Add news
Король и Шут - Девушка и граф (English/Japanese cover by Even Blurry Videos feat. ICHIGO TANUKI)
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020October 2020November 2020December 2020January 2021February 2021March 2021April 2021May 2021
News Every Day |

Oral Transmission

How I became a human plague – and stumbled into one of the most astonishing scientific stories I’ve ever encountered.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th April 2021

Rejoice! A mystery has been solved. We now have an explanation for long Covid, a condition afflicting many thousands of people. A super-spreader has been identified. Important as this finding is, I’m reluctant to call for the vector to be eradicated. Why? Because it’s me.

In a presentation to the reinsurance giant Swiss Re, Michael Sharpe, a professor of psychological medicine at the University of Oxford and founder of a Long Covid clinic, proposed that one of the causes of the syndrome was “social factors”. The social factor at the top of his list was an article I wrote for the Guardian, describing the suffering of patients with the condition.

I listed the symptoms of Long Covid and compared some of them to myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), the debilitating condition that afflicts around a quarter of a million people in the UK. Press coverage like this, Sharpe claimed, as well as the work of support groups and sympathetic doctors, could induce people to believe they had the illness, thereby spreading it. Long Covid, he appeared to suggest, is partly a psychological condition, so “the best treatment is psychologically informed rehabilitation”. This, we can only hope, will cure people of the fearful pox of Guardian journalism.

I was bemused by the fact that none of the references he gave at the end of the presentation supported these claims. So I wrote to Sharpe asking for his sources. He told me the evidence consisted of “patient reports”, and that “we are seeing many improve with reassurance about the absence of damage and with supported rehabilitation”. But assertions like this do not meet the standard of scientific evidence. Unfortunately, he told me, “I am unable to engage in further correspondence”.

A scientific assessment of the use of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a form of “psychological rehabilitation” that Sharpe has repeatedly championed – suggests that it’s of no use in treating other post-viral syndromes, and is unlikely to “reduce disability or lead to objective improvement in long Covid”.

But what if, despite the lack of evidence, he happens to be right? What if, by discussing the problem, I’ve caused it? As I look back on my work, my heart sinks. I’ve covered many terrible issues, and the more I’ve written about them, the worse they’ve got. I might be responsible for more human suffering than the entire cast of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Until now, I’d never heard of Michael Sharpe. But as I began to investigate, I stumbled into one of the most astonishing scientific stories I’ve ever encountered. Sharpe was one of the authors of the famous Pace trial, part-funded by the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions, and published, in 2011, in the Lancet. It claimed to show that CBT and graded exercise therapy (GET) were effective treatments for ME/CFC.

Patients questioned this. When they and other researchers began exploring the methods behind the trial, they discovered some remarkable anomalies. According to an article in the Journal of Health Psychology, after the Pace trial began, the investigators altered assessment thresholds at which they claimed patients had improved or recovered. When the original markers were used, the effectiveness of CBT and GET fell from the reported 59% and 61 %, respectively, to just 20% and 21%. Results were also contaminated when investigators promoted their treatments as successful to the people they were studying.

A group of patients launched a five-year campaign to obtain the trial data, which should have been in the public domain from the outset. Their requests were repeatedly refused until a tribunal ordered Queen Mary University of London to release it. In 2016, the patients, with the help of academic researchers, reanalysed the data and found it did not support the conclusions of the Pace trial: there was no statistically significant difference between the outcomes for people who received CBT and GET and those who did not. Their findings were published in two peer-reviewed journals. It was an astounding victory for citizen science. The suppression of the data and subsequent collapse of the study’s claims has been dubbed PaceGate in the scientific press. In November last year, the National Institute for Health And Care Excellence published its analysis of the Pace trial findings and other claims that CBT and GET can treat ME/CFS. It found without exception that the quality of the science was either “low” or “very low”. As a result, it has now changed its draft clinical guidelines, advising doctors not to promote CBT or GET as treatments or cures for ME/CFS.

There seems to be a strong case for the retraction of the Pace trial papers. In 2019, Sharpe did reflect on Pace’s scientific processes, but doubled down on its conclusions. When Carol Monaghan, a Scottish National party MP, questioned Sharpe’s work, he said her behaviour was “unbecoming of an MP”. And when the Journal of Health Psychology sought to engage the trial’s authors in a reanalysis of their findings, its editor reported “a consistent pattern of resistance to the debate”.

In the presentation in which he named me as a cause of long Covid, Sharpe promoted the original Pace trial paper, without explaining that its findings had been undermined. In a paper in 2019, he claimed that chronic fatigue syndrome was an “illness without disease”, prompting other researchers to accuse him of “medical indifference” and of failing to acknowledge that CBT and GET had been rejected as treatments. Now he seems to have transferred his claims about treatments for ME/CFS to long Covid.

It feels to me like the entirely apocryphal story about Bono. This claims that he once announced from the stage: “Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.” Whereupon someone in the audience shouted, “Well, fucking stop doing it then.”

Read also

Fox sees Q3 profit gain despite sales dip after 2020 Super Bowl

Report: Spurs ownership will have to sign up to new rule after ESL debacle

Blinken Visits Ukraine Amid Tensions with Russia

News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here
News Every Day

Access Premium Quality Maths Homework Help And Case Study Help from GotoAssignmentHelp for Top Academic Grades