The Vaccine Needs Help: Carina Storrs on Rotavirus Prevention in Developing Countries

Vaccines are effective at prompting our immune systems to produce antibodies to viral infections. When a virus for which we have been inoculated enters our bodies, the antibodies recognize their old enemy, their adversary from bygone days and attack and destroy the virus before it can do much harm to us. For the most part, vaccines are very effective at preventing viral disease. (See this recent book for pertinent information on vaccines.)

So Why Doesn’t the Vaccine Always Work?

Causes of Diarrhea
Leading Causes of Diarrhea

Imagine the stress, then, for a parent who has done as the doctors and clinicians recommend. Following a vaccination, the child becomes very ill from the rotavirus and suffers from diarrhea. So, they go back to the doctor for treatment and another dose of vaccine.

So, why is this happening in the case of the rotavirus? The vaccine for rotavirus is an oral application. The virus is attenuated, or weakened, and is intended to create a minor infection in the gut of the recipient. In fighting that minor infection, the antibodies form to fight off the infection. In the future, if the wild rotavirus makes its way into the child’s body the immune system will recognize it and fight it off.

In developed countries the vaccine is effective 98% of the time, but in India and Pakistan and Bangladesh the efficacy rate is as low as 43% and children take multiple doses. The question of what the factors are that make antibody production more difficult is a puzzle that researchers and doctors are working on.

Carina Storrs, PhD
Carina Storrs, PhD

There may be some clues leading them to the answers in the history of the oral polio vaccines in India. In a similar vein, three decades ago the oral vaccine for polio was less effective and a doctor in Vellore worked on finding solutions to prevent polio paralysis. Are there more than one answer, if so it is leading to a complex set of changes in India in order to give the vaccine some help.

Carina Storrs, PhD. is our guest for the fourth episode of Ikonokast. She has been working on this story and traveled to India on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to speak with doctors, scientists and parents of patients.

What Will Make Vaccines Work Better in Developing Countries?

Vaccines in Low-Income Countries: Reasons and Remedies for their Stunted Performance

Carina Storrs’ Published Articles

Rotavirus Information From the Mayo Clinic

The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance


What About Water? Peter Gleick on the California Drought

The status of the California drought, and other matters

What is the current status of the California Drought? How does the California Drought compare to the drought in Syria? How does the drought affect agriculture and the economy in California, and how does climate change affect the food supply globally?

A Conversation with Peter Gleick of California’s Pacific Institute

The water in Arizona runs through canals in the desert to get to Phoenix. It travels in the summer through heat and sun, with temperatures often higher than 100 ° Fahrenheit. A large portion of that water must evaporate. This brings home the value of water to Arizonans.

The California drought is in its fourth year. Agriculture is having to adapt. Gardeners see the need to adapt to the new reality. The current El Niño event is not likely to make up for the deficit and reservoirs are running dry as the snow in the mountains is not going to make up for the shortage of rainfall.

Dr. Peter GleickDr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute is our guest for this show. We talked about how our society needs to reshape our policies and practices in order to meet the increasing demands for water. Dr. Gleick is a leading scientist, innovator and communicator on global water and climate issues. Elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2006, he is the author and editor of many published papers as well as ten books on the subject of water.

Among the topics covered in this episode are the role of drought in numerous conflicts around the world, the concept of virtual water, using local and state policy to fight climate change and whether or not saving water in Seattle is as important as it is in Sacramento.

Please take the opportunity to look through Peter’s books as listed on Amazon. Purchases that you make through these links help to support Ikonokast and, of course, Peter’s work at the Pacific Institute.

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water

Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources

Significant Figures on ScienceBlogs


Genetics and Food Security: Talking GMOs with Anastasia Bodnar

The population growth of humans on planet earth is accelerating. Very few people are taking the idea of Zero Population Growth as an imperative. Food insecurity is a serious problem for fifteen per cent of the global population. This means that 850 million people or more are chronically undernourished. Achieving a sustainable level of food security is a matter of increasing food production, attacking the economic conditions that are barriers, and will require improvements in food distribution. This second episode will review the role of production in working towards global food security. Our guest for this episode is Dr. Anastasia Bodnar.

Are GMOs good or bad?

When it comes to a complex issue like GMOs, we are not likely to have a simple answer to such a simple question.

Anastasia Bodnar at the White House
Dr. Anastasia Bodnar presenting, at the Whtie House in Washington, DC

The role of genetic engineering, GMOs, is hotly debated as a social and ethical issue. There are many people who are dubious as to both the need for and the safety of genetically modified organisms as they are developed for various reasons to enhance agricultural production. There are researchers working on tailoring crops towards drought resistance, adding carotene to poor children’s diets in the form of Golden Rice, resistance of plants to pests, enabling the specific use of herbicides, and for many other purposes. Dr. Bodnar has been working with genetically modified plants, mostly with corn, but she has also been studying the social debate over the use and potential dangers, if any, of GMO’s.

As a science advocacy podcast, Ikonokast will be talking to Anastasia about these issues and others related to food production. She is Policy Director of Biofortified, Inc; which is an 501(c)3 that fosters conversations about issues in food and agriculture. Anastasia refers to herself as just a crazy scientist who likes to talk about science.

Which, come to think of it, is perfect for the purpose of the Ikonokast Podcast.



For additional enlightenment, we encourage you to check out the following links:


Biofortified is an organization for outreach on the issues of agricultural technology.

Genetic Maize.  This is Anastasia Bodnar, PhD’s site, mentioned in the podcast.

Norman Borlaug; A billion lives saved.

Everything you need to know about CRISPR, the new tool that edits DNA; in Gizmodo.


Why Science?

Shawn Lawrence Otto
Shawn Lawrence Otto

This is the initial podcast of IkonoKast.  Our first guest is a writer who has done a great deal of work to support and encourage the advocacy of science for public policy.  Shawn Lawrence Otto is a screenwriter and novelist  His book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America details the manner in which politicians have been attempting to ignore or diminish the role that science should play in the public discourse on policy.  He is a co-founder of ScienceDebate, which is the growing effort to engage candidates for the presidency of the United States in a debate for them to talk about science, specifically.

To introduce the show, Greg and Mike discuss science and what we want to achieve with the podcast.  What is science?  Why is it important?  How do interested parties who are not scientists discover which science is worth following and discard the pseudoscience when the media seem to report so poorly on topical issues of science?

Listen to the podcast, and please feel free to submit your feedback.

Shawn Otto adapted the screenplay for House Of Sand And Fog and recently published his first novel Sins of Our Fathers. Purchasing these products through the links helps to support Ikonokast.

Ikonokast, a New Podcast

Greg Laden Photo
Greg Laden
Mike Haubrich
Mike Haubrich

An iconoclast destroys cherished beliefs.  Science is iconoclastic at its best, or at its worst, depending on your point of view. Science is a method to answer questions with results often surprising or inconvenient.

Science attacks common sense.  Science reveals tricks of nature in ways that economics and politics don’t find convenient.Nature has a habit of not conforming to our desires or recognizing our cherished beliefs. In order to survive in our world humans often need to adapt our ways to the realities of nature.

Ikonokast Podcast explores the discoveries of nature science provides . We will discuss the implications of science on our politics, society, and economy.

Tune in.  There are always new ikons to kast aside.

The Ikonokast Blog is hosted on a Digital Ocean Droplet. See this for a discussion of how we set this up, in case you are interested in doing something like this yourself.

Science breaks it down