Evolving Bacteria Outsmarts Vaccines

Medical Myth

Story at-a-glance -

  • B. pertussis (whooping cough) bacteria have evolved, becoming vaccine resistant—much in the same way that bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics
  • While the whooping cough vaccine may reduce symptoms in those who are vaccinated, previous research shows the vaccine does not prevent contagiousness - it turns you into an asymptomatic carrier
  • The mumps vaccine isn’t working very well either, further proving that vaccine-induced herd immunity is a fallacy

By Dr. Mercola

Over the past few years, parents of unvaccinated children have been publicly blamed for increasing cases of B. pertussis whooping cough and deaths.

This despite the fact that even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) admits that the rise in reported whooping cough cases cannot be blamed on unvaccinated children because "they are not the driving force behind the large scale outbreaks and epidemics."1

Going back decades, rates of whooping cough have been nearly identical in countries with high and low vaccination rates. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pertussis vaccination rates in the U.S. have remained stable or have increased since 1992.

It's important to realize that the pertussis vaccine has never conferred lifelong immunity to whooping cough—even after multiple doses.2

Other viruses and bacteria, such as parapertussis and RSV (which are not covered by the vaccine) can also be clinically misdiagnosed as pertussis if proper lab tests are not performed, while many cases of pertussis are never diagnosed by doctors or reported to the CDC.

Most importantly, researchers are now realizing that B. pertussis bacteria have evolved and become vaccine resistant. It is reminiscent of the way that bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, thanks to the massive overuse of antibiotics in food production.

Evolving Whooping Cough Bacteria Outsmarts Vaccine

As reported in the featured article,3 after 2012 whooping cough outbreaks, researchers turned to genetics to determine the cause.

The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases,4 analyzed the genomes of whooping cough bacteria, finding that the "acellular vaccine antigen encoding genes are evolving at higher rates than other surface protein encoding genes."

This suggests that the disease is not being prevented with mandatory, mass vaccination programs. According to the featured article:5

"The researchers said that it was happening even before countries like the United States and the U.K. switched from the whole-cell whooping cough vaccine to the acellular whooping cough vaccine, but the evolution of whooping cough bacteria has progressed more rapidly since the new vaccine was introduced a decade ago.

The researchers further added that the old whole-cell vaccine produced longer immunity to whooping cough bacteria than the current acellular whooping cough vaccine and that the current vaccine may be generating an expanded pool of carriers, particularly teenagers."

In 2013, the FDA discovered that while the whooping cough vaccine may reduce symptoms in those who are vaccinated, the pertussis vaccine does not prevent infection and transmission of the disease.

In fact, you can get a series of pertussis shots and still become an asymptomatic carrier who is contagious and can spread the disease to others without even knowing it. That study effectively shattered the long-held illusion of vaccine-induced herd immunity.

Mumps Vaccine Isn't Working Well Either

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As recently reported by Forbes,6 the mumps vaccine isn't working very well either, further proving that vaccine-induced herd immunity is a fallacy.

In the middle of December, more than a dozen NHL hockey players contracted mumps, despite having received their childhood MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccinations. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group told Forbes there are three likely factors at play:

  1. Waning immunity
  2. The vaccine's initial effectiveness (or lack thereof)
  3. The quality of the individual vaccine given

As noted in the article, childhood MMR vaccination may be insufficient to prevent disease in adulthood:

"When the CDC began recommending the vaccine in 1971, they recommended only one dose... The agency didn't begin recommending a second childhood dose until 1991, following a series of measles outbreaks in the '80s... In an outbreak, the CDC recommends that a third dose of the MMR be considered."

According to the CDC,7 one dose of the MMR vaccine has a disease prevention rate of 78 percent, so right off the bat you know it's not going to prevent disease in everyone.

A second dose is claimed to increase protection to 88 percent. But outbreak rates suggest the vaccine's effectiveness wears off, and might be lower than expected to begin with.

In 2010, two Merck virologists filed a federal lawsuit under the False Claims Act against their former employer, alleging the vaccine maker has been lying about the effectiveness of their mumps vaccine (which is part of the trivalent MMR vaccine).

The whistleblowers claimed they witnessed "first hand the improper testing and data falsification in which Merck engaged to artificially inflate the vaccine's efficacy findings." Merck allegedly falsified the data to hide the fact that the mumps vaccine in the MMR shot has in fact significantly declined in effectiveness over the years.

Lack of effectiveness may account for why Penguins captain Sidney Crosby contracted mumps despite having received a booster shot that same year. According to mandatory vaccination proponent Dr. Paul Offit:

"That's surprising, but he could have had vaccine failure, or he may not have developed vigorous enough antibodies. Like all medical products, vaccines are not 100 percent. A vaccine dramatically lowers your risk, but it doesn't eliminate it."

A lowered risk might sound like a good thing, but if bacteria and viruses are evolving and becoming vaccine resistant, mirroring what we're seeing with growing resistance against antibiotics, the entire vaccine program would need a serious review. What if we're misusing vaccines like we've misused antibiotics, creating far worse diseases and reduced immune function in the process?

