The Good, the “Bad” and the Ugly
`I know, many who read this title are going “What in the world? This is going to be way too technical for me and I don’t really need to understand something so involved.” Well, that may be true for those who get the old deer-in-the-headlights look when they hear or read something medical, like I do when I talk with an attorney or insurance salesman. But if you liked the part about viruses, then you’re really going to like this part, too. These bacteria- along with viruses- are all part of the grand orchestra that is our body.
L-form Bacteria and Mollicutes- The Good, the “Bad” and the Ugly
The science behind this particular group of bacteria is an incredibly fascinating aspect of medicine and one that is just now coming into its own. Over man’s medical history, we went from simply observing fungi and molds growing on things to deciding that there must be “germs” inside our bodies causing disease. Much later, we observed these tiny entities under a new piece of equipment known as the microscope. We then hypothesized that there had to be something even smaller than bacteria causing disease, later proving the existence of the virus. We knew they were there, due to the absence of a bacterial entity, but were not able to actually see them until the invention of the electron microscope.
We have now repeated history with the discovery of the pleomorphic bacteria- a cell wall deficient bacterium that can crawl inside the cell in true viral fashion. In doing so, we’ve taken a step backwards- or at least sideways- in the “evolution” of medicine as we’ve finally come to grips with the importance of this dynamic group of bacteria also known as L- forms and mollicutes. L-form bacteria are those that “shed their skin” (lose their cell wall) and crawl into cells, particularly those of the immune system (white blood cells). Mollicutes are tiny bacteria that can actually get inside cells, exchange their DNA with that of the host cell, particularly with that of the mitochondria (powerhouses) of the cell.
Those who have read the Viruses- Friend or Foe section know that, for the longest time, I thought that viruses had no redeeming qualities. This lack of wisdom led me to demonize these infectious agents in the same way that most lay people and my professional colleagues were doing. Viruses caused disease and that was the end of the story. I know now that this is not the case and that these often-maligned entities are the very thing that are keeping us alive and well at any given moment.
Can the same thing be said about bacteria? In the days of E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks and the ever-present threat of MSRA’s (antibiotic-resistant, flesh eating bacteria), could anyone guess that bacteria play an equally important role in the maintenance of our health?
The fact is that our body is host to millions and millions of bacteria, most of which never cause disease while others do so only when we have done something to force them into doing harm. Sound familiar? Yes, many bacteria have the same behavior when it comes to disease as our recently identified allies, the viruses. There is no place in our body that has more bacteria than our intestinal tract. And yet, the healthy pet or person shows no sign that these guys are present, with the exception that their stool has a less-than-floral odor to it. However, put something into the stomach that doesn’t belong there and we can quickly be made aware of the multitudes of bacteria that reside in that normally dormant environment.
In the dog, we see a condition known as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) in which the pet suddenly develops violent diarrhea with what appears to be a large amount of blood. The deep red color is actually derived from a large amount of blood-tinged serum in the feces, resulting from an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. It is believed that this damage to the gut’s lining is caused by the release of a toxin by a certain bacteria, Clostridium perfringens, which is a close relative of the bacterium that causes tetanus. Both of these bacteria are known for their powerful endotoxins, with that of Clostridium tetani causing the classic symptom of lock-jaw.
And yet, we find that both organisms can be normal inhabitants of the dog’s body, with the tetanus bacterium living in the mouth of unaffected dogs, sometimes being transmitted to a human through a deep bite wound. Thus, it is routine to administer tetanus shots to those are dog-bitten. Unusual cases of tetanus in the dog have occurred, one of which I saw at my clinic a number of years ago. It was a four month old puppy that had contracted the illness through an abscessed baby tooth, something that has been reported a number of times in the veterinary literature. The combination of the damaged tooth and the immaturity of the patient were apparently the main factors that allowed this resident bacteria to gain a foothold in the unfortunate individual. But at that time, I questioned what other circumstances may have contributed to this once-in-a-career case. I had seen fractured baby teeth many times before but never before observed a case of auto-inoculation with tetanus bacteria. There had to be another explanation, perhaps a failed immune system or a mysterious cofactor that had previously eluded us.
