A Nobel Prize does not mean Traditional Chinese Medicine works

traditional chinese medicine

In 2015, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded the Prize for Medicine to three researchers, one of whom investigated one aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This Nobel Prize continues to be used by TCM advocates as “proof” that it works, and is “real” medicine. In fact, the Nobel Prize does not confer special status to TCM.

One of the winners of this prize was Youyou Tu (see note 1), for her novel work in developing a medicine to treat malaria. Dr. Tu was the first Nobel Prize winner in the natural sciences from China, so she is a groundbreaking scientist in many ways.

Dr. Tu found this potential treatment for malaria through her research into Chinese herbs, which led people to proclaim that Traditional Chinese Medicine has now been “proven.” But not so fast.

What is the relevance of the Nobel Prize and Traditional Chinese Medicine – is there any importance at all?

Let’s take a look at Traditional Chinese Medicine, in general, and Dr. Tu’s work itself. The story is quite a bit more complicated, nuanced, and scientific than you might have read.

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Virus treatments quackery – what not to take for flu, colds, or COVID-19

cold comfort cover cute

It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by virus treatments for everything from the flu and colds to COVID-19. The quackery includes things like “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science.

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

Of course, the best way to prevent the flu or COVID-19 is to get the vaccines. And since these vaccines are free, it’s infinitely cheaper than fake, useless virus treatments.

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Thanks to COVID-19, we beat the flu for the first time in history

a sick man covering his mouth

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a horrible experience for the past two years, but it had one silver lining – beating the flu.

As I have written before, the annual rite of winter life, flu outbreaks, became almost nothing during the 2020-21 flu season. On average, the flu infects roughly 30 million Americans every year and kills over 30,000. Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that over 650,000 people die of respiratory illnesses related to the flu.

As with COVID-19, the elderly, the poor, and people of color are all overrepresented among the victims of the flu. Moreover, the annual economic cost of the flu in the USA averages nearly $90 billion.

Of course, things changed during the 2020-21 flu season. The US had only around 2,000 cases of the flu. No, that is not a typo, there were only 2,000 flu cases in the USA during the 2020-21 flu season. In other words, there were 17,000 times fewer flu cases than the 35 million cases during the 2019-2020 flu season.

During the 2019-20 flu season, 199 children died of the virus. In 2020-21, only one child died.

In fact, other respiratory viruses nearly disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic – respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza, rhinovirus, and adenovirus. I’ve been watching infectious diseases for decades, and this was truly amazing.

So how can we stop the flu once the COVID-19 pandemic is done? And that’s where it gets complicated.

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Germ theory denial – another favorite of the anti-vaccine world

woman in brown dress holding white plastic bottle painting

I have been meaning to write about germ theory for years because a big part of vaccine denialism requires a good bit of germ theory denialism. Some anti-vaxxers want to create an illusion of scientific integrity by attempting to outright reject the germ theory of disease.

Germ theory is one of the central tenets of biology along with biochemistry, cells, evolution, and genetics. It is not some idea that was invented by those of us who support vaccines just to convince people to get vaccines. It is a foundation of medicine and biology that is centuries old.

This article is going to be a discussion of what exactly is germ theory, and briefly show how the anti-vaxxers deny it to “prove” that vaccines are unnecessary.

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Malaria vaccine clinical trials – a breakthrough in stopping a deadly disease

malaria vaccine

Although it may seem like all we talk about are the COVID-19 vaccines, but there’s more going on out there. One is a new breakthrough malaria vaccine that may bring an end to this scourge.

We are still a few years away from this vaccine being widely available, but since control of malaria has been a goal of scientists for a long time, a potential malaria vaccine is something that should be celebrated widely.

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The coronavirus pandemic – just as bad for Trump supporting states

coronavirus pandemic

This article about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect conservative red states was written by a database expert who wishes to remain anonymous.

Among my more right-leaning Facebook friends, the attitude towards the coronavirus pandemic goes roughly like this: “The outbreak isn’t anywhere near as bad as the Liberal Media would have you believe. It’s almost entirely confined to sanctuary cities. Everyone should stop overreacting!”

For everyone else, this attitude seems delusional. But for people who live in right-wing communities, the “it’s not so bad” point of view is actually in line with observed reality. And the way that the media has been reporting on the outbreak actually exaggerates this effect. Continue reading “The coronavirus pandemic – just as bad for Trump supporting states”

Dogs, cats, and COVID-19 – what is the effect of the virus on our pets?

Dogs, cats and COVID-19

As a result of a story where a Malayan tiger in the Bronx Zoo contracted COVID-19, many people have begun worrying about dogs, cats, and COVID-19. Is there a worry? Can our pets get sick from the virus? Can they infect humans with it?

Of course, like everything in science, the evidence is not completely clear, especially since this virus has only been recognized since early December 2019. We still don’t have a complete picture of the pathophysiology of the disease, so answering questions about dogs, cats, and COVID-19 is going to be somewhat difficult.

However, we do have some early data, so I’m going to review it as best as I can. Continue reading “Dogs, cats, and COVID-19 – what is the effect of the virus on our pets?”

Coronavirus prevention – quacks are using the anti-vaccine woo cookbook

You could have predicted that coronavirus prevention quacks would show up on the internet about 4.7 nanoseconds after the disease was found outside of China. Every uptick in reports about the disease causes a doubling in the number of coronavirus prevention pseudoscientific websites.

Of course, the FDA has tried to crack down on some of the offenders, but it’s like Whac-A-Mole – you smack down one swindler, two more show up elsewhere. 

This article is going to list out some (but certainly not all) of the most quack-filled coronavirus prevention woo that I’ve seen. Since I don’t consciously try to find this junk, I may not catch them all.

There’s one thing you’ll notice – almost all of this nonsense is the exact same thing that the anti-vaccine crowd pushes as “alternatives” to vaccines. And as much as they don’t work for measles, flu, whooping cough, and other diseases, they don’t work for coronavirus.  Continue reading “Coronavirus prevention – quacks are using the anti-vaccine woo cookbook”

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.

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Coronavirus quacks get smacked down by the FDA – grifters keep grifting

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the internet is filled with coronavirus quacks who make all kinds of unsubstantiated and dangerous claims about useless treatments. Enter the FDA to give many of them a good, old-fashioned smackdown.

Right now, there is no official protocol for treating the disease, but China, which has the most cases, researchers reported the majority of patients received IV antibiotics to treat secondary infections (it does nothing to the coronavirus). Most patients have also been treated with antiviral oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which is FDA approved to treat influenza, as well as supplemental oxygen.

Of course, the coronavirus quacks, who wouldn’t know much about evidence-based medicine, are pushing expensive, but useless, treatments for COVID-19. And the FDA couldn’t take it anymore. Continue reading “Coronavirus quacks get smacked down by the FDA – grifters keep grifting”