infections in the nine Rochester children, ages 6 months to 18 months, that were resistant to all pediatric medications, said Dr. Michael Pichichero, a microbiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The children had been unsuccessfully treated with two or more antibiotics, including high-dose amoxicillin and multiple shots of another drug. Many needed surgery to place ear tubes to drain the infection, and some recovered only after treatment with a newer, powerful antibiotic whose safety in children has not been established.

Pichichero refused further comment because he has submitted a report to a medical journal. His work was paid for by antibiotic maker Abbott Laboratories and the Thrasher Foundation, which funds projects related to child health.

All 19A strep subtypes tend to be resistant to some drugs and have been growing in prevalence:

- Scientists from a drug company and two labs analyzed more than 21,000 bacterial samples from around the nation and found 19A increasing. Among children 2 and under, the portion of samples that were this strain rose to 15 percent in 2005-2006, from 4 percent in the previous three years.

- A British lab tracking respiratory infections in U.S. kids found that the 19A strain accounted for 40 percent of drug-resistant cases.

- University of Iowa researchers found 19A accounted for 35 percent of penicillin-resistant infections in 2004-05, compared with less than 2 percent the year before the new vaccine came out.

Because these bacteria easily swap gene components to become even more hardy, "new types may emerge that can both escape containment by vaccine and spread throughout the world," Dr. Daniel Musher of Baylor College of Medicine wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine last year.

Some think Prevnar might be destined to be like flu shots that must be periodically updated to reflect new strains causing illness. But each tweak requires new safety studies and more expense.

Wyeth expects to finish testing its updated vaccine next year and to seek federal approval in early 2009. Review can take a year or more, Paradiso said.


British-based GlaxoSmithKline has a similar vaccine in final-phase testing that targets 10 strains common in Europe and other regions.

National Vaccine Information Center




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