A similar phenomenon occurs in cases of HGE. The Clostridium perfringens organism lies dormant in the intestinal tract for years and suddenly overgrows and releases its toxin. This is a very common and frequently recurrent condition in the dog. However, it was not until I was finally awakened to the importance of food intolerance that I began to see distinct patterns in my patients that would point to the true nature of this frightening and potentially life-threatening illness.
As I so commonly say to my clients “Whodathunk that the wrong food might actually cause chronic diarrhea?” We as veterinarians are quick to ask whether Fido got into anything weird when Mrs. Jones calls in a panic about her pet’s sudden bout of diarrhea. But oddly enough, the pet’s basic diet is one of the last things veterinarians fully investigate when this becomes a recurrent or persistent issue. I guess most doctors assume that the pet food industry knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to producing a safe and nutritious product. Some will place the pet on a prescription intestinal diet but when that doesn’t work, the client is either referred to a specialist or the pet…and owner…are doomed to long-term symptomatic medication. Once again, I can’t throw stones here because that was my exact routine for the first twenty years of my career. It wasn’t until I had personally experienced these gastrointestinal issues and learned about the “leaky gut syndrome” that I realized how much more diligent we needed to be in our investigation of the diet.
The sad fact is that most of the so-called “intestinal formulas” produced by the leaders in the pet food industry contained one or more of the “big 4” trouble foods. It is not uncommon to find corn, soy or even wheat in some of these “bland” diets. As a case in point, here is what happened to one of my best friends who called me after years of being out of touch. He had two aged Schnauzers that were having a number of health issues for which Don and his wife could find no solid answers. They had been to a number of the local veterinarians for chronic diarrhea, recurrent pancreatitis, ear infections, and the beginnings of kidney failure. Finally, out of desperation, they went to see a specialist at a veterinary university, who promptly prescribed chicken and Cream of Wheat as the solution to their problems. When this didn’t help, Don did an Internet search for my name and was quite surprised to find that I had a presence on the Internet in this very field of medicine.
We had a great reunion conversation, the climax of which was my attempt to explain why a veterinary specialist would prescribe the number-one food allergen, wheat, for a pet with chronic gastrointestinal issues. “As hard as it is to believe, Don, these guys just don’t think this way.” I went on to say that I could understand why the internist did not make the connection between gluten and pancreatitis or kidney failure. He would have to be in-tune with the celiac literature and understand lectins in order to make that leap. But I really could not offer a great explanation as to why this “specialist” felt compelled to make wheat one of the primary ingredients in an intestinal diet other than stating that this was standard practice and what I was taught to do over thirty years ago. Yes, if Don had been sitting next to me, I could have shown him the home-prepared diet recipes for various medical conditions found in the back of my internal medicine books utilizing Cream of Wheat in their formulas. But, those books had been published thirty years prior, ten years before the pet food industry made fateful transition from corn-based to wheat-laden diets. Over the past twenty years, pets have become horribly sensitized to wheat gluten and the allergy statistics tell the tale.
So, I instructed Don and Carol to start making their own dog food using beef, turkey, eggs, vegetables, sweet potatoes and well-cooked Idahos. The response was dramatic. I got a call from Don a short time later with the report that Lucy and Ethel were doing remarkably well and even acting like puppies again. In fact, Carol was so excited to see a normal stool from Ethel that she threatened to send Don an Email picture of one of her latest productions. As crazy as that sounds, people do get excited when a long-term problem finally abates.
