Hygiene hypothesis — misunderstood, misused by the anti-vaccine world

hygiene hypothesis

If you spend a lot of time with anti-vaxxers, you’ll notice that they tend to misuse a scientific principle, this time, the hygiene hypothesis, which is a description of how early exposure to microorganisms may assist the immune system to avoid allergic reactions to things in the environment.

Although we’ll discuss the scientific evidence in support of the hypothesis later in this article, anti-vaxxers tend to abuse it. They conflate potentially beneficial organisms, such as the gut biome, with dangerous and deadly pathogens, like measles and polio. The former may be a critical component of the hygiene hypothesis, but the latter is not.

Time to tackle this scientifically controversial topic, and put to rest one of the tropes of the anti-vaccine world that all germs are good. They aren’t.

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NFL QB Aaron Rodgers chose homeopathy over vaccines, catches COVID

aaron rodgers covid vaccines

Sometimes my blog posts write themselves. NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers decided to forgo COVID-19 vaccines and chose homeopathy to build antibodies against it. As you can predict, he tested positive for COVID-19.

Shocking, right?

There are two things here that need to be debunked. First, homeopathy, although I know that almost any scientific skeptic knows that homeopathy is pseudoscience. Second, building antibodies without vaccines – can’t be done, but we’ll get to that.

I’m writing this not for you science geeks out there – nothing I’ll write will cause you to exclaim, “Oh my, and I thought homeopathy worked!” But this is for those who may come here to find out if Aaron Rodgers knows anything about vaccines, COVID-19, or homeopathy. He doesn’t.

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You cannot boost your immune system – except with vaccines

person getting vaccinated

COVID-19 has been a windfall for quacks who think that they have the secret power to boost your immune system. The problem for these scam artists is that there really is no way to boost the immune system – well, vaccines do that, but they are targeted to single pathogens, like varicella-zoster virus or SARS-CoV-2.

The problem with these immune system myths is that they overlook or ignore a basic physiological fact – the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, and molecules that prevent the invasion of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens and other antigens every single day. In fact, the immune system works almost perfectly all the time – when it doesn’t, it’s because of a chronic disease or condition, not because you haven’t swallowed a bottle of vitamin C.

And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize the complexity of the immune system, it does not make it so. If it were easy as downing a handful of supplements or the magical blueberry-kale soy milk smoothie for boosting immunity to the novel coronavirus or any other disease, every physician in the world would prescribe it.

Unfortunately, even if we could boost our immunity, we shouldn’t – a hyperactive immune system is frequently dangerous to an individual.

The problem with the quacks is that they don’t know any of the science of the immune system, and they make money when they think you don’t.

This article will try to explain the immune system and how to keep it running effectively without buying the overpriced pseudoscience you might find on the internet or your local Whole Foods. So, I’m going to save you some money and give you confidence in the power of your own immune system.

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Is natural immunity from COVID better than vaccines? Not really.

natural immunity COVID

Another non-peer-reviewed preprint article about natural immunity versus vaccines for COVID-19 is being used as the “gotcha” moment for the anti-vaxxers. And on the surface, the article might be interesting, but it’s being misused. What a shocker.

I’m going to do a quick review of the article, then remind everyone why vaccinations are ALWAYS better than natural immunity. Outcomes from diseases that are prevented by the vaccine must be weighed against the safety and effectiveness of that vaccine. This is a necessary risk-benefit analysis that is required by every procedure or pharmaceutical in evidence-based medicine. And, this is the point that is missed by those pushing this new preprint.

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Flu treatment quackery – it is all woo, so get your influenza vaccine

flu treatment

It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by flu treatment quackery from “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science. During this world of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems to be even louder

This article will attempt to debunk the myths of flu treatments such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of flu treatment pseudoscience.

The one way to prevent the flu, other than hiding in a bubble during the winter (which may be a good thing with the COVID-19 pandemic), is the seasonal flu vaccine. But that’s not a treatment, it prevents the flu.

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Boosting immunity for COVID-19? Only when we get a coronavirus vaccine

boosting immunity

And here we go again. The interwebs are filled with quacks trying to claim that they have something for boosting immunity to protect oneself from COVID-19. Of course, once you read that someone has the magical potion for boosting immunity, you can almost guarantee that it’s pseudoscience and woo.

Boosting immunity is always the go-to for scam artists whenever there is a deadly outbreak or pandemic like we are seeing now. The pseudoscience of the immune system is pernicious and possibly dangerous.

