Damned Heretics

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Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

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Bird flu flap continues needlessly. The antidote is Vitamin A, it’s clear

Read the literature, Dr, Fauci, or is that passe? Vitamin C will help, too

The tiresome alarm of bird flu and its threat to decimate humanity world wide – if it evolves to pass between humans directly, which it hasn’t done in eight years, thank God – continues apace. Tiresome because there really is no need to worry, as our readers know.

Turkey is the latest domino to fall. The government promises it will kill as many domestic fowl as necessary to contain the threat:

“21 People Treated for Suspected Bird Flu in Istanbul”:

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The New York Times

January 9, 2006

21 People Treated for Suspected Bird Flu in Istanbul: Report

By REUTERS

Filed at 3:11 a.m. ET

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Twenty-one people in the Istanbul area are in hospital amid fears they have bird flu, newspapers said on Monday, raising concern the deadly disease has spread to Turkey’s commercial hub of 12 million people.

Health authorities expect to receive test results on the 21 people on Monday, the Milliyet daily said.

Istanbul province deputy health director Mehmet Bakar said initial tests on two dead chickens in the Istanbul district of Kucukcekmece indicated they were infected by the bird flu virus, the reports said. A third test was being carried out to determine the definitive diagnosis.

“21 people under suspicion (of having bird flu) have been kept in hospital under observation. Samples have been taken from these people and sent to the laboratory for examination,” Bakar was quoted as saying in Star newspaper.

The first case of the virus jumping from birds to humans outside China and southeast Asia occurred last week in rural eastern Turkey, where three children from the same family died after contracting the H5N1 strain.

* Copyright 2006 Reuters Ltd.

The BBC World News is as usual the most alarmist of all media outlets, showing us a pretty blonde infant surrounded by clucking, black feathered birds in the Turkish countryside as the reporter intones the doom that threatens her.

She looks angelic and untroubled but we know the danger, since she lacks one of the face masks and the alchohol wipes handed out to reporters in the convoy of the health minister to the snow blanketed region where three children have died and five more have been diagnosed just today. The elegant WHO man on the spot reassures the reporter that these are small family outbreaks with no sign yet that the flu has become contagious from humans, but the press is warned to stay three meters away from any bird.

There in the background are the dreaded fowl the locals at first claimed to have gotten rid of, as they strut and jerk through the street, equally unaware of their death sentence. The villagers are told to wash their hands for five minutes if they touch a bird, and a dog which was served chicken is sprayed briefly with disinfectant. But there seems to be some doubt that poor Turkish villagers are doing what it takes to stem the flu before it reaches the European Community. “They are all we have”, says one woman. “They can take the birds but they must give us something to live on.”

Meanwhile Reuters reports that cases of bird flu in humans may have been hugely underreported in Vietnam, which may have seen thousands, not a mere 87 as counted:

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Monday, 9 January 2006, 21:08 GMT

Bird flu cases ‘under-estimated’

Chicken captured for slaughter

The team quizzed nearly 46,000 people in Vietnam

The number of cases of bird flu in humans may have been hugely under-reported, a study says.

Swedish researchers interviewed nearly 46,000 people from Vietnam, where there have been 87 cases of bird flu, the Archives of Internal Medicine reported.

They found that more than 8,000 had had flu-like symptoms and up to 750 cases could have been down to sick birds.

Under-reporting was possible, experts said, but unlikely to be as much as the Karolinska Institute study suggested.

Lead researcher Anna Thorson said the study – the largest one carried out into bird flu to date – clearly suggested the incidence of the virus in humans was much higher than had been recognised.

The conclusions are interesting but not conclusive, as they didn’t take blood samples from the people questioned

But she added: “The results suggest that the symptoms most often are relatively mild and that close contact is needed for transmission to humans.”

The news comes as the H5N1 virus has claimed its first human victims in Europe.

It has been confirmed that two children have died in Turkey and reports have suggested more people have been infected by the deadly flu strain which has killed over 60 people in Asia.

The researchers quizzed the people – randomly selected – in the Bavi district of north west Vietnam, which has been hit by bird flu.