This case illustrates three very important points: 1) The body reacts the way it does for very good reason. If we insult it, it will respond appropriately. We may not like the diarrhea, but it occurs for a reason; 2) We can cover up these symptoms with drugs and see major improvements as we do so, even without eliminating the true, underlying cause. But, there will come a time when the drugs stop working; and 3) The appropriate course of action can result in rapid and permanent improvement.
I recently had a case of chronic diarrhea in a cat of two years duration. The owner drove over 50 miles to see me after finding my Website. This poor kitty had been on antibiotics and gastrointestinal motility drugs during that entire time, which allowed the patient to control her diarrhea but never resulted in a formed stool. After taking a history of all diets the owner had utilized during that time, I suspected that the kitty had a rice allergy/intolerance and placed it on a meat-only commercial canned food that I stocked at my hospital. We also did a food allergy test due to the chronic nature of the intestinal condition and the accompanying diabetes, skin allergies and ear problems. It typically takes ten days or so to obtain the results from these tests but I called the owner three days after the exam to see how her cat was doing. She excitedly reported that the patient had her first formed stool the day before. Yes, despite suffering from diarrhea for over two years, the patient’s problem had abated after being on the elimination diet for only two days. The diet change accomplished what years of medication had failed to do and had done so faster than the owner could ever imagine.
What happened to all of the “evil bacteria” that were causing all of those chronic problems? How could an organism with such a bad reputation for requiring antibiotics vanish in short order? The truths of the matter are: They are not evil, they do not cause our chronic illness, nor are they gone when we are lacking in symptoms.
Bacteria serve numerous vital functions in our body, including the facilitation of digestion, the production of vitamins, the control of other potential pathogens (e.g. yeast), the escalation of the immune response, and the provision of additional warning signs when we have made a dietary or environmental mistake. Once again, a temporary upset of a bodily system becomes a long term illness, or “disease”, when we fail to recognize the underlying insult and halt that action.
Just how quickly can a long-term issue resolve with proper treatment? In the case of the gastrointestinal tract, which is the fastest healing tissues in the body, this can occur in matter of days, even after years of symptoms. It only took four days for my long-term heartburn to resolve once I eliminated gluten from my diet. It took less than a week for my friend’s dog, Ethel, to get better. But it required less than 48 hours to halt two years of diarrhea in that diabetic, allergy-riddled kitty cat. Bottom line: These bacteria don’t want to cause symptoms. They are being forced into doing so by our actions, which usually violate the natural order on many levels. Cats don’t eat grains in nature; dogs don’t consume soy or wheat in the wild; and, humans are the only species that ever drinks the milk of another animal.
“But aren’t there bacteria that cause more serious illness and even death?” I am often asked as this point in the lecture. Yes, there are. But as in the case of opportunist viral infections, most of these extraordinary cases are experienced by those with compromised immune systems, severe trauma, or concurrent illnesses that allow these bacteria to gain their foothold. Unfortunately, there is good reason for the elderly pet or person to be the most afflicted in this regard, as they have sustained the most trauma to their organs over time and have suffered the loss of immune competency. However, medical conditions that used to be restricted to the elderly are now being reported in young adults, a fact that supports the notion we are doing this to ourselves.
Although we do have mutant strains of bacteria that are now showing up, just as we have ever-evolving strains of flu viruses, they are changing in response to the same insults that we are throwing at viruses. In fact, there are viruses known as bacteriophages that affect the bacteria in the way that other viruses infect tissue cells. These adaptive viruses help bacteria “evolve” (adapt to their ever-changing environment), enabling them to become resistant to our constant insults (e.g. antibiotics, fluoridated water, chemicals, preservatives and other pollutants). This helps to illustrate the underlying importance of these poorly understood bacteria.
One of the most interesting aspects of this adaption is found in the ability of some bacteria to develop an “L-form”. In this case, the bacteria sheds it outer cell wall and moves to the inside of a cell. Most bacteria remain on the outside of a cell and infect it by attaching to the receptors of that cell, creating inflammation in that tissue. Others, such as Clostridial bacteria, produce an endotoxin that causes this inflammation or dysfunction of that particular tissue, signaling the attention of the immune system and inviting it’s housecleaning crew to come mop up the mess we’ve created.
