Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mockademy of Sciences

This post was earlier cross-posted at Leonid Schneider's site, accompanying a letter from an Israeli clinical immunology professor, hence the nonfrivolity and Explaining Voice. The version there is improved by Leonid's background additions and editing.
The story was subsequently picked up by Dr Gorski at Science-Based Medicine and Respectful Insolence. Huzzah!

I first encountered Professor Yehuda Shoenfeld (author, serial founder of journals, and Conference Impresario) after the retraction of one of his papers for methodological insufficiency. He was not well-pleased, complaining of the damage to his other job as an Expert Witness who testifies for compensation-seeking 'vaccine-damaged' complainants. Indeed, he seemed to be convinced that this testimonial moonlighting was what motivated the criticism and retraction.
Indeed it is [very] strange; after one year of being in the journal and after extensive peer reviews of the paper suddenly we received a letter from the editors that SOMEBODY criticized the paper extensively??, it looks very strange and unprecedented. yet indeed at this time we have used this paper in Court for vaccine compensation to show that autoantibodies penetrate cells. Is it coincidental ????????
In expert testimony to the US Court of Federal Claims, arguing that epidemiologists are all wrong and unexpected heart failure was probably caused by HPV vaccination, "Dr. Shoenfeld’s opinion was that the vaccination was still the reason for the death [by car accident] either because the reporter of information manipulated the data or because the vaccination impaired the person’s ability to operate a car." Special Master Moran noted observed in a footnote:
Dr. Shoenfeld appears to be developing a propensity for selective ad hominem attacks. When researchers such as Dr. Chao find no evidence that a vaccine is causing an increased incidence of disease, Dr. Shoenfeld attacks the integrity of the researcher. However, Dr. Shoenfeld readily accepts the reports of a vaccination preceding the onset of various diseases without considering the bias or prejudice of those reporters.
A 'Professor Schoenfeld' gave evidence in the 1996-2003 £15m "MMR vaccine causes autism" litigation. For further expert-witnessing, I refer you to a post by blogger "Neurodiversity". The context was a curious incident in 2006 when Autoimmunity Reviews (Co-Editor-in-Chief, Prof. Y. Shoenfeld) commissioned an article from David and Mark Geier (struck-off medical malpractitioner) about their quack cure for autism ("mercury toxicity") by chelation and chemical-castration drugs; published it; and then retracted it. Anxieties arose about conflicts of interest because so many editors and authors were testifying for a "vaccines cause autism" etiology in a US court case of the time, the Omnibus Autism Proceeding. Brian Deer wrote more.

So Shoenfeld is identified with the anti-vaccine lobby, at least in the minds of anti-vaccine True Believers. His is the name most touted in tweets as proof that Real Science is on their side (with Drs Exley, Shaw, Gherardi and Luján as lesser authorities). I feel safe in predicting they will make the most of his induction into Israel's Academy of Sciences as a vindication of everything they have said.

It was inevitable, then, that out of Shoenfeld's oeuvre of 1986 papers and 161 book chapters, vaccine-themed publications would attract the most post-publication scrutiny (and the most retractions). Though to be fair, much of that oeuvre comprises literature reviews, and case-study compilations; and what is there to criticise about scouring the literature in search of confirmation for hypotheses? Thus much of the scrutiny that exists - appearing in discussion threads at the PubPeer forum - has targeted regrettable metaphors more than empirical contents.

This Guest Editorial finishes:
"All these papers light the idea that unraveling the soul of autoimmune diseases is like playing chess, and with every discovery, we are adding new moves to the game. The pathogenesis, disease and treatment are the rook, bishop and knight pointing at checkmating ADs."
So autoimmune diseases have a soul, which is evidently knitted, so it unravels. Which is like playing chess... where the disease is the bishop, allied with its pathogenesis (the rook), pitted against the treatment (the knight). This is not any form of chess I am familiar with, so it is just as well that "we are adding new moves to the game".
At the same time it is a puzzle. To which new dowels are being added. That is where the metaphor lost me.
Bonus bad metaphor:

But it may be that I am putting the tail before the dog, or letting the cart wag the horse, or something along those lines. Shoenfeld has also identified himself with the concept of autoimmunity, which he evangelises with prophetic, proselytic zeal, seeking to enshrine it as the heart of medical research and practice. As David Attenborough is to Nature, as Carl Sagan was to the Cosmos, so Shoenfeld is to Autoimmunity and he will not rest content until he hosts a six-part BBC documentary on the topic.

