Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, oft-retracted anti-vaccine shills

Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic

I often put together articles that are indexes of all of my articles on a particular subject – I have ones on the cunning fraud Andrew Wakefield, the safety and effectiveness of HPV vaccines, GMO facts, and legal and public policy articles about vaccines from Dorit Rubinstein Reiss. I produce them as a one-stop resource on important topics that have been posted on this blog. After my recent article about the 4th retraction from the team of Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, two “researchers’ who push pseudoscience and misinformation to support their anti-vaccine conclusions, it is time to give them their own index article.

I use these index articles to help the reader. If you link to this article, you can click on it to see the list of articles by the Skeptical Raptor that covers important topics. Now, one could argue that Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic aren’t exactly important – no their “research” fails to meet the minimum standards of quality scientific research, and that’s recognized by the frequency of retractions and the low quality of their research.

Of course, I use them personally because this feathered dinosaur is ancient, and sometimes forgets what was written in the past. Of course, I’ve written over 1100 articles over more than 6 years, so there are many times I say, “oh I wrote that?”

Anyway, let’s give you all the fun information about Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic.  Continue reading “Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, oft-retracted anti-vaccine shills”

Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum

anti-vaccine pseudoscience

You’ve got to hand it to the anti-vaccine pseudoscience activists – they are nothing if not dedicated to their religious beliefs. And like the so-called “creation science” religion, which tries to “prove” their evolution denialist beliefs with pseudoscience published in creationist journals, the anti-vaccine religion tries to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous with bad science, pseudoscience, and misinterpreted science.

As of today, I’ve written a dozen or so articles about Christopher Shaw and   Lucija Tomljenovic, contemptible University of British Columbia anti-vaccine pseudoscience extremists. Shaw and Tomljenovic are well known for pushing garbage science to further their anti-vaccine religion. Of course, their “scientific articles” keep getting retracted, despite being published in low ranked journals whose standards rarely exceed “please use a good spell checker.”

Now, we have a new article trying to push the myth that somehow the tiny amounts of aluminum in vaccines are related to autism. Of course, we have hundreds of real scientific articles published in real scientific journals which have demolished the myth that vaccines cause autism. But these persistent anti-vaccine pseudoscience pushers keep trying. Because one of the central tenets of pseudoscience is to have a pre-ordained conclusion, and find any evidence, irrespective of quality, to support it.

So we’re going to take a look at this new “article.” I always examine anti-vaccine “research” from two perspectives – first, I take a look at the author(s), the journal, and other factors that might have an impact on our critique of the study. Second, I then critique the scientific data, methods, and conclusions.  So, here we go, into the fray. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum”

Aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – another attempt for something, anything

aluminum adjuvants

Here we go again, another attempt to link aluminum adjuvants in vaccines to something, despite the lack of real evidence for anything. Recently, an attempt by the disreputable pair of anti-vaccine researchers to show a link between aluminum adjuvants and autism was retracted by the journal.

Several researchers have proposed a systematic review (which are considered to be the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research) to determine if there are any links between aluminum adjuvants in vaccines to some medical condition. Read that carefully – this paper does not provide any new evidence, it is merely a description of their reasons for looking at aluminum along with the meta-review protocol.

Mostly, I’d ignore these type of papers, because they aren’t providing us with any new information about vaccines. But in this case, I wanted to point out a bunch of flaws in their reasoning, which seems to indicate a high degree of bias. Therein is the problem – systematic reviews are powerful tools in science-based medicine, but many of these systematic reviews are filled with a large amount of bias. And this study is starting from a very biased point of view. Continue reading “Aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – another attempt for something, anything”

Anti-vaccine paper retracted – Shaw and Tomljenovic lose again

Anti-vaccine paper retracted

A few weeks ago, I wrote a critical analysis of a paper by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic published in Inorganic Biochemistry that tried to convince us that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines caused autism. Predictably, it’s another anti-vaccine paper retracted by another journal.

Shaw and Tomljenovic have quite a history in retracted anti-vaccine articles. Last year, they wrote an article about aluminum adjuvants in the HPV vaccine – it was retracted, and eventually republished almost word-for-word in an inferior journal.

According to Retraction Watch, Inorganic Biochemistry’s editor, John Dawson of the University of South Carolina, stated that:

The paper by Shaw and co-workers is being retracted jointly by the authors and the editor.

Yup, another anti-vaccine paper retracted. Of course, the article was roundly criticized in numerous posts across the skeptical universe soon after it was published. For example, the piercing Orac wrote in his blog,

given Shaw and Tomljenovic’s history, it is not unreasonable to be suspicious of this study as well…

At best, what we have here are researchers with little or no expertise in very basic molecular biology techniques using old methodology that isn’t very accurate overinterpreting the differences in gene and protein levels that they found. At worst, what we have are antivaccine “researchers” who are not out for scientific accuracy but who actually want to promote the idea that vaccines cause autism….If this were a first offense, I’d give Shaw and Tomljenovic the benefit of the doubt, but this is far from their first offense.