But the L-form bacteria, also known as cell wall deficient (CWD) bacteria, is able to move through the cell wall of the host tissue and set up housekeeping inside that cell. Examples of bacteria that are capable of making this fascinating transition are Streptococcus, Borrelia (the Lyme organism), Helicobacter (a stomach resident), and Mycobacterium (one of the bacteria involved in Crohn’s disease).
Now, some clients tell me that this part is way too technical for them, as if I couldn’t tell by the glazed look in their eyes. But I ask them to hang in there for a moment because this rather technical dissertation has a practical application. I assure my clients and readers that I don’t expect them to remember any single trivial fact that I throw at them. I am going for something much bigger- a change in mindset that will transform their way of looking at illness and the symptoms that accompany it. I am also looking to set up a road block between them experiencing a symptom and their reaching for a symptomatic remedy from the medicine chest or the shelves of local pharmacy. To be clear, I am not suggesting that readers simply abandon their prescriptions but I do hope to provide information that may make some drugs less necessary. Remember: I was on four or five different prescriptions at one time in the year 2000 and have not taken a single one of them since.
Here’s the short version: Many of these L-form bacteria have been implicated in a wide array of serious and chronic illnesses including Crohn’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Barrett’s esophagus and lower esophageal cancer, Lyme Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Syphilis. There are also veterinary versions of many of these bacteria. Although antibiotics and other symptomatic drugs are used to treat many of these conditions, most sufferers are told that there is no cure for such afflictions. The goal is typically to make the patient as comfortable as possible using the latest pharmaceuticals, directed at the bacteria involved in the condition or toward the inflammation, pain, depression, or symptoms associated with that condition. Why can’t we cure these individuals? If it “just a bacterial infection”, why can’t we wipe these guys out like we seem to do a sinus or urinary tract infection?
Amazingly, we have known very little about these odd little entities until just recently. In fact, some of them were literally stumbled upon in the last decade. A very good example is the mycoplasma, a member of the relatively newly designated group called the Mollicutes. Alternately called PPLO’s or MLO’s, this unusual group of bacteria also lacks a cell wall. Mycoplasma were recently found in the joints of a rheumatoid sufferer when that individual contracted mycoplasmal pneumonia, a relatively common respiratory condition of humans, and was placed on the appropriate antibiotic. Doctors were amazed to find the patient’s rheumatoid arthritis also resolved when the doxycycline was prescribed for the pneumonia. As Steven Colbert would say to John Stewart of The Daily Show “Hmmm… That’s a three-stroker, John!”, as he massaged his chin while reflecting on the irony of the statement he had just made. But as I tell my clients, I may sometimes do the right thing for the wrong reason but I am happy as long as I do the right thing.
It turns out that a multitude of these intracellular bacteria can be found throughout our body. Helicobacter pylori, for example, is a normal resident of the stomach but moves into the lower esophagus once the initial damage is done by chronic acid reflux. This guy is an “opportunist”…of sorts. I would leave off the “of sorts” in my lectures until I realized why Helicobacter moves into that damaged area. I used to think it was purely because this bacteria wanted to cause disease and was simply waiting for its opportunity, similar to the incorrect perspective I had on viruses for so long.
But now I believe that this bacteria sheds its skin and moves into the cells of this area in order to escape the worsening inflammation and the drugs being used to treat Barrett’s esophagus, that precancerous change in the lower esophagus that results from severe and persistent reflux. This cellular invasion by Helicobacter does turn the heat up on the fire raging in that area but, once again, inflammation serves a purpose by stimulating the immune system, promoting blood supply and cellular replication, and providing us with escalating warning signs that we have made a mistake. In this way, we can see that Helicobacter is the bridge between phase-one and phase-two of esophageal, gastric and duodenal disorders. If we ignore the early warning signs, there will be others that are more intense. If we ignore those, then we will suffer the consequences about which the symptoms were warning us, with cancer so commonly being the final phase of this progression. Yes, Helicobacter has been indicted for his role in lower esophageal cancer.