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Authorities Urge Following Vaccine Schedule Regardless of Actual Value

Unfortunately, health officials are turning a blind eye to growing suspicion that vaccines may do more harm than good, especially for individuals with both known and unknown biological high risk factors that make vaccination especially dangerous for them. Even when the benefit is known to be negligible for some individuals or society as a whole, they still urge everyone to go ahead and "take the shot." Why? In late December, a 37-year old Missouri woman died from complications from the flu, despite getting the flu vaccine.8

After being hospitalized, she initially began showing signs of improvement, but quickly developed a staph infection that led to her death. While this tragic story is played up as evidence for how dangerous seasonal influenza can be, there are a couple of factors to take into consideration before hitting the panic button. First, this year the CDC actually issued a warning saying that the 2014/2015 flu vaccine is a poor match to the influenza A strain causing most cases of influenza this year because the H3N2 strain has mutated.

This means that this year's flu vaccine offers little protection against illness caused by the most prevalent influenza strain circulating this year. Despite that, health officials are still urging people to get a flu shot, claiming the vaccine can make symptoms less severe.

This is ironic, considering the fact that some research suggests the flu vaccine might make you more susceptible to severe respiratory illness. In 2012, Canadian researchers found that the flu vaccine increased people's risk of getting sick with H1N1, and caused more serious bouts of illness to boot. So, could the flu vaccine itself have contributed to the woman's death?

There's no way to know for certain, but I think it's a pertinent question. Moreover, the actual cause of death was not type A or type B influenza strains—it was a staph infection. These kinds of hospital-acquired infections have become increasingly prevalent and deadly because of one thing—antibiotic overuse. So should her death really be blamed on influenza or on the routine misuse of a pharmaceutical product?

Repeated Flu Vaccinations Reduces Vaccine Effectiveness

A study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases9 in September 2014 investigated the effect of influenza vaccination over the course of eight seasons. They found that seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness in children under the age of nine was significantly higher among vaccinated children who had NO prior flu vaccination history, compared to vaccinated individuals with a history of frequent influenza vaccinations.

Similar results were obtained when analyzing data for adults between the ages of 18–49. What this suggests is that, as you keep getting the flu vaccine year after year, your chances of the vaccine not conferring protection increases—and there are plenty of studies showing the flu vaccine does not work as advertised to begin with.

Take the 2012 independent study review from the Cochrane Collaboration10 for example. Tom Jefferson, an influenza researcher with the Cochrane Collaboration told Northwestern.edu:11 "There is no evidence that vaccines can prevent deaths or prevent person-to-person spread of infection." Basically, the evidence suggests that the more you're vaccinated, the less responsive your immune system gets. According to the authors: "vaccine-induced protection was greatest for individuals not vaccinated during the prior five years. Additional studies are needed to understand the long-term effects of annual vaccination."

Red Flag Raised for Universal Flu Vaccine

Flu shots work, or more aptly often don't work, because they are supposed to protect against just three or four strains of type A and type B influenza that public health officials predict will be the strains most commonly circulating in the upcoming flu season. The three or four influenza strains contained in annual flu shots represent a small fraction of the more than 300 influenza strains which may circulate during a flu season, in addition to the many other different viruses that  cause respiratory symptoms the CDC identifies as "influenza-like illness" (ILI).

Vaccine developers working for different pharmaceutical companies in partnership with federal health agencies are racing to create a "universal flu" vaccine that they say will, theoretically, protect against every one of the hundreds of strains of influenza.

However, the discovery12 that vaccinating against one strain of influenza can raise your risk of severe respiratory infection after exposure to a related but different strain of influenza has raised a big red flag.13 This previously unknown effect is now called "vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease."  The  research, which was done on pigs, was conducted by the US Department of Agriculture's Research Service and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The problem can be summarized as follows:

Typically, most flu vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies to the main protein of the flu virus, called hemagglutinin, which is located on the outer shell of the virus. This protein gives you the "H" designation of a given strain, and it is this protein that attaches to the cell it's trying to invade. There are 17 known hemagglutinins and the antibodies created to an H1 virus will not protect against an H3 or H5 virus, and so on. There are also different strains within each of these subtypes, and the artificial immunity you get from a vaccine may or may not extend to all strains of any given hemagglutinin subtype. To get around this, the vaccine industry is trying to boost vaccine-acquired immunity by targeting "stalk antibodies."  

Here's what this means, and why their efforts may end up producing the opposite effect they're seeking: The hemagglutinin is shaped much like a lollipop, with the mutating part making up the head. Researchers have learned that the stem or stalk of the protein, on the other hand, tends to remain fairly unchanged across the various viruses.

This is the discovery that has resulted in the current crusade to develop a "universal" flu vaccine. Vaccine developers believe that by removing the head portion, namely the stalk—i.e. the dominant protein portion of the virus—they might be able to induce cross-reactive antibodies capable of protecting against virtually any influenza virus, regardless of whether it's an H1, H3, or H5, and so on.