Orac called the paper, “antivaccine pseudoscience.” Not that anti-vaccine is anything but pseudoscience.

Other bloggers, like The Mad Virologist, who is also an expert on DNA analysis, and the Blood Brain Barrier Scientist, who writes about the blood-brain barrier and heavy metal music, jointly analyzed the paper by Shaw and Tomljenovic. They did a masterful job in looking at some of the technical errors and other issues with the paper. I won’t pretend to summarize what they write, so I’ll use their own summary:

Based on the methods that were used in this paper, Shaw et al. went too far in declaring that aluminum adjuvants cause autism. But there are six other key points that limit what conclusions can be drawn from this paper:
1) They selected genes based on old literature and ignored newer publications.
2) The method for PCR quantification is imprecise and cannot be used as an absolute quantification of expression of the selected genes.
3) They used inappropriate statistical tests that are more prone to giving significant results which is possibly why they were selected.
4) Their dosing regime for the mice makes assumptions on the development of mice that are not correct.
5) They gave the mice far more aluminum sooner than the vaccine schedule exposes children to.
6) There are irregularities in both the semi-quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot data that strongly suggests that these images were fabricated. This is probably the most damning thing about the paper. If the data were manipulated and images fabricated, then the paper needs to be retracted and UBC needs to do an investigation into research misconduct by the Shaw lab.

Taken together, we cannot trust Shaw’s work here and if we were the people funding this work, we’d be incredibly ticked off because they just threw away money that could have done some good but was instead wasted frivolously. Maybe there’s a benign explanation for the irregularities that we’ve observed, but until these concerns are addressed this paper cannot be trusted.

Also, a lot of criticism occurred on PubPeer, a website devoted to a kind of extended peer review of published papers. The commenters were harsh. Oneclaimed that there was a “clear and deliberate” removal of control results in the paper. And many others either hinted or outright stated that DNA gel bands were duplicated, photoshopped or taken from a 2014 paper by Shaw and Tomljenovic (and published in a journal that’s not even indexed on PubMed).

Added to all of this is that the primary author has left the University of British Columbia, where Shaw and Tomljenovic do their “research,” taking all of the data with her. I don’t mean to be cynical, but I will be – yeah right.

As an aside, I don’t know why the University of British Columbia continues to house Shaw and Tomljenovic. They have had their “research” utterly discredited by the World Health Organization. They have had papers retracted. And when they do publish, they’re in low ranked, low impact factor journals. Finally, their “research” is supported by some of the most profoundly anti-vaccine sponsors in the world.  Frankly, the only good Shaw and Tomljenovic do for the anti-vaccine world is to allow those of us who are pro-science/pro-vaccine lots of fodder in embarrassing the anti-vaccine world.

So there we go. Another Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper retracted, and will probably be republished in the Journal of Homeopathy Vaccines (no, it doesn’t exist). By the way, I won the betting pool on when it would be retracted. Hopefully, the shills pay me for winning.

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Aluminum causes autism? Anti-vaccine Shaw and Tomljenovic UPDATED

aluminum causes autism

Every morning I wake up with the vain hope that the vaccine deniers will give up on the thoroughly debunked vaccines-cause-autism tropes. And every morning I’m disappointed. Today’s trope is that vaccine aluminum causes autism. Despite the claims, there still is no evidence.

Two of our favorite anti-vaccine shills, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, have been the subject of scathing reviews numerous times by the feathery dinosaur. And they’re back again, using bad science, trying to convince the world that aluminum in vaccines is somehow linked to autism.

Well, let’s take a look at research, but don’t expect a different result when I last looked at a Shaw and Tomljenovic article about aluminum in vaccines. Which was retracted. Continue reading “Aluminum causes autism? Anti-vaccine Shaw and Tomljenovic UPDATED”

Nine vaccine questions from an anti-vaccine activist

vaccine questions

Some of you may remember the nine vaccine questions from anti vaccine activists answered so capably by Dr. Mark Crislip. Apparently, anti-vaccine activist Lowell Hubbs (who spends a lot of time trolling the comments section of this website) came up with his own set of nine new vaccine questions – which have no more validity than the original nine. In a post titled “9 Questions For The Pro-Vaxers” – to which I would rather not link here, but if you come across it, you will recognize it (we decided that few the thousand readers of this post shouldn’t have any incentive to click on a link to his website).

Let’s take a look at Hubbs’ nine vaccine questions, and provide the appropriate answers.