Birds

Some 8,149 people – nearly one in five – said they had had flu-like illnesses in the pre-ceding months and over 38,000 said they kept poultry.

The team then asked about contact with sick or dead birds and concluded between 650 and 750 cases of flu could be attributed to bird contact.

The researchers said while they could not be certain bird flu had caused the symptoms, it was the only virus poultry was affected by which could be passed to humans at the time.

QUICK GUIDE

Bird flu

But Professor Neil Ferguson, an infectious disease expert at Imperial College London, said there were some problems with the research and the indications were that the true level of under-reporting was likely to be lower.

“The conclusions are interesting but not conclusive, as they didn’t take blood samples from the people questioned – so they don’t really know whether they were infected with bird flu or not.”

He added people who did develop flu-like symptoms were more likely to remember contact with dead birds because of the fear over bird flu.

The cliffhanger is whether bird flu will be stopped in its apparently inexorable march towards the US, and – God forbid – us!?

We however are confident that if bird flu does arrive here, by that time Dr Anthony Fauci, Dr Larry Altman or some other medical thought leader will have taken our tip of Nov 20 that Vitamin A is the antidote to bird flu and checked the potential of retinoic acid to halt the deadly TNF accumulation (tumor necrosis factor) which the flu creates in the lungs to fatal effect.

After all it is no secret that TNF is the poison in the lungs in bird flu. The media are onto that, as this example shows from nearly two months ago: “Why the avian flu is so lethal in humans”:

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Why the avian flu is so lethal in humans

Lung cells are 10 times as inflamed as from regular flu, study finds

Sharon Kirkey

The Ottawa Citizen

Friday, November 11, 2005

The bird flu virus that has raised the spectre of a new flu pandemic causes 10 times as much inflammation in human lung cells as regular flu, according to new research.

The finding could explain why H5N1 avian influenza is so adept at causing fatal pneumonia and respiratory distress in people.

“This is the sort of thing you don’t want a human (influenza) strain to have,” says University of Ottawa virologist Earl Brown.

Scientists from the University of Hong Kong, working with researchers in Vietnam, looked at the amounts of a group of proteins called cytokines in human lung cells infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has infected at least 125 people so far in Southeast Asia, killing 64 of them.

When a virus or bacterium invades the body, the immune cells kick out inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. But if the immune system is over-stimulated, it can unleash a “cytokine storm,” causing massive damage to tissues.

The researchers compared the levels of cytokines produced by strains of the H5N1 bird flu that circulated in Hong Kong in 1997, and in Vietnam in 2004, with a human flu virus.

Twenty-four hours after infection with H5N1, the human lung cells contained 10 times the levels of the inflammatory proteins as lung cells infected with a regular flu.

“This tells you what people (infected with bird flu) are dying from,” Mr. Brown said. “It’s the same thing people died from with SARS, this cytokine storm.”

Finding a way to dampen down the immune response could reduce the risk of life-threatening pneumonia and acute respiratory distress in people infected with H5N1.

The research, published today in the journal Respiratory Research, comes as Vietnam confirmed a 35-year-old man from Hanoi who was hospitalized on Oct. 26 died three days later of H5N1 avian flu. It was Vietnam’s first confirmed case since late July. Since mid-December 2004, the country, which is seeing new outbreaks of bird flu in poultry, has reported 65 human cases, of which 22 were fatal.

Earlier this week, Indonesia confirmed two more cases of human infection with H5N1 — a 19-year-old woman from Tangerang, near Jakarta, who died Oct. 28, and her eight-year-old brother, who was in hospital.

According to an update posted on the World Health Organization website, investigators on the ground found signs of sick and dying chickens in the area where the boy lived.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said yesterday it is still not known what type of bird flu strain has infected wild migratory ducks in Quebec and Manitoba. Preliminary results found the birds were infected with the H5 subtype. Officials are still awaiting tests to determine the “N” type of the virus.

The birds — 28 in Quebec and five in Manitoba — were healthy and there is no evidence of flu-related sickness among domestic or wild birds in the areas where they were found.

