Friday, August 1, 2008

Bruce Ivins was probably NOT testing his vaccine on the public (Part 2)

Where Fox New continues to display obscene amounts of ignorance.

This is one of the most irritating headlines I read on Friday: Troubled Scientist’s Anthrax Attack May Have Been Misguided Attempt to Test Cure

Dr. Bruce Ivins’ research involved creating a better anthrax vaccine. (Why the current one isn’t so great is another post all together.) Theorizing that Bruce Ivins chose to expose unsuspecting people to B. anthracis spores in an effort to test his vaccines effectiveness is ludicrous for the following reasons.
1. The general population is not vaccinated against anthrax disease.
Let me briefly explain why this statement is key. One of the ways that researchers test the effectiveness of a vaccine is by introducing the components of the potential new vaccine into an experimental animal. Subsequently, these same animals are “challenged” with the disease-causing agent that the potential new vaccine is trying to protect people or animals from. At this point, the researchers might compare the survival of animals vaccinated with those that were not. If the vaccinated animals survive, or show a significant increase in survival compared to the non-vaccinated animals, then this potential vaccine might have promise.
Since the general public is not inoculated with Bruce Ivins’ experimental vaccine, how could he have tested its effectiveness by exposing people to B. anthracis spores? This clearly would not work.
2. Bruce Ivins' vaccine is not approved as treatment for human anthrax.
Some vaccines can be administered after exposure to a disease in an effort to aid in recovery. Could this be what Ivins was after? Again, no. If his vaccine were experimental, it would not be administered to people diagnosed with anthrax so its effectiveness in humans would not have been put to the test. Like drugs, vaccines must be approved for use. Bruce Ivins would be aware of all of this. Currently, antibiotics are the most effective treatment for human anthrax.

The only explanation, that the douche bags at Fox News provide for their sensational headline is that Ivins “complained about the limits of testing anthrax drugs on animals.” Many researchers might (and most likely have) complain about this same thing. It just means that since nonhuman primates are NON-humans, you cannot predict with 100% certainty that your vaccine will be effective in humans. It does NOT mean that they want to expose an unsuspecting public to their bacterium or virus of choice.

This story also states that Ivins complained about “the limited supply of monkeys available for testing.” Testing on animals is very VERY expensive, especially non-human primates like monkeys. In addition to the actual purchase of the animal, their maintenance (food, living quarters, veterinarian) is also costly. I obviously can’t say for sure, but this could be part of his “complaint.” It’s at least more plausible than weaponizing B. anthracis spores.

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