(Updated to add more information about the anti-vaccination lunatics weighing in.)
When I write postings here, I never search google for information or sources, I always go to trusted locations for my information. For example, if I read a news article on some interesting subject, I check with the original source, usually at PubMed, for medical articles, and the original abstract (at least) for other science articles. I click on nearly every outlink in postings that I read, to confirm whether the information presented is accurate. A google search is practically useless, especially for medical articles, because the amount of cruft and junk science makes it a challenge to sort.
WordPress blogs (which I use) tells the user if a blog posting was searched on google (or Yahoo…does anyone use that anymore?) Apparently, my postings about the LeRoy (NY) neurological show up on google (but not that far up the list, so people must be digging), and I was kind of surprised. This led me to do something that I just vowed I wouldn’t do, I googled it.
In my honored status as a self-appointed skeptic, I want to review some of them for scientific acceptability. I won’t discuss Erin Brokovich’s theory, which I discussed here and the recent neurological hypothesis posted earlier.
PANDAS May Be Cause Of Mysterious LeRoy Illness, Neurologist Claims–PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections, is a term used to describe a subset of children who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and/or tic disorders such as Tourette’s Syndrome, and in whom symptoms worsen following streptococcus infections such as “Strep throat” and Scarlet Fever.” There is no laboratory test for the disease, so patients must meet five criteria before they can be diagnosed.
Dr. Rosario Trifiletti has made a PANDAS diagnosis just by analyzing some laboratory data. But wait there’s more. He presented his diagnosis on the Dr. Drew show, not in a peer-reviewed publication (there are a few that have rapid communications). Others, like Dr. Susan Swedo, who is the branch chief of pediatrics and developmental neuropsychiatry at the National Institute on Mental Health, are skeptical of Trifiletti’s diagnosis:
❝For one thing, PANDAS doesn’t usually occur in clusters. Indeed, Swedo says that she is “not aware” of any epidemics of PANDAS ever occurring. The last epidemic of illness following strep infections — a cluster of rheumatic fever, which is an inflammatory disorder — happened in the 1980s. (Both PANDAS and rheumatic fever are caused by overzealous immune responses to infections; immune cells mistakenly attack particular organs or tissues, in addition to the infectious agents.)❞
Furthermore, a recent review of research in PANDAS came to this conclusion: “Despite continued research in the field, the relationship between GAS and specific neuropsychiatric disorders (PANDAS) remains elusive. It is possible that GAS infection may be but one of the many stressors that can exacerbate tic/Tourette’s or OCD in a subset of such patients.” In other words, this “diagnosis” doesn’t have much going for it.
Leroy New York Teen Tourettes HPV Vaccine Link. No evidence, since we have no information whether they have received the HPV vaccine. And there is no evidence.
Fracking May Be Cause of Le Roy School Girls’ Health Issues. For those of you unfamiliar with fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, it is fracturing rock layers under pressure to release hydrocarbons, mostly natural gas. The process uses a large amount of organic chemicals which can get into the water table. There is no proof that fracking causes any health issues, but it is clearly environmentally destructive. However, the New York State Department of Health has performed a thorough examination of LeRoy High School, most of the sufferers attended the school, and found nothing out of the ordinary.
Is PANDAS Really Vaccine Injury? This was posted in “Sane Vax”, an anti-vaccination website which mostly discussed the PANDAS diagnosis discussed above. The problem with the article is that although the title says “vaccine injury”, the article mentioned nothing further. I think they just tend to throw “vaccine” against every mysterious medical issue, just to make sure it links on google (no, I have no evidence, but the article didn’t make sense in light of the title).
Vaccines Are NOT Involved in LeRoy Illness. Dr. Drew Says So … I’m updating this post, because I ran across this long article on an anti-vaccination lunatic website called VaxTruth. By the way, any time I see “truth” attached to a website, it doesn’t mean what they think it means, and the Skeptical Radar™ redlines. Nevertheless, the anti-vaccine lunatic quotes Dr. Drew accurately:
Dr. Drew just dismissed the possibility that vaccines could be involved in the neurological disorders of students at LeRoy and across the U.S. His statement: “That just doesn’t hold water. I’ve looked into it and if it did, I would be willing to do that [do a study, which is what I proposed], but it just doesn’t hold water. They’ve all had different vaccines. They have not all had the same vaccines.”
No, a vaccine link does not hold water, thank you Dr. Drew. As an aside, VaxTruth seems to put down Dr. Drew for being a TV doctor, yet they accept the anti-vaccination junk medicine from a lot of pop-doctors. I mostly don’t like TV doctors, because they dumb down medicine, and often accept non-evidence based ideas as real medicine. But, Dr. Drew speaks the “truth.”
The author moves on to all of the common anti-vaccination lunacy memes and tropes. Mercury. Aluminum. One of my favorites is the author’s attempt to create a pseudo-epidemiological study using around 50 subjects. Such a small study, poorly designed, would not show cause as it violates the Bradford-Hill criteria, which is considered the gold standard of experimental design to determine causality. Most epidemiologists would reject out of hand any causal link with just a handful of cases at one location. Again, conflating causation and correlation is major scientific error, but one that is a favorite of the anti-science crowd.
Finally, the article drops the Big Pharma conspiracy fallacy. Apparently, Dr. Drew works for CNN which gets lots of advertising dollars from pharmaceutical companies so is influenced by that money. Without any evidence, of course.
Once again, there is no evidence that vaccines have anything to do with the LeRoy kids. None. It would be impossible to find a link, even there was one.
These issues appear to have risen to the top of the google list. As you know, a lot of websites just quote one another, and it appears to be a tsunami of evidence. My prediction: the evidence will probably support some psychological issue.