The problem with these immune system myths is that they overlook or ignore a basic physiological fact – the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, and molecules that prevent the invasion of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens and other antigens every single day.

And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize the complexity of the immune system, it does not make it so. If it were easy as downing a handful of supplements or the magical blueberry-kale smoothie for boosting immunity to coronavirus or any disease, every physician in the world would prescribe.

Unfortunately, even if we could boost our immunity, we shouldn’t – a hyperactive immune system is frequently dangerous to an individual.

Yeah, the pseudoscience crowd doesn’t know their immune system.

Continue reading “Boosting immunity for COVID-19? Only when we get a coronavirus vaccine”

Tetyana Obukhanych – another anti-vaccine appeal to false authority

TETYANA OBUKHANYCH

The old Skeptical Raptor took a bit of a break to recharge their batteries to tackle all of the pseudoscience that will be coming out in 2020. In lieu of new content, I will be republishing the top 10 most read articles on this blog during 2019. Here’s number 1 – the queen of the false authority of the anti-vaxxers – Tetyana Obukhanych. 

One of their favorite pseudoscientists of the anti-vaccine religion is Tetyana Obukhanych, someone who appears to have great credentials. Unfortunately, once you dig below the surface of her claims, there is no credible evidence in support. 

One of the most irritating problems I have with the anti-vaccine movement is their over-reliance on false authorities – they overrate publications (often in worthless predatory journals) or commentary from someone who appears to have all of the credentials to be a part of the discussion on vaccines, but really isn’t close to being a real vaccine scientist.

Nevertheless, credentials don’t matter – an “authority” on vaccines must follow the evidence that vaccines are safe and effective unless those “authorities” can provide robust, peer-reviewed, published evidence that vaccines aren’t. Someone like Tetyana Obukhanych almost never does.

For example, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, two researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia, have, for all intents and purposes, sterling credentials in medicine and science. However, they publish nonsense research (usually filled with the weakest of epidemiology trying to show a population-level correlation between vaccines and adverse events) in low ranked scientific journals.

Following in the footsteps of Shaw, Tomljenovic, James Lyons-Weiler, and Christopher Exley, let’s take a look at the background and education of the anti-vaccine hero, Tetyana Obukhanych. Continue reading “Tetyana Obukhanych – another anti-vaccine appeal to false authority”

Measles immune suppression – Tetyana Obukhanych cherry-picking

Recently, I wrote an article about measles immune suppression, a serious complication of the disease, and one of the great reasons to get the measles vaccine. According to two peer-reviewed articles, one published in the prestigious journal Science and the other article in a sister journal Science Immunology, researchers described that measles infections destroyed some immune memory cells, causing the individual to lose protection to some diseases.

Of course, the anti-vaccine zealots’ favorite false authority, Tetyana Obukhanych, decided to deny the solid scientific articles that established one of the well-known complications of measles. It’s not like anyone should take her babbling pseudoscience seriously, but just in case someone does, it’s important that we point out that Obukhanych is wrong once again. Continue reading “Measles immune suppression – Tetyana Obukhanych cherry-picking”

Measles damages the immune system – more reasons for MMR vaccine

measles damages the immune system

It’s been well known for years that measles damages the immune system, one of the many dangerous complications of the disease. That’s one of the many reasons why we are so strongly in favor of the MMR vaccine and so strongly against measles outbreaks.

Of course, the anti-vaccine zealots will continue to believe that “natural” measles infections will confer some super-immunity to their children. Many deliberately try to infect their kids with the disease.

However, this scientific research, published in one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journals on this planet, provides convincing evidence that measles damages the immune system. And we should make sure our children don’t contract this dangerous disease. Continue reading “Measles damages the immune system – more reasons for MMR vaccine”

Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food

bananas prevent cancer

I wrote this article over five years, debunking the claim that bananas prevent cancer, and it remains the most popular article I’ve ever written. It probably gets so much traffic because of the ongoing memes about how bananas will cure every cancer known to man. 

Too many individuals see these memes on Twitter and Facebook, then they accept them as scientific facts. They rarely are. That’s why critical thinking is necessary. 

But if a meme is going to make an extraordinary claim, like bananas prevent cancer, then that claim ought to be backed by extraordinary evidence. But this wild belief about bananas is not even supported by ordinary evidence. It is supported by zero evidence.

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