So there are autoimmunity textbooks (Ed. Shoenfeld) and scholarly journals (Ed. Shoenfeld), and the Venice Biennales of the field, the International Congresses on Autoimmunity.

Also, the Academy of [on-line] Autoimmunity. The advertising brings Multi-Level Marketing to mind, or Trump University (with its promises of an entrée to the closed, lucrative world of real-estate dealing), and seems to be aimed at a pool of would-be Autoimmunologists who are vaguely aware that the field exists and are keen to join it at the tier nearest to the top.

Frankly, the invitations to "join the Family" sound rather cult-like... I would worry about the indoctrination and the no-going-back initiation ceremonies, with the branding irons and the sacrifice. I was reassured to find that the main drawcards of the Autoimmunity Network (the Family in question) appear to be early access to the next Autoimmunity Congress and revised editions of Autoimmunity Textbooks, with advertisements for Autoimmunity Review and a side-link to Shoenfeld's biography and CV.

It is undeniable, though, that this sprawling Empire of Autoimmunity is intimately entwined with antivax rhetoric. At the core of Shoenfeld's 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th ICAs in Grenada, Nice, Lisbon and Leipzig, the nuclei they crystallised around, we find (respectively) the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th International Symposia on Vaccines, and these were very much antivax events.

I don't which is more revealing: the endorsement from Claire Dwoskin (who has devoted her life to the abolition of vaccines and funds the cause through her foundation CMSRI), thanking Shoenfeld and the Congress for their contributions to the anti-vaccine cause; or the decision to include her imprimatur in Congress advertising, as supportive of its brand.

These International Congresses are Madrassahs, as it were, in the "Shoenfeld School" of Autoimmunity. I don't want to go overboard about their role in radicalising antivaxxers but their founding father was happy to own that aspect:
Dear [redacted],
Thank you for your inquiry. Indeed, we are planning to hold the 4th International Symposium on Vaccines at the 10th International Congress on Autoimmunity. This symposium is an educational course that is supported by CMSRI, a research institute dealing with vaccine safety among other things. The program of the course is determined by the Congress Scientific Committee. In 2014 EACCME accredited the course for 3 credits. We will apply for accreditation also in 2016. Since the support does not come from a for-profit company of the pharma/medical device industry, rather from a non-profit research and patient-advocacy institution, ICA endorses the ISV as part of its official (pre-Congress) program.
You can read more about the 3rd International Symposium on Vaccines and CMSRI on these websites:
Best regards,
Anna [redacted]
Autoimmunity Congress Secretariat and Personal Assistant
Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, MD, FRCP
Head of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases
Now another hat worn by Shoenfeld was as adviser and voucher for the "scientific and medical accuracy" of The Greater Good, a notoriously one-sided, mendacious piece of movie-shaped anti-vaccine propaganda, funded by Claire Dwoskin. I mention this only because the movie's promoters were so insistent that the International Congresses are primarily a vehicle for antivax agitation:
First is that vaccine safety issues are reaching the mainstream in the scientific community and will feature once again at the 9th International Congress on Autoimmunity taking place this spring in Nice, France. Second is that a true hero in the area of vaccine safety awareness, Claire Dwoskin, of the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute and also a donor to production of The Greater Good, will be honored at the conference with the prestigious AESKU award.
The congress was founded by the esteemed expert on autoimmunity, Professor Yehuda Shoenfeld, who is also recognized as having identified the new ASIA syndrome or autoimmune (autoinflammatory) syndrome induced by adjuvants. Specifically, Professor Shoenfeld and his team identified a spectrum of ailments peculiar to this new syndrome that resulted from the toxic insult of aluminum adjuvants and other toxins. Aspects of the syndrome are symptoms folks in the vaccine safety area know all too well: neurological/cognitive changes and impairment, gut problems, chronic fatigue and sleep problems, muscle weakness and pain, specific autoimmune diseases and much more.

