BY ANNE VAN RENSSELAER
Mother Nature cleverly designs any gene pool to include pioneers, renegades, warriors and stay-at-homes, whether she's working on animal forms, germs, or algae. So in any pool of a species, there are certain individuals best suited to meet particular challenges.
When we started immunizing against smallpox, we set loose a grand and persistent fantasy that we could eradicate diseases, but germs and Mother Nature are busy doing push-ups in the parking lot while we're sitting in the doctor's waiting room with our babies, waiting to be Nature-proofed.
Have you noticed how often you've read about a newly-discovered strain of measles or mumps or anything else? How many of these are produced inadvertently by laboratory buccaneers? We can't keep up our defense fast enough, and our efforts only drive the pathogens' adaptive changes on; we're forcing the production of "designer genes" in germs that used to be innocuous, by making designer drugs, designer germicides. Are any of our scientists cynical enough to think that triggering a pathogen mutation is "no biggie,"
since they can come up with a new antibiotic or vaccine in response, so the cash cow never dies?
Ma Nature keeps letting us know she will not be bested in this game, but like the classic sucker, we keep signing on for a new round.
When I had polio during the epidemic of 1952-3, only 1 in 4,000 kids in America got sick with it; a tiny percentage of us were paralyzed (only 1%, according to some), but mass hysteria ruled. Did humanity jump too hard, too fast, on the vaccine bandwagon? And as we hopped on board that bandwagon to "save" one in 4,000 from one illness, did that commit us to later blindly shove one in 150 of our babies over the side, to fall by the wayside with autism disorders?
So when conservative medical opinion fondles its beard and mumbles about "Herd Immunity," I find myself muttering, "Yeah, right. Big Pharma stands in line at the patent office, while Ma Nature whistles as she tinkers in her Laboratory." At best, we can accomplish an apparent herd immunity, a momentary herd immunity, but there is no such stasis.
So, as you watch the glorious bandwagon of western medical progress come trundling by, step back a few paces and take a longer, larger view, and see if you can't see a trail of little bodies, blighted lives, broken, exhausted families, behind the great vehicle as it rumbles on. If you're quick, you might even be able to catch some as they fall, mid-air, and take them to a safe place.
I wrote some of that a few days ago, and posted it as a comment on a friend's blog. My son commented in his typically dry way, "My friend Alex just recovered from MRSA which stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. I find it difficult to believe that there was MRSA before the advent of Methicillin."
And my daughter sent me an email reporting an article in The Independent (April 14) in the UK: "INCREASE IN SEVERE PNEUMONIA IN CHILDREN MAY BE CAUSED BY VACCINE" http://tinyurl.com/69skyx Written by the paper's health editor, it describes how Prevnar, a vaccine against seven of the ninety or so streptococcal germs known to cause pneumonia, is suspected of creating new problems: "When one (germ) is eliminated, it creates an opportunity for another to take its place.
In the US, where Prevnar was introduced in 2000, researchers have reported an emergence of "sero-replacement" disease—types of pneumonia not covered by the vaccine." Serotype 1 pneumonia, the strain of greatest concern, develops rapidly, ending in surgery to clean out pus and septic fluid gathered in the pleural cavity between the chest wall and lungs.
"Linda Glennie, head of research at the Meningitis Research Foundation, which is funding the surveillance programme with the HPA (Health Protection Agency, UK), said the challenge was to keep one step ahead of Nature." You said a mouthful, Linda Glennie. We can't even keep up with Nature's artful dodging, so how are we going to keep one step ahead, is what I want to know?
P.S. If someone knows how to let Bill and Melinda Gates in on this little insight about who's in charge (them or Nature), the future might be a better place for children everywhere.