However, the flu vaccine research in pigs calls into question the validity of this hypothesis. After giving piglets an H1N2 vaccine, they were then exposed to the H1N1 virus in circulation during 2009. But instead of being protected, the H1N2-vaccinated pigs developed more severe respiratory disease than that experienced by exposed unvaccinated pigs.

As it turns out, the vaccinated pigs had high levels of antibodies attached to the stalk of the H1N1 hemagglutinin, but not to the head of the protein. The researchers are now trying to figure out why this produces more severe disease, but one theory is that the stalk antibodies bind to invading viruses, and help them enter the cells and multiply. This effect was seen in humans in Canada14 and Hong Kong15 during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and in subsequent research on ferrets.16,17 Here, too, ferrets in the vaccine group became significantly sicker than the unvaccinated animals.

Are We Weakening Our Bodies' Ability to Fight Disease?

So the big question is: Are we in fact weakening our overall ability to fight viruses by getting too many vaccines? While this question can apply to any vaccine, it's particularly pertinent with regards to influenza vaccine, which public health officials say we must get each and every year from the age of six months throughout our lives until death. An even larger question, and one which researchers looking at epigenetics have only just begun to scratch the surface of, is whether or not universal use of vaccines can have a generational effect.

One 2013 study18,19 suggests that this may indeed be the case. The study found that infants born to mothers who received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine lose natural, passively acquired immunity from their mothers sooner than those born to mothers who'd been naturally infected with measles. The reason for this is because vaccinated mothers tend to have lower concentration of measles-specific antibodies. Another study20 published in the same issue of the same journal found that, on average, the duration of passive protection against measles was two months longer for infants born to unvaccinated mothers.

Sadly, the authors use these alarming facts to support recommendations to get infants vaccinated sooner, rather than address the elephant in the room, which is whether or not one-size-fits-all mandatory vaccination policies have seriously compromised natural immunity over the past 50 years and will further compromise it for generations to come? Most of the childhood diseases for which children are vaccianted today are not deadly for the vast majority of children.  Moreover, why are we trading a more robust and longer lasting natural immunity for an artificial more temporary vaccine acquired immunity?

How to Protect Your Health During Flu Season

Avoiding serious complications from influenza and resisting other influenza-like illness during the flu season is primarily about taking positive steps throughout the year to maintain a healthy, well functioning immune system. By following these simple guidelines, you can help keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you're far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with or, if you do get sick with the flu, you are better prepared to move through it without complications and soon return to good health.

  • Optimize your gut flora. This may be the single most important strategy you can implement as the bacteria in your gut have enormous control of your immune response. The best way to improve your beneficial bacteria ratio is to avoid sugars as they will feed pathogenic microbes. Additionally, processed foods and most grains should be limited and replaced with healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, olives, olive oil, butter, eggs and nuts. Once you change your diet, then regular use of fermented foods can radically optimize the function of your immune response.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels. This is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency may actually be the true culprit behind the seasonality of the flu – not the flu virus itself. Regularly monitor your vitamin D levels to confirm your levels are within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml. Ideally, you'll want to get almost all of your vitamin D from sun exposure or a tanning bed. Supplement with an oral vitamin D3 supplement to make sure your level is 40-60 ng/ml. Just be sure to take vitamin K2 and magnesium if you are taking oral vitamin D as it has a powerful synergy and will help prevent any D toxicity.
  • Avoid sugar and processed foods. Sugar impairs the quality of your immune response almost immediately. It also can decimate your beneficial bacteria and feed the pathogenic yeast and viruses. Be aware that sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) is present in foods you may not suspect, like ketchup and fruit juice. If you are healthy then sugar can be consumed but the LAST thing you should be eating when you are sick is sugar. Trans fats in most processed foods also play havoc with your immune response.
  • Get plenty of rest. If your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for it to fight the flu. Be sure to check out my article "Guide to a Good Night's Sleep" for some great tips to help you get quality rest.
  • Have effective tools to address stress. If you feel that stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using an energy psychology tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work, to family, to trauma.
  • Get regular exercise. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it spreads. Be sure to stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids, especially water. However, it would be wise to radically reduce the intensity of your workouts while you are sick. No Peak Fitness exercises until you are better.
  • Take a high-quality animal-based omega-3. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. It is also vitally important to avoid damaged omega-6 oils that are trans fats and in processed foods as it will seriously damage your immune response.
  • Wash your hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Be sure you don't use antibacterial soap for this. Antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple non-toxic soap that you can switch your family to. In addition to washing your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If possible, avoid close contact with those, who are sick and, if you are sick, avoid close contact with those who are well.
  • Use natural immune-boosters. Examples include oil of oregano, liposomal vitamin C, and garlic. Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, these do not appear to lead to resistance.
  • Avoid hospitals. I recommend avoiding hospitals unless you're having an emergency and need expert medical care, as hospitals are prime breeding grounds for infections of all kinds—including antibiotic-resistant diseases. The best place to get plenty of rest and recover from illness that is not life-threatening is usually in the comfort of your own home.