Flu pandemics result when a bird and human flu mix genes, or when bird flu adapts on its own to spread efficiently from humans to humans.

Understanding what makes H5N1 bird flu so dangerous to people “will lead to new strategies for managing human H5N1 disease and enhance our preparedness to confront pandemic influenza, whether from H5N1 or other influenza A subtypes,” the researchers write in Respiratory Research.

Copyright © 2006 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

All that has to happen is that they put two and two together, and ask Medline for the antidote to TNF.

That is how we, an obscure blog, know that this is the answer, when apparently Dr Anthony Fauci, Dr Larry Altman, and other prominent and celebrated medical authorities do not. But can they not be taught how to use Medline, when it is surely available to them on the nearest NIH or Times’ computer screen?

All it requires is the ability to ask Medline what is the antidote to TNF. No more difficult than Googling. This cannot be beyond the abilities of either Tony Fauci, or Larry Altman.

But it seems that even in this information obsessed day and age no one in high position advising the public on health matters bothers to search the scientific and medical literature any more, though the search is no more difficult than Googling. Apparently they just like adding to it to enhance their CVs. Perhaps they find it too troublesome to read, since it is hardly written in plain English.

Or is it that Vitamin A is not going to make much money for any company or expand any official’s budget? Surely not.

So let us repeat: the easily accessible on line scientific literature clearly shows that Vitamin A stops TNF, which tells us that it will almost certainly alleviate the severity of bird flu unless there is some biological tripwire which no one has seen yet.

Yes, sir or ma’am, with the massed armies of medicine and science in commerce, government, and the academic standing on full alert around the world, and every think tank wonk, media pundit and medical reporter talking non stop about the millions of deaths in prospect, the scientific literature tells us not to worry, the prescription is simple.

To prepare for bird flu, visit your local organic food store and buy some Vitamin A in some form such as fish oil. Put it in your bathroom cabinet. Add a little Vitamin C, just to make sure.

That’s it. Although if you want to save the US some money, and maybe the lives of a few peasants and their children in remote European and Asian countries, you might email your Congressman with this link to our previous post ALERT – Vitamin A is probably simple antidote to bird flu, mainstream literature shows.

Too simple, you are probably thinking. You want references. Well, they are there in that earlier post, but here are a few more to clinch the matter:

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1. Destabilization of TNC-alpha mRNA by retinoic acid in hepatic macrophages:implic ations for alcoholic liver disease. by Kenta Motomura et al. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2871: E420-E429, September 2001; 0193-1849/01 Vol 281, Issue 3.

Retinoic acid is a vitamin A derivative, C20H28O2, and blocks TNF in macrophages, as noted in this paper by University of Southern California School of Medicine researchers. Their study set out to find out the mechanism behind the established fact that Vitamin A depletion results in TNF increase in the blood and vice versa – Vitamin A banishes TNF.

The point relevant to bird flu is that in the liver disease that alcholics suffer from, Vitamin A derivatives are depleted and TNF results. Clearly Vitamin A is needed to inhibit TNF expression.

2. Vitamin A is a useful substance in protecting very young children as a review paper in Clinical Microbiology Reviews of July 2005 (p 446-464) from two Harvard researchers indicates. Eduardo Villamor and Wafaie Fawzi of the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology wrote up “The effects of Vitamin A Supplementation on Immune Responses and Correlation with Clinical Outcomes” with 162 references, finding that Vitamin A was a a good booster to use on very young pre-immune response children (six months or younger) in many circumstances, including accompanying vaccines such as tetanus, diphtheria (probably), measles vaccine at six months, and maybe in improving immune response to other vaccines (not yet studied). They concluded Vitamin A should be given to children of less than six months to help their survival of measles, severe diarrhea, HIV (! – we assume this is because it would help maintain the gut in cases of severe diarrhea and prevent nutrient losses), and possibly malaria and intestinal diseases, as well as head off nutritional blindness.

All this speaks to the value of the current world wide campaign to distribute Vitamin A to small children in approaching a hundred countries.

