A clinical trial that examined the potential of the bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine, or BCG vaccine, to reverse even advanced type 1 diabetes mellitus was recently published in a Nature journal. In addition, researchers proposed a possible mechanism describing how the BCG vaccine may enhance the immune system and could stop and reverse the damage that leads to diabetes. But does this constitute evidence that this vaccine can really reverse type 1 diabetes? Spoiler alert – I’m not fully convinced, but my interest is piqued.
The BCG vaccine was initially developed to prevent tuberculosis. It is one of the oldest vaccines available on the market, first used in 1921 (pdf). With the successful eradication of tuberculosis in many countries, the vaccine isn’t used very much anymore, except in countries with endemic tuberculosis.
Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the immune system has an abnormal response to normal cells in the body. Celiac disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, and many other conditions are as a result of an autoimmune disorder. We don’t know what causes the autoimmunity, but there is almost no biological plausibility that any vaccine could induce the disease.
Immune system myths are one of the common claims of the junk medicine crowd, especially the anti-vaccine activists. The pseudoscience of the immune system is pernicious and possibly dangerous.
It’s frustrating that the pseudoscience from the junk medicine crowd claims that this supplement or that food is critical to boosting the immune system – hang out for a day on Facebook, and you’ll probably see way too many memes saying that all you have to do to boost your immune system is eat a blueberry kale smoothie. I still see that dumb banana claim that it cures cancer.
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 invasion of the body by 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. One can claim all day long that downing a few tablets of echinacea will boost the immune system to prevent colds (it doesn’t), it doesn’t make it scientifically accurate. Nor does it create an accurate description of the immune system.
There are so many anti-vaccine religious tropes about the safety of vaccines, that it is often hard to keep them all straight. One of the current ones is that vaccines cause autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Does scientific evidence support the hypothesis that vaccines cause multiple sclerosis?
Well, I have written about whether vaccines cause multiple sclerosis before, and based on the scientific evidence (see here and here), there simply was no link between them. Of course, with the anti-vaccine religion, evidence be damned, they will stand by their claims. All I can do is repeat myself with more and more evidence, refuting their claims.
If you cruise around the internet, engaging with the antivaccination cult (not recommended), you will pick up on their standard tropes, lies, and other anti-science commentaries. One that has always bothered me, not because that it was a lie, but because I had enough evidence floating in my brain that I was wondering if it were true–that vaccines cause diabetes, especially the Type 1 version.
Moreover, Classen seems to come to his beliefs based on population-wide correlations that rely on post hoc fallacies, rather than actually showing causality between vaccines and diabetes. It’s like finding that a 5% increase in consumption of Big Macs is correlated with Republican wins in elections. They may happen at the same time, but it would take a laughable series events to show any relationship.
The link between HPV vaccine and autoimmune diseases is one of the enduring myths about Gardasil. It is regularly debunked by scientists in large scale case control studies, but that never appears to be enough to silence the critics.
Large studies (and this large study) continue to reject links between the HPV vaccine and autoimmune diseases. Now, we’re going to take a look at a recently published article that continues to reject any link.
I have frequently stated that the breadth and depth of vaccine research, which provides solid evidence on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, overwhelms the misinformation, logical fallacies, and conspiracies pushed by the Society for Promotion of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (that is, the antivaccine cult).
The problem with the cult’s demand for better vaccine clinical trial design is really one of several moving targets for their denialism, relying on a form of the Argument from ignorance, claiming that if we can’t absolutely “prove” that vaccines are safe, then it must be absolutely unsafe.
For example, there are literally thousands of articles, ( an example here and was discussed here), that actually provide overwhelming evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines using real science, real statistics, and real hard work. The antithesis of the fake science, bogus statistics, and 2 hours of Google.