This years’ congress will once again include hundreds of experts in their field presenting their research on over 80 autoimmunity topics to over 2,000 participants from all over the world and the congress will also feature the 3rd International Symposium on Vaccines.
The programs of these symposia show them to be standard gatherings of the "Aluminati" - a familiar group of CMSRI-funded researchers into the hidden damage wreaked by aluminium adjuvants - with Chris Exley and Claire Dwoskin as co-chairs and ring-masters. Readers who do not follow this stuff can be forgiven for not knowing these names (so see here). Most of the presentations are rehearsals for the biennial Keele Meetings on Aluminium (held each following year).

The 3rd Vaccine Symposium featured Stephanie Seneff banging on about the Pineal Gland and how vaccines prevent the opening of the Third Eye; and Lucija Tomljenovic, explaining that HPV vaccines are so lethal because of "A Trojan Horse Mechanism Delivery of Vaccine Antigen Particles to the Brain". And in case you are not yet surfeited with people you've never heard of, I'll just say that Sin Hang Lee was there to promote his unique, proprietorial form of PCR, which can find the fragments of viral DNA in HPV vaccines that all other tests overlook.

The 4th Vaccine Symposium was more of the same:

  • What role do vaccines play in inducing autoimmunity?
  • Are there safe vaccines for genetically prone subjects?
  • Can we vaccinate against autoimmune diseases?
  • What is the role of adjuvants and/or molecular mimicry in vaccines inducing autoimmune diseases?
  • Is it safe to vaccinate patients with autoimmune diseases?

Everything you wanted to know about vaccines and autoimmunity in one symposium.

The symposium is open for all Congress participants at no additional charge. No pre-registration required.​

The liturgical displays of performative paranoia were enlivened on this occasion by the presence of Mark Geier, who has evidently traded in his old chemical-castration autism-cure scamming for new expertise as an autoimmunologist.

The 5th International Symposium on Vaccines (May 6th, 2018, in Lisbon) was perhaps the last to be sponsored by CMSRI (which is suddenly defunct). This time it was chaired by Christopher Exley and Romain Gherardi, and subtitled "Aluminium Adjuvants And Autoimmunity" for the benefit of anyone unsure of the overall message. No-one especially egregious featured in the program.

With this digression behind us, we can return to the nexus of autoimmunity and antivax enthusiasms, which attains a kind of apotheosis in ASIA. This is not the 1980s prog-rock super-band with Roger Dean album covers, but instead an expanse of clinical territory, 'Autoimmunity Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants'. "Adjuvants" is here interpreted in a liberal sense, to include the silicone fillings of breast implants and the less-palpable, perhaps metaphorical additives responsible for Sick Building Syndrome. Thus ASIA subsumes the etiological enigma of "Gulf War Syndrome", by dint of a 2000 report that Gulf War anthrax vaccines contained squalene as an adjuvant (the manufacturers and the US military rejected this claim, and the evidence had long been refuted by the time Shoenfeld relayed it in 2009, 2011 and 2015).

ASIA is also known as "Shoenfeld's Syndrome" in its author's less modest moments. Other authorities tend to reject its validity, and even the coherence of the concept. There is much to be said for this new concept of defining syndromes not by their symptoms but by the purported cause: just by using the name, people have accepted your hypothesis.

Before ASIA, everything was the Anti-Phospholipid Syndrome (e.g. Hughes' Syndrome) until proven otherwise. APS is a shape-shifting clinical entity with a thousand disguises, and caused by vaccines. Still, there are diagnostic restrictions on its scope (so it only accounts for about 300 of nearly 2000 papers), hence the expansion of the boundaries to Auto-Immunity in general.

