Anti-Vaccine Groups Are Not Just Worried About Autism

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Beth Hoffman, B.Sc., graduate studentUniversity of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public HealthResearch Assistant,University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health

Beth Hoffman

Beth Hoffman, B.Sc., graduate student
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
Research Assistant,
University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Vaccine refusal is a public health crisis – low vaccination rates are leading to outbreaks of deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2017, Kids Plus Pediatrics, a Pittsburgh-based pediatric practice, posted a video on its Facebook pagef eaturing its practitioners encouraging HPV vaccination to prevent cancer. Nearly a month after the video posted, it caught the attention of multiple anti-vaccination groups and, in an eight-day period, garnered thousands of anti-vaccination comments.

Our team analyzed the profiles of a randomly selected sample of 197 commenters in the hopes that this crisis may be stemmed if we can better understand and communicate with vaccine-hesitant parents.

We determined that, although Kids Plus Pediatrics is an independent practice caring for patients in the Pittsburgh region, the commenters in the sample were spread across 36 states and eight countries.

By delving into the messages that each commenter had publicly posted in the previous two years, we also found that they clustered into four distinct subgroups:

  • “trust,” which emphasized suspicion of the scientific community and concerns about personal liberty;
  • “alternatives,” which focused on chemicals in vaccines and the use of homeopathic remedies instead of vaccination;
  • “safety,” which focused on perceived risks and concerns about vaccination being immoral; and
  • “conspiracy,” which suggested that the government and other entities hide information that this subgroup believes to be facts, including that the polio virus does not exist. 

Continue reading

Breastfeeding Linked to Less Belly Fat and Smaller Waist Size

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
"Breast feeding... Like its her job." by Jason Lander is licensed under CC BY 2.0 <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0"> CC BY 2.0</a>Gabrielle G. Snyder, MPH
Department of Epidemiology
Graduate School of Public Health
University of Pittsburgh

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Although previous studies have investigated the association between breastfeeding duration and maternal weight change, we still do not know if there is an optimal duration of breastfeeding for mothers in order to realize potential health benefits. Furthermore, these studies were unable to determine whether health outcomes were due to breastfeeding or other health-promoting behaviors, like better diet and more physical activity.

Our study aims to address both points. To test the association between breastfeeding duration and maternal waist circumference, we used traditional regression models as well as two additional statistical methods that allowed us to control for factors that may influence if a woman would breastfeed and for how long. We found that women who breastfed more than 6 months had smaller waist circumference, as well as lower body mass index, one decade after delivery compared to women who breastfed 6 months or less. These results were consistent across all statistical methods.  Continue reading

Timing of Immunotherapy Crucial to Outcomes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tatiana Garcia-Bates, Ph.D. Research Assistant Professor Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Graduate School of Public Health University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Garcia-Bates

Tatiana Garcia-Bates, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor
Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology
Graduate School of Public Health
University of Pittsburgh

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is now a manageable disease with the advent and availability of highly effective, combination antiretroviral therapy (ART). Unfortunately, as soon as ART is interrupted, the virus quickly rebounds to high levels and again targets the immune system. Therefore, new immunotherapeutic treatments are sought to re-program the immune system to control the virus after ART interruption.

In many ways, chronic HIV infection, even when controlled, resembles cancer in how it impacts the immune system. Both conditions for example are associated with immune dysfunction, where the immune cells (specifically T cells) that are supposed to protect our bodies against invading microorganisms or cancers become exhausted and fail to respond effectively. In cancer, effective immunotherapies have been developed to reverse this immune exhaustion to extend the fighting capacity of the T cells.

An example of this is drugs that target immune checkpoints, or “shut down” proteins, expressed on activated T cells, such as the programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor. When engaged, PD-1 sends a negative signal to deactivate the T cell, and this contributes to the immune exhaustion seen in both cancer and in chronic infections. Some cancers express the ligand or the “trigger” for this shut down receptor, called PD-1 ligand (PD-L1). When this interaction between PD-1 and PD-L1 is interrupted, for example by using a blocking antibody, T cells can regain their killing capacity and destroy infected cells or cancer cells. This anti-PD-1 therapy has demonstrated high success against a variety of tumors.

Therefore, we tested this approach in the context of HIV infection using a well-characterized cohort of HIV-positive individuals to see if we could improve their T cell responses to HIV in a laboratory setting.

Continue reading

Aortic Stiffness is Associated with Increased Risk of Dementia in Older Adults

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Rachel H. Mackey, PhD, MPH, FAHA Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Graduate School of Public Health University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Mackey

Rachel H. Mackey, PhD, MPH, FAHA
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Graduate School of Public Health
University of Pittsburgh

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: “Hardening,” or stiffening, of the arteries is a risk factor for heart attacks and other cardiovascular disease. Arterial stiffness can be measured by pulse wave velocity (PWV), because the pulse pressure wave travels faster in stiffer arteries. Stiffer arteries transmit increased pulsatile blood flow to the brain and are linked with markers of silent, or subclinical, brain disease, which are related to increased risk of dementia. However, it was not clear whether arterial stiffening would predict risk of dementia, especially in older adults, who often have existing subclinical brain disease. Therefore, a University of Pittsburgh team, led by Chendi Cui, M.S, doctoral student, and Rachel Mackey, PhD, MPH, FAHA, assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health, analyzed the association between arterial stiffness and 15-year risk of dementia among 356 older adults, with an average age of 78. Study participants were part of the Cardiovascular Health Study Cognition Study (CHS‐CS), a long‐term study to identify dementia risk factors, led by coauthors Oscar Lopez MD and Lewis Kuller, MD, DrPH. In 1996-2000, study participants had had arterial stiffness measured by pulse wave velocity (PWV), brain imaging by MRI, and had annual follow-up visits for cognitive status.

Continue reading