The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 906: The New Germ Theory of Disease (Archive)

Examining the connections between pathogens and chronic conditions could lead us to a new germ theory of disease.
New germ theory of disease, Paul Ewald, PhD
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The New Germ Theory of Disease (Archive)

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Inflammation is a primary cause of many chronic conditions, from Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis to asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. But what causes the inflammation? Could infectious agents be the root of most of our chronic disease–including cancer?

The New Germ Theory:

Find out about the new germ theory linking infections and mental illness. Is it possible that there is a connection between schizophrenia and a common pathogen?

 Other hard-to-treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) might all be triggered by infection. Could a vaccine help prevent these devastating conditions and even cancer?

 This Week’s Guest:

Paul Ewald, PhD, is professor of biology and director of the program on disease evolution at the University of Louisville. His books include Controlling Cancer: A Powerful Plan for Taking On the World’s Most Daunting Disease, co-authored with Holly Swain Ewald, and Plague Time:The New Germ Theory of Disease.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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    Love PP, but there was a rather GLARING omission in this show, guys. You forgot to talk about Old Friends! Ewald makes NO SENSE without it. For example, if diabetes is often caused by a virus, why is it and other allergy/asthma/autoimmune (etc) diseases only skyrocketing in developed countries? (Google the Karelia study)

    Answer: It’s not just infectious microbes, it’s our bodies’ response to them, which has been going haywire since the industrial revolution.

    In the good old days, our bodies learned how to turn down our immune system when encountering the zillions of microbes we evolved with from the soil, animal feces, and untreated water. Some of us (mostly women) evolved to compensate by having a super-eager immune system.

    Now, in the absence of these protective microbes (not all are protective), our immune systems overreact, resulting in allergies, ASTHMA, and AUTOIMMUNE diseases, some cancers, Alzheimer’s, depression, autism spectrum disorders (including schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome).

    This is the Old Friends hypothesis and it’s practically dogma by now. It was put forth back in 2003 by Graham Rook, immunologist and professor (now emeritus) at UC, London

    The average American is walking around with sky-high CRP levels compared with indigenous peoples. So if an ordinarily harmless C. pneumoniae or S. pyogenes, or T. gondii, or whatever comes wafting in presenting its human-like heat shock protein 60, wham-o! Major inflammation. There was no early life mycobacteria (or similar) to show its HSP60 to a little baby immune system to make Tregs to.

    Also, the viruses Ewald claims to target with vaccines won’t work as well as he hopes. The strains causing cervical cancer are already evolving resistance. As are those in the pneumococcal vaccine. And the polio vaccine has left the Coxsackie virus (a similar enterovirus) free to fill the ecological niche and cause many of the autoimmune issues we see today (including schizophrenia). Whenever you stick it to Mother Nature, she kicks you in the shins.

    I agree with SK, in that we distract ourselves from developing healthy bodies by looking for vaccines to prevent everything. It absolves us from responsibility for taking care of ourselves.

    Thank you for this broadcast, and for Dr. Ewald’s comments about the consequences of toxoplasmosis in the environment.

    I was relieved to hear this researcher state it should be immediately be addressed as a public health concern not just for human children and adults, as it seems to be “off the radar” of many healthcare professionals.

    And it’s not just a hazard for humans, either. but for other species like cetaceans, as toxoplasmosis shed from feral animals and industrial slaughter operations is carried into waterways and streams that dump into estuaries and the oceans, passing the parasite along to infect dolphins, where it facilitates morbillivirus infection.

    This public health hazard can be drastically reduced and eliminated by removing feral animals from the environment, much like feral dogs were in the 1970s to prevent rapid rabies transmission.

    Great show again Terry and Joe! The HPV vaccine was discussed a lot in connection with cervical and other cancers.
    Here is the question:
    Why is the HPV vaccine NOT recommended for men or women over age 26? I know that the reason is that Merck didn’t fund a study on people over this age and the FDA can’t approve unless there is some mass random double blind placebo controlled study of course. But I’ve run into people who have
    taken the vaccine “off label” as I believe they call it. I’ve also heard that it is assumed that 80% of all males over age 26 are already carriers, but the vaccine would still prevent getting the infection, wouldn’t it?
    I can’ find any clear info online about this.
    One last thing: I know from a medical practitioner that one Merck employee in the sales force, who is way beyond the recommended age, took the HPV vaccine on their own off label because the person believed
    so much in the drug and because they thought the risk was low. No side effects… in fact, one positive side effect: some warts on a couple of fingers went away after the vaccination! I know this is an anecdote, but I would appreciate Dr Ewald specifically addressing this question if he reads this blog.
    Meanwhile, I’ll try to email him directly and see if he addresses this in any of his writings. He is a very impressive and knowledgeable

