Via the New Zealand Herald:

A boy who almost died of tetanus before Christmas is home and on the mend, but his parents are desperate for others to vaccinate their children after they did not.

Auckland couple Ian and Linda Williams thought they had made an informed decision against immunising their three children because of concerns over adverse reactions.

But they regretted their decision when middle child Alijah contracted the potentially fatal disease just before Christmas, and was put in an induced coma on life support at Starship hospital.

They immediately immunised their other children and wrote to Alijah’s school to warn parents who had not vaccinated against the disease and others such as whooping cough.

“It was me that put my son in this situation,” Mr Williams said.

Yes, yes it was. Don’t let it be you who does the same, people. Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.

h/t: bengoldacre

Over at the Salon, a Dear Prudie column discusses the issue of miss-attributed parentage.

My husband was estranged from his parents for many years. He reached out to them when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. They didn’t have enough time to discuss and resolve their past, but they were at peace with each other when he died. Now my husband’s parents wish to keep in touch with me and my toddler-age son, as he is the only link they have to their only child. The problem is that my son is not my husband’s biological child. I had an affair

So the interesting part here is the growing trend for personal genetic services such as 23 and me. Among other things that you can do with 23 and me is to identify possible relatives in their database. As in, strangers who you don’t know are related to you, perhaps as closely as a 2nd or even 1st cousin (yikes). You might also have known family who are also 23 and me users, of course.

See where we’re going with this?

A simple search for nonpaternity on PubMed pulls up some interesting studies.

Wolf et al 2012 used human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing to estimate a nonpaternity rate of 0.94% in a sample of 971 German children.

Voracek et al, 2008 conducted a meta-analysis of 32 published samples from 1932-1993 and identified a decline in nonpaternity over time. The mean and median rate was 3.1%, btw.

Li and Lao, 2008 and Lucast 2007 discuss the ethics of discovering nonpaternity during medical screening and research studies. These types of works touch most directly on the Dear Prudie issue, I reckon. The 23 and me era presents interesting new possibilities. There is no longer any professional “genetic counselor” intermediary or paternalistic physician deciding whether to “tell”. People might find each other more or less automatically and contact each other through the 23 and me website. But, and here’s the rub, the information propagates. Let’s assume there is a mother who knows she had an affair that produced the kid or a father who impregnated someone unknown to his current family. Along comes the 23 and me contact to their child? Grandchild? Niece or nephew? Brother or sister? And some stranger asks them, gee, do you have a relative with these approximate racial characteristics, of approximately such and such age, who was in City or State circa 19blahdeblah? And then this person blast emails their family about it? or posts it on Facebook?

Williams 2005 shows how paternity can affect major societal knowledge such as the infamous Jefferson/Hemings case.

Cerda-Flores et al 1999 found a 8.1% interloper rate but discuss the issue of being able to exclude fathers based on blood group systems. The very earliest literature on PubMed clearly focused on these issues, i.e., how to use the available imprecise markers to come up with statistical probabilities. The new era of personal genetic identification presumably improves substantially on these issues.

There are more articles and you can scan them for yourself. But I’ll end on two key notes. First, clearly this is a nightmare issue for people who are looking into rare genetic variants that are related to disease because the familial patterning is so important. It is critical to know who the father really was to keep the dataset valid and clean. Second, there seems to be a rumor of 10% nonpaternity that floats about in the literature, perhaps as a lasting straw argument or from some early flawed dataset. What the more recent studies seem to conclude is that this is an overestimate.

Or, you know, you could just read Dear Prudie’s response which includes:

But I don’t think your late husband’s parents need to hear this. … And I don’t see any reason to deprive your child of a potential inheritance.

A recent HuffPo piece on that rather flagrant bit of cover trolling from TIME magazine irritates me.
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April 16, 2012

One of the things about being a parent is, IME, that it dissolves any lingering conceit that you are actually good at everything you choose to do or must do.

I think this helps you to run a research lab of any appreciable size.

From Nature News:

“The area in which I have failed the most is as a father,” Quiñones-Hinojosa readily admits.

Then you have failed.

None of us are perfect. We have our successes and our failures in many parts of our lives. Lord knows I do.

I do know this though.

If parenthood is where you fail “the most”, you are fucking up.


July 18, 2011

First, congrats to the Swedish World Cup team for coming in third and, in particular, for beating the French.

Second, congrats on the K9 corps dog thing. I would have expected no less, but still. You got it done.

The main point of the day, however, is much better. Here in the US we call the type of overattentive, smothering parent that makes you hurl* a “helicopter” parent. They are always hovering over their child, you see, just waiting to rescue little Maria from calamity. Or obsessing over the wonderousness of their average, normal behavior or something.

I have been informed that the Swedish call their version of this “curling” parents. As in the sport of curling. Now those of you who are not Canucklanders or Swedes may not immediately recognize this sublime reference. You may recall a half glimpsed interlude on the teevee during the Winter Olympics. When the coverage switches off that riveting bobsledding and you decide you have time to hit the loo. Perhaps when you return you are momentarily graced with some idiots madly sweeping the ice in front of a lumbering bit of rounded granite. Rendering an unobstructed path yet even more polished and smooth so as to further ease passage of the object of their devotion.

That’s curling. And the folks who are madly sweeping an apparently smooth sheet of ice? Those would be your image of the “curling parents”.

Evocative, isn’t it?

*I keed, I keed. (Most of those I link-pickedon know via other online venues that I’m the worst sort of braggart about my awesome offspring….)

Blogrolling: Rock Talk

January 21, 2011

Arlenna’s post today alerted me to a brand new blog from the Office of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health. The OER is, of course, the office that handles, well, us. The NIH funded extramural research community. Anyone who works in a lab that is funded by the NIH is under the umbrella of the OER in one way or another. The fact that they have taken up blogging is of more than a passing interest to those of us in the extramural research community that read and write blogs.

Rock Talk is authored by Dr. Sally Rockey (pictured), who is:

NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, serving as the principal scientific leader and advisor to the NIH Director on the NIH extramural research program.

This is fantastic. She’s already jumping in to grapple with topics, such as Family Medical Leave and NIH policies in support thereof, that originally arose in the academic blogsphere.

That’s a win for you, Dear Reader. It means that someone very high up at the NIH is listening to your issues, ideas and complaints that you blurt out in this particular forum. Fantastic.

My advice is to put this on your blogroll, your RSS or whatnot. Stop by and comment. Nothing like traffic and commentary to convince an entity like the NIH that this is a valuable activity in which to engage. And who knows? Maybe some brilliant observation of yours will influence NIH policy.