By Helen Petousis Harris 12/05/2018

There appears competition to claim discovery of HPV syndromes.

Another in a list of attempts at assassinating the safety of HPV vaccine has been retracted this week. This time from Nature Scientific Reports. Grant Jacobs has provided a commentary on another just a day earlier. That one is a real doozer, an author with a fake name as well!

I admit this one had flown under my radar when it was published in 2016, so I have just had a read of it now. How it passed the most cursury review by any expert I cant imagine because the background section alone rang alarm bells. You see, it was devoid of science and cited instead psuedoscience to support the study premise (that HPV vaccine causes autoimmunity). No where did the article mention the scientific safety data drawn from over 250 million doses of vaccine. You would think at the very least a passing comment that no epidemiology supports what the investigators are about to undertake would have helped the integity of the researchers who, by ignoring the vast literature, demonstrate either their ignorance of the topic or an alterior motive.

First  up:

Chronic stimulation of the immune system by adjuvants can result in an autoimmune disease characterized by myalgia, arthralgia, chronic fatigue, and neurological manifestations – appropriately named the autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA)

Um, no it does not! There is no evidence for this, never has been. The topic has been reviewed by people using the scientific method (aka scientists). ASIA is a syndrome invented for, what I believe to be, motives other than the advancement of science and medicine, and I have discussed on this blog previously.

Here is the next ill considered conclusion.

According to the HPV vaccination, there are two recent well-documented review articles. Palmieri B. et al reported the occurrence of severe somatoform and dysautonomic syndromes after HPV vaccination9 and Brinth L. et al. also described the onset of autonomic dysfunction after the quadrivalent vaccination10. Both reviews clearly indicated the presence of unique adverse reactions associated with the HPV vaccination including headache, fatigue, depression, cognitive dysfunctions, uncontrollable and involuntary movement, and limb weakness.

Well documented, but not in a good way. That is like saying Imelda Marcos has a lot of shoes. While reporting on cases of some condition (say autoimmunity) is important (hypothesis generating), they do absolutely nothing to inform a potential causal link.  So the conclusion that there is “clearly the presence of unique adverse reactions” is utter rubbish. The fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc has been invoked. Adverse Events are not necessarily Adverse Reactions, they should have got that basic terminology correct.

Then it gets even worse.

For these clinical manifestations, we have coined these reactions as human papillomavirus vaccination-associated neuro-immunopathic syndrome (HANS) and proposed diagnostic criteria.

So now we have some new bandwagoners, inventing their own syndrome, in the complete absence of any epidemiological evidence. First Wakefield, then Mr ASIA, now these folks. Having invented a syndrome the authors now go looking for it.

to better understand the molecular mechanisms of HANS, we first attempt to establish an animal model of the syndrome. We then analyzed the pathological lesions of the murine HANS model by focusing on the CNS.

So what did they do, other than torture mice with no scientific justification? There is no evidence that HPV vaccine causes any of the symptoms proposed in the ‘syndrome’, and a mind-boggling amount of evidence that it does not. So first off, these experiments were unethical. You need a damn good reason to subject an animal to pain then slaughter it, like evidence of a disease to be prevented or cured.

For some reason the investigators injected the mice with pertussis toxin. They say that is to disrupt the integrity of the blood brain barrier.  Hang on! Pertussis toxin induces convulsive activity in mice, via the vagal nerve. The toxin stimulates the production of interleukin 1β which has been associated with neurodegenerative conditions.  If you wish to study what happens to a mouse brain when you inject HPV vaccine, why would you also inject a known neurotoxin?

Objectors to the retraction claim in that injecting pertussis toxin is a legit model for Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis. Why do they want to create this particular model? To the best of my limited knowledge on such a model is that is was developed to

….actively induce experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), one of the most widely used animal models to study efficacy of potential drugs for treatment of multiple sclerosis


So, here is another in a growing list of bad research aimed at bringing the HPV vaccine into question that has earned a retraction. The pattern of attempt at deception is ever present.

  1. Ignore the global body of evidence
  2. Invent a syndrome
  3. Torture mice
  4. Publish
  5. Very often provide services as expert witness in litigation

If HPV vaccine cause brain damage then after studying a couple of hundred million doses we would probably have picked it up by now. After all we have been able to pick up an increased risk of down to about one in a million for flu vaccine and Gullain Barre Syndrome.