We should return to ASIA, for it also stakes a claim to side-effects from the MMR vaccine (which contains no adjuvants or preservatives, being a live-virus product) and even from the oral polio vaccine (which is, by definition, not injected). It further subsumes the nebulous phenomenon of MMF, and by extension ME-CFS, which is just a manifestation of MMF with different diagnostic features (at least in France, according to an astroturf lobby-group speaking on behalf of those afflicted with ME-CFS). "MMF" is Macrophagal Myofasciitis: a condition designed to use up all the 'i's left surplus when 'aluminium' is telescoped into the barbarous form 'aluminum'. It is rarely reported outside of France, and outside the circle of colleagues who have been trained to recognise it.

ASIA made its debut in 2011, and received its definitive description in a 2015 volume (sponsored by CMSRI). The groundwork, though, was laid in a 2009 Special Issue of Lupus, with Shoenfeld as co-author of 13 of the 18 papers. Of these, "Adjuvants and autoimmunity" is one of the foundational documents for the genre: it reappeared in extended form as "Role of Adjuvants in Injection and Autoimmunity" in the 2015 compendium. Large sections of text had previously appeared in an uncredited Wikipedia entry and as the Abstracts and summaries of other researchers.

"Similarity Texter" has a nice Bridget Riley pastel palette [h/t WiseWoman]

Moving on, enquiring minds want to know the evidence for the report that the Hep-B vaccine
is the second most common vaccine reported to the USA Vaccine Adverse Events Report System.
Searches for a source lead only to other authors quoting that claim as a fact. Professor Shoenfeld has not responded to comments at PubPeer, on this and other topics.

Considering his "propensity for selective ad hominem attacks", and his response to the queries from "Neurodiversity", perhaps this is for the best.
Dear Rolf,
This issue between the lady and the Geiers is an emotional vendetta and not a scientific issue. The paper was not published in our journal!! We do not need any report to anybody except the authors why their paper was not published. I am aware of this lady “disease” also in other aspects and domains. She writes to all the world and it arrived to at a stage of nuisance. We have decided not to respond to any of her emails letters etc.
Source: Pubpeer
Leonid's additions include this discovery:
For example, Professor Shoenfeld explained how aluminium in vaccines poisons people in a BMC Medicine video interview in 2013. The occasion was a paper in that journal which Shoenfeld coauthored and which contains fabricated data.
And this one:
Incidentally, just before Shoenfeld was put forward as Academy member, Sheba Medical Center advertised for his antivax rants, but had the press release and even its externally archived version purged in May 2019 (luckily, Shoenfeld’s paranoid antivax fans were quick to save screenshots and another copy in March 2019):

Top Israeli Doctor Points to Vaccines as Contributing to the Rising Rate of Autoimmune Diseases

[…] “Throughout our lifetime, the normal immune system walks a fine line between preserving normal immune reactions and developing autoimmune diseases,” says the article. “The healthy immune system is tolerant to self-antigens. When self-tolerance is disturbed, dysregulation of the immune system follows, resulting in the emergence of an autoimmune disease. Vaccination is one of the conditions that may disturb this homeostasis in susceptible individuals, resulting in autoimmune phenomena and ASIA.”
[…] Dr. Shoenfeld summarizes, “…many reports that describe post-vaccination autoimmunity strongly suggest that vaccines can indeed trigger autoimmunity. Defined autoimmune diseases that may occur following vaccinations include arthritis, lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), diabetes mellitus, thrombocytopenia, vasculitis, dermatomyositis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and demyelinating disorders. And almost all types of vaccines have been reported to be associated with the onset of ASIA.”

1 comment:

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

When researchers such as Dr. Chao find no evidence that a vaccine is causing an increased incidence of disease, Dr. Shoenfeld attacks the integrity of the researcher. However, Dr. Shoenfeld readily accepts the reports of a vaccination preceding the onset of various diseases without considering the bias or prejudice of those reporters.

Heads I win, tails you lose.

As a guy who worked with a lot of people with autoimmune maladies (MS, lupus, type one diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis), this guy can go jump in a lake.