    I agree with previous posters. It seems to me that it is ridiculous to develop a vaccine for every bacteria and virus out there. That would neither be safe nor efficient. It seems that the reason these chronic deceases are rising is not the presence of those germs (they are there anyway) but the fact that our bodies can’t deal with them anymore.
    Couldn’t one likely reason be that since we are vaccinated so early in life, we do not even get to build up our immune system the “right” way, so it is fit to fight off invaders? Or is overusing of antibiotics creating more aggressive and resistant germs? Leading a healthy life style is obviously part of preventing some of these cancers/deceases as well.
    Anyway, still interesting show as always! I love the People’s Pharmacy!!

    Thank you for this broadcast, it was very informative.
    What struck me, particularly, was Dr. Ewald’s comments in relation to virii and bacteria and how these organisms, once inside our bodies, can facilitate and/or cause infection and disease. The link between Toxoplasma gondii and Schizophrenia and intestinal maladies (because of consuming items tainted with the bacteria) was very revealing and alarming, but the public deserves to know the truth!

    Thank you, Peg! I wonder how extreme deficiencies are determined, and who does this? Is hair analysis acceptable?
    While listening to the interview with Dr. Ewald, I had to wonder if treatment with proteolytic enzymes might sometimes be effective in preventing the types of illnesses he described as having resulted from infections. It’s my understanding that proteolytic enzymes, taken between meals, will digest the protein-based defense of viruses, bacteria, fungi, yeasts, cancer cells, and food allergens.

    Your interview only strengthened my suspicions that viruses or other organisms are what is behind many cancers etc. And I have felt very strongly that the body’s immune system plays a large role in the effects of a disease.
    You started out discussing inflammation and I feel it is the body’s way of defending. I have some personal experience of this. Years ago I contracted Fifths disease which in my case made me more anemic then one could imagine possible, and with rheumatoid arthritis. As this was caused by a virus which is still in my system years later, if my body gets run down- I am suffering the same symptoms only not as severely (thank goodness because it was horribly debilitating).
    I am wondering however why you feel a vaccine for the illness you spoke of would be a good idea. I understand the benefit of not acquiring a disease you have been exposed to, but I don’t know if that route would be the least expensive. That would mean exposing people by injecting a small dose of the substance in order to hopefully create immunity. This may also expose people who haven’t yet been immunized with possible unintended or even uncontrollable consequences. I can’t help wonder if finding the root source of the disease may help people avoid it, and help researchers develop an actual cure.
    Lastly, there was a peoples pharmacy show about a year ago regarding a treatment for people with C.O.P.D. This treatment was based on the evidence that C.O.P.D. was caused by an infection and involved administering antibiotics over an extended period of time. While I don’t believe it is an optimum treatment, it points out that there are conditions where ridding the body of the cause of the problem solves the situation better then treating the symptoms. It’s like going to the dentist with an abscess and being given pain killers or antibiotic- if the antibiotic gets rid of the source of the pain there is no need for the pain killers.
    I also hope some research is done on natural ways to cure these diseases, whether it be vitamin deficiencies or antioxidants needed. In my case B12 and cod liver oil have helped with the anemia tremendously, and pomegranates and cherries help inflammation.
    I agree with the previous person, Peg on this post. I believe there should be a way to determine if someone is suffering from certain vitamin deficiencies. It may be a matter of cures that involve changing ones diet. That would also be a step in the right direction.

    this comment “It’s like going to the dentist with an abscess and being given pain killers or antibiotic- if the antibiotic gets rid of the source of the pain there is no need for the pain killers.” is not rational. Pain killers are relatively immediate — antibiotics may take several days/a week to be effective. So the person must put up with the pain until the antibiotics take care of the abscess?

    Please see my paper, “Allergies and Schizophrenia: Immune System Starvation?”, by Peg MacPherson Lamkin, published December 1981 in the Canadian Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry(now called Orthomolecular Medicine). Available online.
    Allergies and Schizophrenia: Immune System Starvation?
    Cached mental alterations rather than atopic allergy, and schizophrenia is seen as an extreme pole in a continuum of immune system starvation, with the variable factor …
    This paper, once called “confusing” was written in the hope of inspiring someone to do further research. Apparently no one did.
    Its relationship to your work is this: Invasive germs will be attacked by the immune system. A very large and/or prolonged ttack will deplete the system until it can no longer fight. The body will attempt to raise other defenses. In the case of the subject in this paper, it fought with an overabundace of histamines resulting in “allergic rhinitis” –hay fever, then asthma, then much later, eczema.
    ALL of these were cured after prolonged use of high dosage niacin. Different people, different deficiencies, no doubt, requiring different nutrients.
    It isn’t enough to try killing every savage invader on the face of the earth! Boost the immune system so it can fight its own battles!
    NOTE: THE RESEARCH ON THIS PAPER stopped, but the subject continued the trial and ultimately the “allergies” disappeared completely.
    Just taking lots of vitamins–or niacin–won’t do it. These people need to be carefully evaluated to determine the nature of the deficiency.

