By the way, today's topic is not about bird flu, but if you were paying attention a couple weeks ago, you might have noticed that the US Government essentially threw up its hands and cried "Uncle" on bird flu. In effect they (Mike Leavitt, the Health and Human Services Secretary) announced that the best solution the government has for bird flu is for every citizen "to start storing canned foods and powdered milk under their beds as the prospect of a deadly bird flu outbreak approaches the United States. According to Mr. Leavitt, we need to prepare for two weeks of being stuck in our homes without access to food, water, batteries, medications, toilet paper, running toilets, etc. -- as the virus rages through our communities, all public services are shut down, and we hide terrorized in our homes. So much for the vaccine and drug defense we were promised.
But cheer up, things may not be as bad as they seem. Although we are certainly in more danger than last year when bird flu "hit" the news, two major milestones have not been crossed.
- Bird flu still has not clearly been shown to have produced a mutation that infects from human to human.
- And absolutely no mutation has demonstrated anything close to the ability to transmit from human to human -- readily.
Until that happens, there is no pandemic -- at least among people.
So how likely is that to happen? According to what you read in the news, it's any second now. But that's not necessarily true.
Keep in mind that unlike most news organizations, I've been tracking this issue for over 20 years. For a reality check, take a look at this archive of an article from USA Today written over 10 years ago on the "coming" bird flu pandemic. It reads like it could have been written just a couple of months ago -- and yet, 10 years on, still no pandemic.
Yes, there are several things that make bird flu more dangerous now than it was 10 years ago (or 20 years ago when I first started tracking it) -- although it's still essentially the same beast.
- The industrialization of Asia, which has brought country markets in much closer contact with urban populations.
- The much greater flow of goods and human traffic between Asia and the rest of the world, which promotes the rapid spread of any virus.
- The worldwide industrialization of the chicken industry (in many parts of Africa, for example, chicken is now the main protein), which has huge financial and nutritional implications even if bird flu never becomes a human pandemic.
But the bottom line is: If you have to ask, "Has the pandemic arrived?" It hasn't. In the meantime, it's never a bad idea to keep extra food and water on hand. Living in earthquake country, Kristen and I do that as a matter of course anyway.
But enough of that! As I said earlier, this newsletter is not about bird flu. It's about the fact that while everyone is obsessing on bird flu, other viruses and new aggressive bacteria are impacting us in ever escalating numbers right now -- today.
Drug resistant super-bacteria found in general population
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus, aka Staph) is a type of bacteria commonly carried on the skin and in the noses of healthy people without causing infection. This is known as bacterial colonization. However, when S. aureus organisms invade the body, they can cause serious infections. Most staph infections can be treated easily with antibiotics (methicillin-sensitive S. aureus [MSSA]) while others are resistant to antibiotics, such as methicillin (methicillin-resistant S. aureus [MRSA]).
In its most severe form, methicillin resistant S. aureus can turn into a fatal flesh-destroying scourge.
"It all began with what looked like a spider bite on Eileen Moore's left thigh. Nothing to worry about, she figured. Within 24 hours, the "bite" became a 6-inch welt with a bubble of pus that eventually ripened into a black wound. Over the next few months, scabs dotted her face. A hangnail caused her middle finger to bloat like a sausage. Her pierced ears oozed pus."
S. Aureus survived as a relatively undistinguished microbe until the mid-20th century. The introduction of the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1941 set the bacterium on its path of deadly mutation. It took just two years for the first reports of the bacterium's new-found resistance to start trickling in.
In the early 1960s, doctors deployed a new antibiotic, methicillin, against the disease. The first signs of resistance to methicillin appeared in less than a year. The resistant strain (MRSA) quickly became ingrained in hospitals in Europe, Australia and the U.S.
By the early 1990s, MRSA infections had become the leading cause of hospital-acquired skin infections in the United States. Recent studies have shown that this kind of staph bacterium has also colonized hospitals in Egypt, Taiwan and South America.
For decades, antibiotic resistant staph infections were found only in hospitals, where the constant use of different antibiotics, including methicillin, made the bacteria resistant to many of the most powerful antibiotics.
In the last few years, MRSA has popped up in health clubs, high school gyms, sex clubs, jails, and schools -- just about anywhere bacteria can grow. It has affected everyone from athletes to school children to newborn babies. It has become a growing problem that is largely unknown by the general population. Researchers at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar analyzed skin infections that showed up in their emergency room. The results were nothing short of alarming:
- In 2002, methicillin-resistant staph caused 29% of those infections.
- In 2004, just two years later, the rate was 64%
In fact, a national health study (the 2001-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) estimated that as many as 2 million people in the US alone may be infected with methicillin-resistant staph infections.
