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Decades-Old Vaccine Mystery Solved -- Why Did RSV Vaccine Make Kids Sick?

January 13, 2009 | 58,954 views

RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, virus, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, vaccine, immune systemResearchers from Johns Hopkins have solved the decades-old mystery of why a vaccine developed to prevent a common childhood viral infection wound up making kids sick.

The findings provide important clues to how to develop a safe, effective vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the main cause of wintertime hospital stays among babies and young children worldwide, Dr. Fernando P. Polack, the lead researcher on the study, told Reuters Health.

"A big concern for the scientists involved in RSV vaccine development is to make sure we do not repeat the same situation again," said Polack, who is also affiliated with the INFANT Foundation in Buenos Aires.

In the late 1960s, children in Washington, DC received an RSV vaccine in which the virus was inactivated with formalin. Eighty percent of the children given the shot were hospitalized with severe respiratory disease, and two died.

Many scientists had thought the formalin was responsible for the vaccine's problems, but the chemical has been used safely in other vaccines.

For eight years, Polack and his team have been investigating why the vaccine caused the illness, known as enhanced respiratory disease, or ERD.

The problem, they report this month in the journal Nature Medicine, was that the children's antibodies were not binding strongly enough to the inactivated virus to produce a protective immune response. Instead, the antibodies were dragging the dead virus with them, triggering a massive attack by other arms of the immune system.

The inactivated vaccine was only weakly stimulating molecules on the surfaces of cells that are responsible for recognizing infectious invaders and triggering an appropriate immune response, the researchers say. So an effective vaccine would need to do a better job of stimulating these molecules, known as Toll-like receptors, Polack explained.

Most likely, the researcher said, making an effective and safe RSV vaccine will require developing an attenuated form of the virus, meaning a strain that is too weak to cause infection but active enough to stimulate the Toll-like receptors adequately.


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

This finding is a perfect example of how little vaccine makers truly know about their concoctions, and how minor details can put your, or your children’s, health at serious risk.

It’s taken close to four decades to come to a conclusion as to why this RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) vaccine killed two infants and sickened a staggering 80 percent of all children who received it, with Dr. Polack and his team researching the mystery for eight years.

So why did this vaccine, designed to protect against a common respiratory virus, end up causing enhanced respiratory disease (ERD) in nearly all injected?

As described in their report, published in the journal Nature Medicine, the children’s antibodies did not bind to the inactivated virus to produce a protective immune response, meaning their immune system could not recognize the infectious invader. Instead, the dead virus circulated throughout their bodies, triggering a massive immune system attack.

Folks, this is part and parcel of what many pro-vaccine-safety educators have been saying about other vaccines as well – that they can over-stimulate your immune system, and sometimes cause the very disease it’s designed to protect against, or worse. And, when several vaccines are administered together, or in close succession, their interaction may completely overwhelm your child’s developing immune system.

What is RSV, and Do You Really Need a Vaccine?

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a very common contagious virus, striking a vast majority of infants at some point or another by the age of two or three. It is the most common cause of other more serious respiratory infections, such as bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways) and pneumonia in infants and young children. 

Most of the time it will simply produce a cold, and the child will naturally recover.

Please note that RSV does NOT lead to bronchiolitis half the time, as stated in the article above!  

Rather, as per the CDC, half of all bronchiolitis cases are caused by RSV. That’s a big difference, folks, as there are only some 126,000 cases of bronchiolitis and pneumonia combined, in the U.S. each year – not millions of cases of bronchiolitis, as would be the case if half of all RSV infections led to serious inflammation of the airways...   

These stats are echoed by MedLine, who states that about 125,000 children are hospitalized each year in the U.S. with severe RSV disease. Of those, about 1-2 percent die. 

Anyway, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to another important point.

Just like other respiratory infections like cold and flu, RSV infections are most prevalent during the winter season, starting around November and peaking in the month of December.   

This may very well be a very important clue to the underlying problem… 

Could RSV, Like the Flu, be Caused by Vitamin D Deficiency?

As I’ve reported recently, there’s now compelling evidence that influenza is a symptom of an underlying vitamin D deficiency.

Published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection in 2006, the hypothesis presented by Dr. John Cannell and colleagues in the paper Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D makes a lot of sense.

The vitamin D formed when your skin is exposed to sunlight regulates the expression of more than 2,000 genes throughout your body, including ones that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. Hence, being overwhelmed by the “flu bug,” could signal that your vitamin D levels are too low, allowing the virus to overtake your immune system.

The vitamin D levels in your blood fall to their lowest point during flu season, which generally coincides with low-sunlight seasons. Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections.

It therefore stands to reason this hypothesis could apply to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as well.

Researchers have found that 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day abolished the seasonality of influenza. So, I wonder if healthy levels of vitamin D in infants wouldn’t drastically reduce the incidence rate of RSV as well?

Drugs used to treat RSV were identified as one of the most dangerous types of medications given to children and pregnant women in one 2002 report.

I firmly believe we do not need yet another vaccine for RSV, but rather we need to take a good look at our lifestyle choices and quit overlooking such basics as optimal sunshine exposure. It may make all the difference in the world when it comes to the health of you and your child.

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