The authors find studies of the effects of Vitamin A supplements on adults and the elderly are lacking and should be carried out. But it seems pretty clear that Vitamin A is a vital ingredient of the immune response, as well as in the maintenance of epithelia, the membranes covering the body and its organs.

The key mention of TNF is as follows, in the section on “Monocytes/macrophages: All-trans-retinoic acid was shown to decrease secretion of TNF-alpha in murine peripheral blood mononuclear cells and myelomonocytic and macrophage cell lines.”

3. “Decreased vitamin A levels in common variable immunodeficiency: vitamin A supplementation in vivo enhances immunoglobulin production and downregulates inflammatory responses” by P. Aukrust et al, University of Oslo and University of Bergen, Norway. European Journal of Clinical Investigation (2000) 30, 252-259.

“Vitamin A supplementation in patients with low vitamin A levels resulted in interleukin-10(IL-10)and decreased tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) levels, as found in both plasma and monocyte supernatants.”

and maybe a little Vitamin C wouldn’t hurt either:

4. “Ascorbic Acid Blocks the Growth Inhibitory Effect of Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha on Endothelial Cells” by Rubina W. Saeed et al, Lab of Vascular Biology, Division of Medicinal Biochemistry, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Research Institute, Manhasset, NY. Exp Biol Med 228:855-865, 2003.

This is a study relating to atherosclerosis where studies have shown recently that high plasma tumor necrosis factor (THF-alpha) levels and low serum ascorbic acid (AA) levels correlate with artherosclerosis severity. “AA significantly blocks the effects of TNF-alpha on Endothelial Cell proliferation and apoposis, namely by inhibiting TNF-alpha-induced p53 expression and….”

The fact that TNF is responsible for the deadliness of H5N1 flu has been known since the previous outbreak in 1997. Now there is an update from Hong Kong confirming the mechanism:

5. The ability of bird flu virus H5N1 to hyperinduce proinfammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) in primary human macropages in vitro has been known since University of Hong Kong researchers showed this in the flu outbreak of 1997.

Recently they delineated the mechanism involved (the p38 MAPK signaling pathway) in “p38 Mitogen-activated Protein Kinase-dependent Hyperinduction of Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha Expression in Response to Avian Influenza Virus H5N1” by D. C. W. Lee et al in Journal of Virology 2005;79(16):10147-10154.

By coincidence, this afternoon (Jan 9 Thu) CSPAN 2 screened a bird flu panel at the Newseum in Virginia, which featured blonde Nature reporter Erika Check, brunette Maggie Fox from Reuters and a reliable looking if unimaginative gentleman in a suit from the Institute of Medicine.

What was striking were the answers to a question from the audience at the end, asking what sources they relied on for their reports. The Nature reporter said that apart from a Google alert on “bird flu” which collected all the wire stories on the topic, and reading Nature itself, she relied on the WHO and the CDC, which she thoroughly recommended as excellent sources, The Reuters reporter gave an answer similar in this key respect, indicating that apparently the scientific literature is a foreign land as far as these two reporters were concerned, since they never mentioned it, except for Erika’s mention of reading Nature. It seems pretty clear they do not often use literature searches.

As usual, in fact, it appears that bird flu is an arena where just like HIV?AIDS, the blind are leading the blind, and the only experts the experts consult are other experts. No one bothers to read any of the source literature produced by researchers. Meanwhile these tail wagging reporters seem completely unaware of the fact that the WHO and the CDC are by definition politicized institutions with their own agendas, simply because they are bureaucracies with a budget.

Nor apparently do even the researchers read other researchers’ papers much, since none of them have made the connection yet and clued in the experts to the fact that if TNF is the devastating factor in bird flu H5N1, and Vitamin A and C block its production and effect, you get the short, sweet answer to bird flu.

Since we feel it our duty as citizens of the world to give this invaluable finding away without charge, that is, the true answer to the global flu flap which will apparently save the US government some $8 billion and counting, we are confident that we shall be hearing shortly from the White House or Anthony Fauci in the form of a large check.

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