According to experts cited in an LA Times article:
- "I would characterize it as widespread, and in some areas it is epidemic." - Jeff Hageman, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a coauthor of two studies on staph published last year.
- "The rapidity with which this has emerged over the last two to three years is probably unprecedented. When you look at the numbers, this way outstrips other so-called new infectious diseases." - Donald Low, a microbiologist at the University of Toronto who was one of the key scientists who dealt with Toronto's SARS outbreak in 2003.
In the September 1995, FDA Consumer Magazine, geneticist Rick Lewis stated that at the time, the greatest fear was a vancomycin-resistant bacteria strain. In 1995 vancomycin was considered the antibiotic "of last resort." Lewis added that, "…it is only a matter of time, many microbiologists believe, until vancomycin-resistant staph infections appear." The point?
- Ten years ago, (apparently just after Lewis' statement) a strain that could partially resist vancomycin surfaced in Japan.
- A totally vancomycin resistant strain emerged a few years later in Michigan.
Today, over 95% of Staphylococcus aureus worldwide is penicillin-resistant and 60% is methicillin-resistant. And the clock is still ticking…Imagine totally drug resistant bacteria that can potentially develop into a fatal flesh-eating disease.
While governments the world over are obsessing on the "possibility" of bird flu, we may very well be entering an era reminiscent of pre-antibiotic medicine.
But as another look at the news shows us, drug resistant bacteria may be only half the problem.
Virus may cause Cancer!?
Just about a month ago, all of the major news services carried a story under headlines such as:
- Virus Could Be Prostate Cancer Key
- Virus May Have Links to Prostate Cancer
- Virus may cause prostate cancer
"It is a very exciting discovery," said Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic, who presented the findings at an American Society of Clinical Oncology prostate symposium in San Francisco. "There is now a suggestion that prostate cancer could be caused by an infectious disease."
The essence of the story was that a team of scientists in Cleveland and San Francisco discovered a new virus among patients who had a rare form of prostate cancer and a particular genetic mutation.
The gene in question (RNAsel) is a vital cog in the body's defense system. It codes for an enzyme that helps kill invading viruses. The men with the mutated genes make fewer such enzymes than those with normal versions of the gene and therefore have less resistance to infection.
The virus, called XMRV (a virus commonly found in mice), could yet prove to be harmless in people. Still, finding a virus in even a rare form of prostate cancer intrigues scientists because of growing suspicions that prostate cancer might result from chronic inflammation from infection with some bacterium or virus. In the study, the researchers found the virus 25 times more often among a small group of men with the RNAsel gene mutation and prostate cancer than among men without the mutation.
While finding a virus in prostate tissue is somewhat surprising to medical researchers (although not so much to readers of this newsletter), finding the mouse virus was a bigger surprise. As the researchers pointed out, it is extremely unlikely that contact with mice was responsible for the virus detected in prostate tumors in the study. More likely, some form of human-to-human transmission is involved.
The researchers also said that they were sure that the viral infection was linked to the RNAsel genetic mutation, which "means that either people with that mutation are more likely to acquire infection than others, or that they are less likely to clear the virus than someone without it." Either way, the result is an increased production of aberrant cells since viruses hijack cells in order to reproduce.
So what does it all mean?
Quite simply, it means that one more substantial piece of evidence has been presented in the case that cancer is fundamentally a disease of the immune system. Note: Other viruses have already been implicated in certain cancers of the liver and cervix. For a complete discussion of the issue, you can listen to my talk exploring the issue in detail: Cancer, the Big Lie: Dial Up - Broadband
Tying it all together
So what do Bird Flu, Flesh Eating Bacteria, and Cancer all have in common?
It looks like the best defense for all three may be:
- Destroy as many invading pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc.) as possible.
- Optimize your immune system to clean up the rest.
I've certainly covered this in detail in a number of previous newsletters (see archives), but to summarize once again.
Pathogen destroyers include:
- Olive leaf extract
- Oil of wild mountain oregano
- Grapefruit seed extract
- Certain forms of humic and fulvic acid and zeolite
Immune boosters include:
- Pau d'arco
- Medicinal mushrooms
- Beta glucans
- Aloe vera
- Bovine colostrum
And don't forget, your immune system is intimately tied to your entire Baseline of Health®. For example, you can take all the immune boosters in the world you want, but if your liver is clogged with cholesterol and only partially functional, your immune system will only be partially effective. Or, you can shovel down all the pathogen destroyers in the world, but if you don't replenish the beneficial bacteria in your intestinal tract, you may be missing as much as 40% of your immune function. In the end, for optimal immune function, you must optimize your entire Baseline of Health. Remember, you are only as strong as your weakest link.
If you have not already done so, download your free copy of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors. It tells you everything you need to know about your Baseline of Health, and how to optimize every major system in your body to protect against all forms of illness.