You see film of crowds in awe at some charismatic figure, pouring streams of galvanising words, maybe using his/her body to add emphases and gestures of import, to add to the spectacle. There is some magic, an acceptance in the crowd that what they are being offered is special and that they are at one with it, whilst every word is cherished and unchallenged.
So “I have a dream” with Martin Luther King is a testimony to this, and shows how a crowd and a society can be changed by following the dreams and philosophies of such natural leaders. His dream led to freedom and opportunity for so many of his kindred. Switch to Adolph Hitler and you see that same magic only in a very different context. As he saluted his crowds and bathed in their adulation was there one person present who did not share his every thought? No, of course not. He was THEIR fuehrer and spoke – and thought – for them.
Ideas can be very powerful when they can offer you renewed hope and direction, when they can allow you to escape a dire and threatening situation and build a new, productive, safe and dynamic life for yourself and for your family.
Such was what Edward Jenner offered late 18th century England. Cramped town and city living, after periods of considerable population growth and with still very primitive food distribution, water provision, housing and cleanliness systems meant starvation, poverty and rank illness were common and frequently led to very premature death. Jenner’s adoption of a peasant practice and grossing it up to what he called “variolation” was voodoo practice brought to rural Gloucestershire, except I think he left out the encircling, chanting devotees. Just think how his methods would be received today.
“OK, thank you for attending your variolation this morning. Roll up your sleeve, please. Thank you. Now I’m just going to make a cut with this knife I just picked up from my desk. Is it clean? Well, look, I’ll just wipe that bit of soil off with my fingers. There you go. OK, this won’t hurt very much. There. Yes, yes, it is bleeding, that’s perfectly normal, but the nurse will bandage it for you afterwards. Now I’ll just jam in this spoonful of cowpox puss into the wound. Yes, yes, there we go. Nurse, could you stop that bleeding and bandage my patient up. Thank you.
Would you go to that practitioner? No, of course not. He’d be locked up and the key thrown away. However, today in Oxford we have The Jenner Institute, richly funded to develop new ways to push forward the ideas of this crooked charlatan and the man is worshipped by devotees of the science, the industries and the medical practices that have been built from his legacy. It is a multi-billion dollar institution, accepted as a given on a Global basis by the bulk of the population – albeit that most people hate the idea of “vaccinations”. Ouch!
The wonder is not that “Jenner protected so many people from contracting smallpox” He didn’t. No, the wonder is that anyone survived his treatments, so gross was the system. Of course, his only ever “trial” of the idea was on a strapping young farmer’s son, who very likely had already experienced a vast range of bacteria and probably also had a very good healthy diet. Many, many were ill, desperately ill or just died following variolation. Enough got better to allow the practice to continue, such, also, was the fear of illness for those living in such grim times.
When the pox was active and epidemics arose those variolated caught the illness and died anyway – there was no protection given.
However, with the medical trade firmly committed to it there was now institutionalisation and very strong backing. The hyperdermic syringe was invented (1860ish) and so there was no longer the need to cut the arm – the puss was injected into muscle in the arm directly. Eventually, too, the need for sterility was understood and sterilants and preservatives added to the puss. Later still they started using Mercury for this but, hey, talk about “guilding the lily”!
Of course there were other illnesses and, if they could make vaccines for smallpox out of its puss, then the same had to be true for these other ailments. This was totally despite the fact that, in the developed World, deaths from all these conditions had fallen as living conditions and diet had improved in the intervening 100 years or so. Elsewhere living conditions were probably still descending and child mortality was very high.
So, over time, sundry other childhood illnesses as well as some adult ones for travellers and so on, were brought on stream. In time honoured pharmaceutical practice, the compositions of these were not detailed – they were trade secrets in an increasingly lucrative market place – but the initial ideas remained pretty constant.
Including the infectious agent had got obvious drawbacks, of course! So methods were devised to “attenuate” the bug, so the “protection” could be obtained without suffering the illness. A science had been born – the biology of innate bodily defence and shielding from future infections. This has come to be referred to as “Immunobiology” and, by now, 230 years or so since Jenner first started poisoning the good people of Gloucester, it has enshrined within it, the ideas of that same deluded and avaricious medic as its fundamental driving principle. Thus what could otherwise be the description of a fantastic, natural ecological dynamic, is nothing other than a rationale for a Global pandemic of vaccine damage.
I worked in an immunology laboratory whilst an undergraduate and for a year or so afterwards and grew familiar with a number of the assumptions of the trade. We were looking at rats and rabbits chiefly to investigate the migration of proteins through bodily barriers – gut wall, blood-brain barrier, placenta and so on. Routinely we’d radioactively label proteins, feed or inject them into the subject animals and later measure the radiomarked proteins in fluids drawn from the appropriate location and chromatographically separated.
A principal tool was “the antibody to that protein” which had been prepared earlier which would precipitate out the radiochemically labelled protein/peptide and give me a figure to measure! As I carefully measured in the correct aliquot of this reagent, that was how I treated it. Like 1M bench hydrochloric acid. I didn’t see it as the product of challenging the blood stream of the poor animal with the aforementioned protein, dressed up as an “antigen” with sundry other carrying chemicals. Nor did I see the active section being a group of proteins release into that bloodstream by the animal to counter the assault and clean up the mess. But that is, in fact, what they were.
“Immunobiology” is the discipline that describes the nature of that reaction, that details the intricate interactions between its ingredients and builds up a minutely analysed web of physiological and cellular structures which ensue. Deeply fascinating and mesmerizingly beautiful, actions and reactions, ins and outs, ups and downs – a mechanism that can be shown to operate just like clockwork.
In fact, that is a very good analogy. It’s as if a fantastically complicated device had been discovered and toyed with for a while and then someone said “Hey, I know what this is. It’s a mechanism to measure the passage of time. Now all you’ve got to do is pull it apart and show us how it works. In the meanwhile we can use it for its purpose.”
So, here, they are mapping out “The Immune System”. They process the interactions of “The Adaptive Immune Response” and see the purpose of it as “To fight off foreign antigens”. Jenner is instilled in every pore of their thinking and Jenner betrays and compromises them almost every time. A beautiful harmony, music of the spheres almost, becomes discordant.
End of Part One.
In part two I will look at an archetype of immunobiological thinking – the sixth edition of Janeway et al’s seminal, sixth edition “Immunobiology – the immune system in health and disease” to illustrate and expand upon part one.