0 Responses to “Move over ASIA now we have HANS”

  • Hello Helen. Interesting. The link to the retracted “attempt to assassinate ..” seems to link to the wrong document. In so far as, there doesn’t seem to be reference to it having been retracted. (or have I missed something ?) DB

  • Sanevax host some of the worst nonsense about vaccines. It’s not a site worth anyone’s time.

    This has nothing to do with the post you’re replying to either.

    Nevertheless, here’s what it is in a nutshell: science-by-press release only = failed desperado or trying to fake it (or both)

    This “publication” approach is so flawed that on it’s own makes this makes it not worth anyone’s time. Credible people with credible work do better than that.

    It’s not a published research paper: it’s only “published” by press release at Sanevax.

    If he genuinely wanted it reviewed by scientists (as he says) he’d have put it in bioRxiv. That’s the purpose of that site and it’s it’s well-known to biologists. It’s free and open to all. By having it only on an anti-vaccine community website (and one close to the end of the spectrum as it were) he’s not pitching to scientists, but to people opposed to vaccines, people who have little ability to judge the work. It’s not really an open forum either, but a forum moderated to favour a point of view.

    What scientists are supposed to do when their work is not good enough to get published (like this) is to lift their standards or move on.

  • So Helen, why did you not allow the paper to go through the peer review before rejecting it for publication? Wouldn’t the peer review have dealt with the science? Did you even read more than the author’s name before rejecting it?

    • Rob, you ascribe great powers to me of which I am entirely undeserving. As I was not an editor at Vaccines in 2017 I did not have the pleasure of recommending rejecting the article as unsuitable for a scientific journal. How you came to imagine that I had anything to do with this is completely beyond me.

      Also, FYI, Journals first assess submissions as fitting within their scope as well as a basic quality check. Clearly the Editor considered this was either not within scope or not scientifically worth, or perhaps both.

  • Grant, you do know that Helen vetoed Diane Harper sending the paper out for peer review, don’t you? Why would an editor of a scientific paper do that? If the paper was substandard wouldn’t the peer review pick that up? Isn’t that what the peer review is about?

  • Just some more general thoughts for Rob.

    You’ve a habit of pushing things that accuse Helen of things here. Aside from that it’s obviously poor behaviour, you need to start thinking first. A first step would be to ask yourself if you know enough to judge. If you don’t, you ought not to be trying to criticise. You can’t criticise what you don’t understand, right? Take for example your comments about peer review here. Ask yourself: do you reallyknow how academic peer review works? I can say “no” simply looking at your comments! That leaves you criticising from a position of ignorance. It wouldn’t have taken much thought to think “hang on, I know nothing about this”.

    Not just ignorance, either.

    You wrote, “you do know that Helen vetoed Diane Harper sending the paper out for peer review, don’t you?” Aside from the little time-travelling issue Helen pointed out, and that it’s not how journals work, it has you putting out a made-up accusation, a fiction. That’s not a good idea, eh?

    I think you need to think more carefully about about what you are doing before writing.

    As for what happened, my guess is that it’s simple (look for the simple answers first, etc): he got a stock rejection letter.

    There’s never any sense in nitpicking those, and only idiots or the deluded would try to. Yet Lee does! – loudly to the Sanevax audience… the “martyr” [not] appealing for sympathy from their horde. It’s interesting over at Sanevax Lee only quotes a selected bit of the rejection letter, too. I imagine the rest gives away that it’s a stock letter – i.e. that it’s not particularly about him. That would kind-of spoil his whingeing act eh?

    The conspiracy theory explanation Sanevax offers as a reason for the rejection is hilarious. Off their rockers. But then, I’m guessing the Sanevax crowd love that sort of nonsense.

    More seriously, scientific journals are under no obligation to accept a paper, or even to review submissions. The top-end journals reject plenty—even most—of what is submitted to them, for a wide range of reasons. Only those they wish to take further go on to full review.

    (Also worth noting is Lee’s conflict of interest. In his comment featuring his letter to the Vaccines editors, he says the study was funded by Sanevax, an anti-vaccine lobby. That’s he’s appealing for sympathy there really shows how in bed with them he is, don’t you think?)

  • Hi Helen

    I’m intrigued that you claim the paper was rejected without peer review in 2017 when it was submitted on March 17, 2019. Were you not an editor on vaccines then?

    • Ron, Indeed, I did not read the date correctly, you are quite right. Time travel was not required on this occaision.

      However, I have not sent out any rejection letters to any authors. Nor would someone like me have any authority to veto the Editor and Chief’s decisions. This really does suggest that you do not understand the peer review process.

