Category: Immunity

Guess what: Cancer vaccines don’t cause cancer

We’ve previously discussed the whole “oh-my-god-vaccines-are-terrible” carry-on that seems to have gripped the popular Luddite imagination since, well, since vaccines were basically invented. Well, they’ve been at it again. This time the controversy has related to the tragically young death of a teenager in New Zealand, who died some three months — yes three months — after completing the three-dose vaccination programme for cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil. Her distraught parents blamed the vaccine for their daughter’s death. And they had some neurocientists along at the inquest to support their case. Apparently, the vaccine may have used a Trojan horse and snuck into the girl’s brain… etc. etc.

Gratifyingly, some actual scientists also had a say:

Continue reading “Guess what: Cancer vaccines don’t cause cancer”

If it smells right, do it/him/her

Smell anyone nice lately? Did it make you feel a little, you know, frisky? (That’s another word for romantic, kids.) Well, you are not alone. In fact, the entire rest of the human race is with you on that one. And what’s more, we have evolution to thank for it. Because according to some theories (and, in fairness, to some interesting research studies), natural selection has favoured the evolution of human mate selection through smell. Basically, we have evolved an “if-it-smells-right-do-it” kind of instinct.

This is because the person who smells nicest to you will likely have the best immune system for you. Not only will they live longer with you, but because you and he/she will be so compatible, your offspring will have super-duper-healthy immune systems as a result. Such is the power of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes. Or at least that’s the theory.

Journalists often like to write about these types of theories. In fact, if any theory involves evolution and sex (not an entirely unheard of combination, I grant you), then the media are likely to get interested sooner or later. And who can blame them? It is certainly intriguing. I think readers will genuinely be interested in explanations of their own sexual urges that somehow invoke our troglodyte ancestry. But given that most people’s understanding of cavemen and their sex lives owes no little debt to, well, the way Fred Flintstone used to look at Wilma, such theories (and associated research) can pose difficulties for reporters.

Today’s Irish Examiner did quite a good job of navigating these difficulties. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? After all, I myself was quoted at length throughout the piece. Ker-tish! You can read all about it here. Continue reading “If it smells right, do it/him/her”

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