    “It isn’t enough to try killing every savage invader on the face of the earth! Boost the immune system so it can fight its own battles!”

    I could not agree with you more: thank you for your honesty. I believe that you are 100% on the right track, and I wish more researchers would pick up on this. My blood runs cold when I hear such statements as, “The doctors want to TAKE DOWN my immune system to deal with my inflammation”, etc.

    Such an attitude implies that our immune systems are to be viewed as an enemy within our bodies, poorly designed by a bungling Creator whose mistakes must now be corrected by modern scientist who (supposedly) know better. !!

    A certain amount of blame for this horrible view must lie with Darwin (a relative, as it happens), and it has led us royally up the proverbial garden path to a place where we find ourselves seduced by overly-sophisticated medical paradigms into abandoning the nutrition-based common sense medicine that, in many cases, worked surprisingly well for our forebears (viz. Sally Fallon’s and Mary Enig’s excellent Nourishing Traditions).

    I am not a professional scientist, but, along with my son (who is fighting chronic IBD), have spent the past three years in search of therapies to treat what we are 99% certain is a case of chronic refractory amoebic colitis (a.k.a. intestinal amoebiasis), contracted in the Dominican Republic in 2012).

    So many contributors to Internet discussions about IBD, Lyme, and other chronic illnesses, have concluded that steroids and other immune suppressants /- modulators do far more harm than good in their misguided assault on the immune system (the ‘defence’ of inflammation is initiated by the body because one or more invasive pathogens is / are at work, not because of suicidal self-assault against its own tissue).

    But many of them also agree, that it is the exponential* depletion of minerals, vitamins, and other essential nutrients (gelatin (collagen) is a big one) that so often fails to be addressed by the medics – despite the fact that replenishing these supplies is absolutely fundamental to the body’s ability to “fight its own battles”. Given that being re-enabled to fight those battles, through the re-equipping of the immune system with it’s fundamental resources, is surely the only long-term viable solution, it is frightening to see how hard the FDA and other powerful organizations are fighting, instead, to ensure that mainline medicine, in tandem with mainline provision of and education about nutrition, continues headlong in the opposite direction.
    (How many of you have read about the so-called “suicide” of Dr. Jeffrey Bradstreet, following an FDA crackdown on his supposedly illegal family medical practice, which specialized in successful “unorthodox” (read ‘non-FDA approved’) treatments for autistic children (including his own son)?)

    Yes, antibiotics can, indeed, be life-savers, and their value should not be underestimated. They most definitely were life-savers in our son’s case, and we sincerely thank God for them (though not the doctors who withheld them from our son for almost a year, so loath were they do admit they had misdiagnosed him); but they are not the long-term solution, and neither can we rely on their eternal availability. I feel much the same about vaccinations (though with even more caveats).

    As is well documented, antibiotics – along with their beneficial effects – often also cause varying degrees of damage, which must then be addressed. Less well documented, however, is the fact that our over-reliance on them (and upon other rapidly-acting emergency drugs) has distracted us from what should, in fact, be an equal – if not, indeed, a primary – focus on re-supplying the body with its depleted fundamental resources. These are the resources essential not only for maintaining its vital functions, but also for equipping its immune system to fight invasive pathogens and other assaults against its integrity. These include wholesome water, electrolytes and minerals, vitamins, and the good fats (animal, coconut, etc) without whose presence the maintenance of hydration is impossible.

    The chronic low-level dehydration that inevitably results, in chronic illness (and from stress, fatigue, living in polluted environments, and so on), from the depletion of these vital resources, may briefly be partially* addressed during emergency hospital visits, but the correction of chronic dehydration is very rarely included as part of protocols for ongoing recovery at home.

    This very serious omission is part of the bigger picture of emergency-based medical ‘care’ which was addressed in a recent People’s Pharmacy post, and which begs an even more fundamental question: when are we going to take back primary responsibility for our own health, through equipping and arming ourselves with reliable knowledge (exactly parallel to equipping and arming our immune systems with the resources it needs), so that, whilst valuing and respecting our professional medics, we can stop foolishly idolizing them at their expense as well as ours, and be in a better position to… yes!…fight our own battles effectively?

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^