      When I get a rejection letter I pick myself up and resubmit to another journal. I have had plenty rejected without review. My advice to emerging researchers is to harden up, get used to it, improve the manuscript, and move on. This is part of the territory in academic. Rejection is par of the course.

      Also Ron, your engagement in this blog is quite trollish. You are not contributing to any meaningful discussion. As per my rules of engagement, disagreement is welcome, trolling will not be tolerated. Did you have a point to make about the scientific merit of the article you posted a link and its relevance to this blog or not?

  • Hi Grant

    Have you been patronising all your life?

    I am very aware of the peer review process and have indeed peer reviewed a number of scientific papers including a paper authored by Bruce Ames. That said, I didn’t know who the author was at that stage and the paper had been anonymised.

  • “Rob”,

    I’ve just seen that letters Lee has posted over at Sanevax that make it clear Harper retired as an editor at the end of 2018, before Lee submitted his paper. That suggests to me that you owe Helen an apology. Whatever the case is, I can’t see how this rejection can come from your proposed “Helen vetoed Diane Harper sending the paper out for peer review”.

    Lee says he wrote to Harper asking for “clarification” about his submission (he adds an ill-advised potshot at the end). He’s posted the reply from Vaccines’ managing editor, which points out that Harper had retired as editor the year before – my emphasis added:


    And thanks for your reminder on the former EiC’s order. We indeed
    noticed this information in your last message. For your information,
    Prof. Diane M. Harper had agreed to step down from the EiC role at end
    of 2018 and is listed as Former EiC on the board of Vaccines currently.

    We appreciate Diane’s effort and support to Vaccines very much always.

    So we sent your paper to the new EiC for a further check with respect.
    We regret to inform you that negative feedback are received from him. To
    make it more fair, we then sent your paper to another academic editor
    for a scientific check, regrettably the methodology, experimental
    design, and controls in this paper are not agreed neither.

    The editorial office feel sorry that we are not able to further support
    you on this paper as we need to take our academic editors’ decisions
    into considerations. It is us who invite them to guide and supervisor
    our editorial process and submissions.


    Your claim of “Diane Harper sending the paper out for peer review” is inconsistent with Harper having already retired. At Sanevax Lee says he submitted his paper on on March 17, 2019.

    The letter says that person who this paper was forwarded to and rejected by is the new EiC.

    The managing editor also points out that “It is us who invite them to guide and supervisor our editorial process and submissions.” — i.e. not Harper or the new EiC, but the managing editors. (Perhaps you and Lee aren’t aware that many journals are managed by the company the journal is hosted by, in this case MDPI. In that setup a managing editorial board receives the submissions, and looks after the process of receiving and sending material to the academic editors, etc.)

    You can see from the reply Lee posted at Sanevax that not only did the journal not reject it out-of-hand, they went to the trouble of giving him the benefit of doubt and double checking.

    (I find all this bizarre: he claims things, but the letters he posts himself refute what he claims.)

    Hilariously Lee writes this of the final reviewer, “It is common practices to find an undisclosed undisclosed Big Pharma-paid consultant to give an unsubstantiated opinion”. Ha! The “standard” shill argument. Someone outside of Vaccines can’t be Helen, but his claim also clashes with Vaccines saying it was an academic editor. Whatever the case, his reaching out for “explanations” to support his conspiracy theory are rather muddled.

    Nowhere in this is there talk of a ‘veto’.

    It was rejected on scientific grounds. It may be frustrating they’re not elaborated, but that’s no reason to suggest they didn’t do it.

    Personally I’d have cautioned him for trying to directly approach an editor (it’s going around the process), and I’m impressed they didn’t respond to his attempt at slighting the journal, c.f. “the lack of Editorial understanding of current vaccine science”. They look to have maintained a professional approach.

    Minor points now I believe this is cleared up:

    Your opening bid is an amusing deflection, very old hat! Sorry, but I’m not biting. I’m very polite when I write. I find “all’s well” until someone’s game falls apart then suddenly I’m made out to be all sorts of things…

    I think it’s obvious to all but the oblivious that Lee is being a complete twit, but I guess he’s stuck playing the conspiracy theory violin to the lot that funded him. After all, they gave him money and they didn’t get the publication they must have wanted. It strikes me that in doing that he’s made it clear that he’s far too ‘in bed’ with his funders for that not to be a serious conflict of interest in future efforts.

    “I am very aware of the peer review process” — I think it’s clear I was talking about the journal’s side of things, not referees’ reviews. Besides the point now though.