Study: Primate Vaccination’s Impact on Gut Flora … A Critique

Macaques are genus of primates from the family of monkeys. Young macaque sitting in branches of trees.

Primate Vaccination’s Impact on Gut Flora

CHD Note: A recent study published in Nature investigated the gut flora of infant macaques vaccinated with different vaccine schedules. The text of “Microbial structure and function in infant and juvenile rhesus macaques are primarily affected by age, not vaccination status” is available at this link:

Microbial structure and function in infant and juvenile rhesus macaques are primarily affected by age, not vaccination status

However, the usefulness of this study in assessing the gut microbiome as it relates to vaccination impacts on children with autism is limited as outlined in the review below by Children’s Health Defense board member, Dr. Brian Hooker.


Critique by Brian Hooker, Ph.D.
Hasegawa et al.,2018

This particular study was focused on the intestinal microbiome of infant and juvenile macaques who were exposed to either the 1990s or the 2008 vaccination schedule, including thimerosal-containing vaccines. Unfortunately, this study contributes nothing in terms of understanding intestinal health differences in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children.

First, the sample size of each group was insufficient to develop clear differences in the gut microbiome for the different vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. The experimental groups (receiving either the 1900s vaccination schedule or the 2008 vaccination schedule) consisted of just 12 animals each and the control group (receiving no vaccines) consisted of just 16 animals. To pick up a “signal” for a gut microbiome presumably for autism, which has a prevalence of approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S., each group would need at least 36 subjects. Thus, this study was woefully “under-powered” to find such a signal and it would be rare that with these small groups, such a microbiome would exist.  It is therefore logical that there would be no differences in the microbial community among the different groups studied.

Second, the indicators of “gut health” were insufficient to assess a condition that could be consistent with autistic intestinal dysbiosis. The study authors merely looked at the structure of the gut microbial community at the genus level using genetic probes targeted at 16S rRNA sequences (i.e., a genetic signature for the type of bacteria that exist in the macaque’s feces). The method used was not quantitative; thus the relative abundance of microorganism species, relative to each other was never assessed. The authors do call out different genera and families of bacteria typical to the gut but no attempt was made to correlate these to overall intestinal health. To get any quantitative information on microbial species, one needs to run what is called a GI panel, which is the gold standard at identifying gut dysbiosis via microbial species that are problematic, for example, clostridium bacteria or candida yeast. This was not completed on any of the groups of macaques.

Other intestinal markers that would be helpful include parameters of intestinal immune function including total secretory antibody lining the gut mucosa, lysozyme and chymotrypsin enzymes which may be present in quantities to fight intestinal pathogens. These tests were simply not done, leaving a very limited snapshot of some bacteria and other organisms that may be present in significant quantities in the gut. Again, this does not give any type of picture of overall intestinal health, especially conditions associated with neurodevelopmental disorders including autism.


About the Author: Dr. Brian S. Hooker is an Epidemiologist, Science Advisor for Focus for Health and a CHD Board Member.

Brian S. Hooker, PhD, PE, is an Associate Professor of Biology at Simpson University in Redding, California, where he specializes in chemistry and biology coursework. Additionally, Hooker is the Senior Process Consultant at ARES Corporation, working closely on process design for the environment restoration industry. His design efforts focus on industrial biotechnology and chemical engineering principles.

Brian dedicated over 15 years as a bioengineer and the team leader for the High Throughput Biology Team and Operations Manager of the DOE Genomics: Genomes to Life (GTL) Center for Molecular and Cellular Systems at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Dr. Hooker managed applied plant and fungal molecular biology research projects at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where systems biology researchers are focused on understanding gene and protein networks involved in individual cell signaling, communication between cells in communities, and cellular metabolic pathways.

In 1985, Dr. Hooker earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering, from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California. He earned his Masters of Science degree in 1988 and his doctorate in 1990, both in biochemical engineering, from Washington State University, in Pullman, Washington.

Brian Hooker has many accomplishments to his credit including: co-inventor for five patents, recipient of the Battelle Entrepreneurial Award in 2001, and a Federal Laboratory Consortium Recognition Award in 1999, for his work on “Reactive Transport in 3-Dimensions.” The breadth of Hooker’s 60 science and engineering papers have been published in internationally recognized, peer reviewed journals.

He has a teenage son with autism and has been active in the autism community since 2002.

Bio from: Focus for Health – Meet Dr. Brian Hooker


Contributed to TLB by: Children’s Health Defense Team


The above article (Primate Vaccination’s Impact on Gut Flora) was contributed to TLB Project by the Children’s Health Defense Team and was authored by Dr. Brian S. Hooker


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