And yet, it has been established that over 50% of the world’s population are “infected” with Helicobacter pylori and that 80% of those individuals are asymptomatic. The statistics for the Tuberculosis bacteria are similar. How can we call a guy like that a true pathogen?
Because my head is now screwed on a bit differently and I now look for the purpose in all things medical, I have to believe that bacteria like this have a positive role beyond what we currently understand. If nothing else, they serve as sentinels or facilitators of inflammation, taking inflammation to new heights in order to get our attention or that of the immune system. If an Internet search is performed, Helicobacter is blatantly charged with being the “cause” of gastric and duodenal ulcers. In my speaking engagements, I like to refer to bacteria and viruses with personal pronouns and shout out things like “No, he’s not!” Helicobacter may make the ulcer deeper and wider (so that we finally start paying attention to what we are doing wrong) but he doesn’t cause the ulcer from the get-go.
What causes the initial ulcer? Inflammation starts the process, just as it does in the skin of dogs with allergies. The infection with bacteria is a secondary event. In the skin, inhalant allergies and the subsequent release of histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins shut off the skin’s ability to produce the two antibiotic substances that help control the residential bacteria. The bacterial growth is a secondary occurrence and serves multiple functions, including the attraction of the immune system and the adaptation of those resident bacteria to their newly challenged environment. They then re-enter the cell and report the change in external conditions to that cell’s mitochondria, which are responsible for the differentiation (‘evolution”) of that cell. It’s all part of an amazing process called adaptation, involving resident bacteria and viruses and taking place in every cell of our body.
And as we continue to provide the insults that started the adaptive process, inflammation gets progressively worse. In both the stomach and the skin illustrations, more cells become affected and more of the allergy sentinels- the mast cells- join in the battle. In the skin, the results of mast cell action are seen in the swelling and redness and felt in the burning or itching that accompanies an allergic reaction. This is the principle finding in dogs with food allergies whereas respiratory and gastrointestinal signs are more common in humans and IBS is the predominant symptom is cats.
Mast cells are located in the skin, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tree- all three areas where we and our pets suffer immunological challenges. In the skin, they are concentrated in the feet, face and anal area, which is incidentally where we are most likely to be challenged by venomous insects. The release of histamine results in swelling designed to entrap the bee, wasp or ant toxin, preventing its entry into the bloodstream. Once again, the design is a grand one. But in stomach, histamine released by mast cells triggers the release of acid, the body’s desperate attempt to burn up the offending food (e.g. wheat, dairy, soy or corn) while moderating the reaction by our new friend Mr. Helicobacter.
Not surprisingly, things can escalate as we add drugs to the mix. It turns out that Helicobacter pylori prefers an acid environment. This should be no surprise since he is a normal resident of the stomach and duodenum, the most acid-rich areas of our body. If he liked alkaline surroundings, he would be found somewhere else in the system. But he enjoys an optimal range and the pH of the stomach and upper GI tract is tempered by the bicarbonate in our saliva and the food we ingest so that the optimal acidity is maintained both during eating and between meals. This is yet another great example of the technical perfection found in our bodies.
But in steps man with his plan. Oblivious to the fact that his intolerance to wheat, dairy, soy, corn or an array of secondary food allergens has caused his stomach cells to produce excessive acid, he starts downing the antacids to control the discomfort of heartburn- the warning sign that his stomach so kindly provided. Many will say something like “Man, what did I eat that did this to me” but then not give this profound revelation another thought. Little did they know that they had the solution, albeit momentary, right there in their head. Yes, it was the food that did this. Why do we not pursue this line of thinking?