Continue reading “Nine vaccine questions from an anti-vaccine activist”

Italian court vaccine autism ruling – caused by unreliable expert

Italian court vaccine autism

On the 23 of September, 2014 a judge in the Labor Court of Milan awarded compensation (pdf, translated from Italian) to a child on the theory that the hexavalent vaccine manufactured by GSK – which protects children against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, invasive disease Haemophilus influenzae type B and hepatitis B – caused the child’s autism. Essentially, the Italian court vaccine autism ruling seemed to state that vaccines caused autism.

The decision was based on an expert’s opinion that made several extremely problematic arguments, arguments that go against the scientific evidence. It has been criticized by the Italian scientific community (translated summary, pdf), and is, apparently, being appealed.

This post explains the reasoning of the decision, and why it is fundamentally flawed.

Continue reading “Italian court vaccine autism ruling – caused by unreliable expert”

Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking

Aluminum adjuvant

With the success of California’s vaccination law, SB277, there appears to be a trend to increase vaccination uptake among school-aged children. And it’s a great thing that we protect our children from vaccine preventable diseases. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd is still looking for lame excuses to not vaccinate – today, it’s the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines.

The anti-vaccine crowd has a tendency to ignore the vast and powerful scientific consensus on vaccines. Instead, they prefer to cherry pick research, often from biased “scientists” who publish in the lowest quality journals. That cherry picking is a form of confirmation bias – the individual seeks evidence that supports their a priori conclusions rather than letting the robust body of evidence point them to a conclusion.

Generally, these myths, based on cherry picking, are debunked. But the anti-vaccine cult is nothing if not creative. They just move on to a new boogeyman. This time, it’s aluminum adjuvants in vaccines. To be honest, anti-vaccine tropes are zombies, so we think we destroy those tropes, but they rise again, fed by new cherry picking. And debunking the danger of aluminum in vaccines has been an age-old discussion amongst the pro-science crowd.

Today, we’re going to look at one of those articles which was recently published. If one accepted this research, while ignoring critical analysis and the body of other science, then it would be a great one to confirm one’s own pre-conceived beliefs. But that’s not how we do science, so let’s take a look. Continue reading “Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking”

The Zombie Apocalypse of antivaccine lies–they just won’t die

zombies-vaccinatedThose lies from individuals who push pseudoscience can be likened to zombies. The lies seems to arise out of unscientific, ignorant, and brainless nonsense. The lies keep arising even after scientific skeptics bury them. Of course, the lies are so loud, it really sounds like the groans of the living dead. Oh, and we can’t forget that the goal of these lies is to eat the brains of the innocent people who are trying to understand the real facts about vaccines. Of all of the pseudoscience zombies out there, the vaccine deniers are the worst, because people die from the zombies, much like what happens from vaccine preventable diseases.

There is a particularly annoying and obnoxious vaccine-denying zombie liar who goes by the handle of The PatriotNurse. Now, as you would expect from her name, she is a nurse, but she runs with the anti-government, conspiracy theory loving, pro-gun (and I don’t mean just owning one gun, but having a full armory because of the government and conspiracies) crowd. And she is antivaccination, as you may have guessed. She posted a crazy video on YouTube, which lists out all of the canards and lies of the antivaccine zombies.  

Amusingly, she has disabled comments to this video by stating, “The comments are OFF for many reasons. Foremost is that I refuse to be abused for a contrarian viewpoint that goes against mainstream “Sickcare.” One of the fun things about YouTube is the comments section, where you can cheer for a good music video, or attack someone who posts dumb stuff. But The PatriotNurse refuses to allow her zombie ideas to be shown in the bright light of the day. After watching some of her other videos, I cannot believe someone actually gave her a degree in nursing.

In her vaccine denying, anti-science video, The PatriotNurse uses the standard repertoire of unsupported claims, myths and fairytales that most antivaccinationists use to make their ignorant cases. So, in order of the stupidity of her zombified argument, let me try to chop of its head, and hope the argument doesn’t come back again. Maybe I’m naive about that. Continue reading “The Zombie Apocalypse of antivaccine lies–they just won’t die”

Early onset Alzheimer’s disease ends coaching career of Pat Summitt

 

Pat Summitt's trademarked glare.

Pat Summitt, probably one of the greatest basketball coaches ever, has stepped down as the coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team.  She announced that she had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in August 2011, and she had coached the 2011-12 season, but today, as a result of the disease, she resigned.  During her career, she won 8 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championships, a record that is almost impossible to comprehend.  Her reputation and success is the envy of college sports.  

Early onset AD is usually defined as a diagnosis before the age of 65.  Early onset AD may occur in individuals as young as their 30’s (very rare), but with most diagnoses in patients in their 50’s.  Summitt was diagnosed at the age of 58 (and without knowing everything, she might have had symptoms earlier), so the age of onset is not unusual. Continue reading “Early onset Alzheimer’s disease ends coaching career of Pat Summitt”