Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Much Ado About Squalene

In July, Dr. Mercola's* article on squalene in the H1N1 vaccines was posted at Prison Planet. Since then, info from this article has found its way into many of the fear-mongering articles on the H1N1 vaccine, and of course into online comments (including a few left on this very blog by the Arbiter of All Online Knowledge, Anonymous). I'm not referring, here, to reasoned and informed articles about the real risks associated with flu vaccines. I'm referring to ridiculous alerts churned out by naturopaths and paranoids, usually written in ALL CAPS. Sadly, these kinds of paranoia-pandering articles on H1N1 vaccine are a lot easier to find than science-based articles on the subject.

Squalene is a naturally-occurring oil already present in the human body. It's squalene that leaves fingerprints behind when you touch a surface. It's also found in olive oil. According to Dr. Mercola, however, injecting squalene into the human body (as opposed to digesting it) is hazardous. He contends that injected squalene causes the immune system to attack all squalene in the body, compromising the nervous system. To date, I have not found any scientific research that supports this. If you know of any, by all means let me know. The results from a 2000 study, published in The American Journal of Pathology, indicated that when rats were injected with squalene, they experienced "chronic, immune -mediated joint specific inflammation" (arthritis).

The second-biggest problem with using this study to support anti-adjuvant criticism (the biggest problem can be found at the bottom of this post) is that rodent pathogenesis does not necessarily have any relationship to human pathogenesis. Though we share a lot of DNA, rats are not human and humans are not rats (well, most of the time, anyway). When it comes to adverse reactions to human vaccination, epidemiological studies are of far more value than lab studies involving animals.
This issue has cropped up in anti-vaccine fearmongering before. In 2003, Dr. Mady Hornig seemed to confirm parents' worst fears when he announced that rats suffering autoimmune disorders, when injected with thimerosal (a vaccine preservative containing mercury), displayed autism-like symptoms.
This was a deeply flawed study on several counts (for one thing, autistic humans don't necessarily have autoimmune disorders, so selecting only rats with these disorders was a strange choice indeed). But the biggest problem, again, is that rodent pathogenesis may have no relationship to human pathogenesis.

Other concerns:

Dr. Mercola, Generation Rescue, and other vaccine opponents state that squalene in vaccine adjuvants may have caused Gulf War Syndrome. Trace amounts of squalene were reportedly found in the anthrax vaccine, though this probably resulted from lab contamination rather than vaccine contamination.
Even if there was squalene in the vaccine for some reason, there is no evidence supporting a link between squalene and any of the symptoms reported by Gulf War I vets. The anthrax vaccine is frequently mentioned as a possible culprit, but the anthrax vaccine uses aluminum hydroxide, not squalene, as an adjuvant.
The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses has concluded that Gulf War Syndrome exists and was probably caused not by vaccines, but by pyridostigmine bromide and perhaps pesticides.

This shrill and grammar-challenged essay claims that H1N1 vaccine contains a million times more squalene than the anthrax vaccine (which doesn't contain any).

Austrian journalist Jane Burgermeister contends that "clinical studies published by Baxter’s own scientific team that patented the H1N1 vaccine demonstrate that such adjuvants are, at best, useless." Though numerous studies have shown that they are effective, others (like this Baxter-funded study of the whole-cell Avian Flu vaccine, published last year in The New England Journal of Medicine) have shown that adjuvants did not enhance antibody response. So at this point, the bulk of the evidence is in favour of adjuvants.

This piece by activist Deborah Dupre claims the adjuvant developed by Dr. Jules Freund in the '50s (usually called Freund's complete adjuvant) contains squalene and was found by Freund himself to cause "terrible, incurable conditions" in test animals, including allergic aspermatogenesis, allergic encephalomyelitis, allergic neuritis, and other autoimmune disorders. But Freund's complete adjuvant is not approved for human use. It is found only in veterinary vaccines.
In other words: Freund's complete adjuvant has nothing to do with the H1N1 vaccine. At all.

More importantly: No human vaccine used in the U.S. contains squalene or any other form of oil-based adjuvant. Period. Squalene adjuvants are present in a small number of European vaccines, but the only adjuvant approved by the FDA is aluminum salts, which have been in use in U.S. vaccines since the 1930s.
Adjuvants will not be present in any of the H1N1 vaccine distributed in the U.S.
From the CDC's FAQ page on H1N1 vaccine: "According to current federal plans, only unadjuvanted vaccines will be used in the United States during the 2009 flu season. This includes all of the 2009 H1N1 and seasonal influenza vaccines that will be available for children and adults in both the injectable and nasal spray formulations... There is no plan at this time to recommend a 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine with an adjuvant."

There's really nothing more to say about this.

*Though a trained and licensed MD, Mercola has become a Master of Woo. Serious woo. He advises fans never to eat grains. At all. Ever. He believes that microwave ovens actually change the chemical structure of food, rendering it "unrecognizable" to the human body. He teaches that bras cause breast cancer and should be avoided as much as possible, which sounds a wee bit self-serving to me (and is not supported by any medical evidence).


Eugene said...

Thanks! This was some really useful info!

TK said...

Great piece.

Now I'm fascinated by my fingerprints and keep touching stuff.

Glenn Beck has refused to say whether he's taking the vaccine because he doesn't want to influence people over such an important decision. That, or he wants to scaremonger while making sure he is perfectly safe.

tshsmom said...

This is all well and good, BUT...what about the teeny-tiny microchips? *giggle*

Yup, 1,000,000 X 0 is STILL 0! Why didn't they say that there's a trillion times as much squalene? It's still 0 but it sounds way bigger.

As we already discussed, I'm sticking with "Dr" Mercola on the bra thing. I'm just doing my part to battle breast cancer. ;)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The above posted link to the W.H.O. says that squalene is indeed in some human vaccines-Chirons/Novartis Fluad vaccine has 10 mg per dose (adjuvant does Glaxo's Pandemrix and its AS 03 adjuvant) I think these are just for Euros, though. There might be more human squalene vaccines in development. We wont get any soon.

SME said...

Thanks, Anon. I'll take a look and make changes to the post as needed. But you're right - I don't think there's going to be squalene in U.S. vaccines anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Good grief you sure think you know it all don't you. What a joke this site is. Is this a "mini" It fails terribly. Go get your thimerosal vitamin shot. Paranoia will destroy ya. ;)

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