But Helicobacter says something a little different in this situation. In effect, he says “What the heck?” as we rapidly turn his house into an alkaline environment, kind of like turning off the heat on a freezing winter day. He dives under the covers and finds a nice cozy little spot in a bed of inflammation caused by the initial reaction to the food. As things progress, this adaptive bacteria decides he prefers a California King instead of the baby bed he first encountered. He needs more room to expand because things are getting a bit dicey, with all of the inflammation and alkaline rain taking place. The ulcer enlarges and ultimately starts to bleed…until a scientist discovers that Helicobacter is “causing” the ulcer and develops antibiotics that kill him in his bed. “Problem solved!” Or is it?
I found out something really interesting about this particular bacterium while I was doing some research on strokes and heart attacks. Researchers have discovered Helicobacter DNA in atherosclerotic (cholesterol) plaques that have formed on the walls of the carotid artery. In fact, in one study, over 50% of the arteries sampled were positive for this normal resident of the stomach. Wow! The doctors involved in the study were trying to determine the clinical significance of these bacterial invaders and were questioning whether the presence of Helicobacter in these plaques was a stimulus for the development of the atherosclerosis or a trigger for the release of pieces of the plaque, which would then travel downstream from the site, obstruct that vessel, and result in a stroke.
Apparently, the jury is still out on that case. I know how I would vote: Not guilty by reason of our insanity. In the meantime, another strange bacterium, Chlamydia pneumoniae, has also been found in similar lesions of blood vessels. Like the mycoplasma, this intracellular bacterium has been classified and reclassified over time, first being deemed a protozoan, then a virus, and finally a bacterium. Why the confusion? Because this critter is an obligate intracellular bacterium, which means he can only reproduce inside the cell, just like the members of his previous classifications. They infect other cells by forming a kind of spore which can survive outside the cell for a short period of time until it attaches to the receptors of another cell and imbibed by that cell. Once there, it quickly forms a covering that protects itself from the invader-killing structures called lysosomes. In this little cocoon (inclusion body), it starts to replicate and is later triggered to release its offspring to infect other cells.
Researchers report that they don’t really understand the triggers and pathways by which this guy moves from one form to another but Chlamydia have been identified as STDs in humans and are the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide (trachoma). Other species are affected by different members of this group, including cats, mice, hamsters and swine. With that collection of affected species, one would have to wonder whether there has been some transmission between them. We know that a number of viruses and bacteria move between species and I suspect many more than we have formally documented make this transition.
Chlamydia happens to be a bacteria that does cross species lines. In the cat, this organism causes an upper respiratory condition and conjunctivitis (pink eye), just as it does in humans. Interestingly enough, it usually infects one eye and then can move into the other eye in about three weeks, during which time the infection can be transmitted to the owner. Although this is uncommon, I have had it occur in veterinary clients. But what is both fascinating and relevant is that the infected cat can have recurrences in their lifetime, during which they show the same pattern of infection, starting unilaterally and characterized by varying degrees of conjunctivitis. Most don’t have a recurrence of the respiratory condition but this can occur, especially in immune-suppressed individuals, as the organism is known to remain in tissues indefinitely.
Because this condition is chronic, latent, and potentially contagious to humans, I began to question whether allergies to cats served a greater purpose. As I mentioned in the section on the development of inhaled allergies, the body knows exactly what it is doing when it forms this kind of sensitivity. The stuffy nose and runny eyes that cat allergy sufferers develop may very well be protecting us from more than just the cat’s dander.(See the Appetizer on “Tear Staining in Dogs” for an interesting parallel in the dog.)
If these organisms are ubiquitous and there is potential for zoonosis (traveling from animals to man), then why aren’t more people outwardly affected? Or are they? Researchers have now found mycoplasma in the brain of people with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and Gulf War Syndrome as well as the peripheral nerves of people with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and the lungs of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder). Because they are inside the cell and can cause significant disruption of cellular function, including disorders of the mitochondrial power houses of the cell, they have finally gotten the full attention of the scientific community. In fact, because these Mollicutes can “interfere” with DNA transcription, their role in the development of cancer is now being investigated.
The results of some studies have been reported as being ” inconclusive” but we do know that the mitochondria of the cell are involved in cell growth and differentiation and the DNA of these little power houses show a remarkable resemblance to the genome of bacteria. Thankfully, the DNA of the mitochondria is separate and independent of that found in the nucleus of the cell, where most of our functional DNA is housed. However, it is clear that these bacteria play a vital role in cellular function, facilitating adaptation and determining the differentiation of the cell.
The perfect example of this amazing process is their response to cigarette smoke. We know that chronic smoke inhalation leads to a change in morphology of the cells that line the respiratory tract. These delicate cells start out as a tall, slimy cell with a hair-like projection called a cilia, used for sweeping out debris, irritants and pollutants. But the constant heat and chemical insults associated with cigarette smoking causes these cells to undergo a cellular change called squamous metaplasia, in which the insulted cells become more like skin. This is known to be a precancerous change. These cells get flatter and flatter, ultimately losing their cilia and ability to sweep, leading to the “smoker’s cough”.
The fascinating thing is this process can be reversed if the individual stops smoking in time, the problem being that we can’t see this adaptive process taking place. We just have to believe and understand that is it occurring. When has has the smoker gone too far? When have they reaches the point of no return
Functionally, that point is reached when the mitochondria have been signaled by the resident, adaptive bacteria in the lungs to undergo the squamous metaplasia (a form of cell differentiation) and the nucleus tells the cell to divide, the latter being under the control of the adaptive viruses involved in this process. As we said, viruses affect the nucleus while pleomorphic bacteria influence the mitochondria. As long as we have only the mitochondria involved, the cell undergoes metaplasia- an adaptive process that helps to protect the cell…and it’s residents. But when the nuclear viruses becomes involved, bad things can happen. In a word, cancer. After all, we have established that nearly 40% of the genetic codes in our DNA are viral codes, passed down though the generations and explaining “genetic diseases”, including various cancers that run so consistently through human families and dog breeds.
And yet, many people have never heard of these DNA-encoded viruses or pleomorphic bacteria, just as most never heard the words “cancer” and “virus” used in the same sentence until the cervical cancer vaccine was introduced. Are the guys in lab coats, who are supposedly running around in those ivory towers, protecting us from a public panic or are they simply waiting ‘til they get their ducks in a row before becoming the harbingers of this seemingly bad news? Or is it something a little more complex than that? I hate to be the one to burst the bubble but we have to face the fact that medicine is an inexact science at this point. We have done some regrettable things in the past- all in the name of science- motivated by the spirit of discovery, protected by a veil of secrecy, and covered by the cloak of ignorance. Hey, we all make mistakes because we don’t know everything…yet.
On the other hand, it’s 2009 as I write this and we have made quantum leaps in our technology, all the while remaining relatively ignorant (or in denial) of how the body truly operates. We’ve been to the moon and placed instruments on far away planets and yet we haven’t grasped how our diets are killing us. That is quite frightening to me. It’s not that we are told by doctors to take antacids and antibiotics to kill symptoms and bacteria that serve a greater purpose that concerns me most. It is the fact that these same scientists are using these misunderstood viruses and bacteria in their development of vaccines and the modification of food, both of which have the potential for disastrous results on a global scale.
As I study more about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and their use in our foods and the latest line-up of inoculations for pets and their people, it reads like a science fiction novel complete with mad scientists and bizarre life-forms developing on earth. Have we not learned any more about these natural, helpful, earthly microorganisms than we knew about those extraterrestrial beings emanating from flying saucers that landed in the Saturday matinees of yore?
Apparently not. But we’re getting there.