Oct
06
2018

Health Risks After Hurricanes

We hear a lot about the dangers of hurricanes when they are in a region, but very little regarding health risks after hurricanes. I thought it would be interesting to review all of the health risks in a blog.

Health risks during a hurricane

A lot of the health risks during a hurricane are directly related to the risks from the wind severity, the amount of rain per hour and the physical damage from the hurricane. The excessive wind can uproot trees and they may fall right onto a house. This happened in the beginning of hurricane Florence. The amount of rain that comes down in a short time frame can be astounding. It causes flooding, which together with the high wind speeds can make you lose your footing. There is flying debris, torn away pieces of wood and drywall that can become a hazard to any person. It is a hazard that could kill you right there. It is best to be out of the way of a hurricane, if you can at all. But you need to watch hurricane predictions on the Internet or the news, so you know what is going on long before the hurricane arrives. This gives you enough time to travel away from the danger zone. People who live on islands need to be particularly proactive, so that they get out of harms way in time.

Be safe from floodwaters

If you live in a low-lying area, it is safer for you to leave and go to a shelter before the hurricane hits. Otherwise you end up drowning. Being on top of your house in a hurricane is dangerous as the roof may fly off any minute from the force of the wind. You are also the target of flying debris, wood pieces and other flying objects.

Contaminated water is one of the major health risks after hurricanes

With hurricane Maria in 2018 it appeared in the first few days that only 16 to 18 people had died from the physical effects of the hurricane in Puerto Rico. But in the subsequent weeks and months people died en masse because of infections from contaminated drinking water. It is unbelievable that huge water supplies had been brought in by FEMA following the hurricane Maria, but it was not distributed to the people who needed it. The total death toll is now around the 3000 mark. FEMA calculated this by subtracting 13,000 deaths due to natural causes from the total deaths of 16,000. The difference is about 3,000 deaths, attributable to hurricane Maria.

Providing clean drinking water important

Providing clean drinking water should be the first priority following a hurricane. This will prevent that people get the typical water-born bacterial and viral illnesses following a hurricane.

One patient in Puerto Rico with chronic emphysema was on a breathing machine. The interruption of electricity as a result of hurricane Maria meant his death. Some people are so vulnerable that the interruption of electricity ends their life.

Communicable diseases from floodwaters

The WHO has brought out a fact sheet regarding communicable diseases from floodwaters. People need to be aware that floodwaters are contaminated and avoid them as much as possible. However, they also point out that unless you have bruises or cuts where bacteria from contaminated waters could grow the danger is smaller than generally believed.

Mold from water damage to houses

After hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 2005 there was a lot of mold growth in houses that were flooded. This caused an overwhelming odor that was difficult to cope with. Bleach water removes mold initially until a professional crew can clean it up at a later date. I mention this here because following a hurricane there will not be enough professional people around to help. Mold is particularly devastating for asthmatics and people with chronic respiratory conditions. These people need evacuation from such living environments until the house is clean from molds. Flare-ups of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can be deadly. Under normal circumstances people with respiratory problems can manage, but these people are at a severe risk of dying from an aggravation of their underlying conditions. Hurricane Katrina will be remembered for this.

Living in destroyed homes

Often with a direct hit of hurricane the roofs of homes are missing. The hurricane ripped them off and they literally flew away. A home without a roof is prone to water damage from future precipitation. There is the danger of mouse and rat infestation. Birds can enter and partake in the leftover meals. Their droppings may contain contagious bacteria like salmonella causing typhoid fever. Builders  work hard and long hours; it can take months or years before life is normal again. It may be wiser to live with a relative for a few months until the house is in livable condition again. When electricity is restored and the water lines are functioning again, there may still be an issue about getting safe drinking water and uncontaminated water to have showers and baths. Also, without proper shelter there are risks of mosquitoes transferring communicable diseases. This happened in the Dominican Republic.

Malaria in the Dominican Republic

In September 2004 Hurricane Jeanne struck the Dominican Republic. Subsequently there was more flooding from heavy rainfalls. The end result was a mini-epidemic of 17 cases of malaria, because the flooded areas gave the mosquitoes more breeding ground to multiply. Fortunately no one died, as all the malaria cases responded to chloroquine and primaquine. But some patients had to be treated in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. As already mentioned there are other water born illnesses that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and fever. These people need to get immediate access to a hospital where the medical staff will rehydrate them intravenously. Otherwise they could die.

Health Risks After Hurricanes

Health Risks After Hurricanes

Conclusion

Hurricanes pose enormous problems for the communities where landfall occurs. Close to the eye of the hurricane are the worst structural damages to properties and trees. But even miles away from that there can be flooding due to excessive winds and rain. Most people are reasonable during the initial phase when the hurricane hits. This means they stay inside so they can protect themselves from the direct impact of the storm. But hurricanes can pull roofs off and people can get hurt.

Illnesses from contaminated water

Later there is a disruption of the electrical supply as well as the water supply. The restoration of the utilities may take days or weeks. Immediately you depend on fresh and clean water supply, and when you run out, there may not be enough fresh water available. Illnesses from contaminated water become a huge problem at that point. This is where a lot of mortality comes from in the aftermath of a hurricane.

If you can, it is wiser to escape this all by visiting a relative far away from the hurricane area. In this case you must leave well in time before the hurricane hits. You can check with the authorities when it would be safe to return home. At least you know that you have survived. Everything else can wait. You will gradually take care of it. But it may take a long time for things to return to normal.

Aug
25
2018

The Downside Of Living To 100

A review article has examined longevity and reviewed the downside of living to 100. In their 80’s about 10% of the population live in nursing homes, but among centenarians 55% are residing in nursing homes. They are often very lonely, as their social circles have shrunk as they aged.

Common diseases of older people

Osteoarthritis makes it difficult for people to get around, it causes chronic pain and it can also be the reason for falls. In 1990 there were 213.4 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000. 26 years later, in 2016 there were 232.1 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000 people.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been falling, because less people smoke cigarettes now. Statistics show 1667 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 1990, but only 945 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 2016.

Diarrhea and common infections have dropped sharply from 8951 per 100,000 in 1990 to 3276 per 100,000 in 2016.

What other common diseases do older people get?

There are a number of common diseases that affect the elderly.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hips and the knees are common, but it can affect every joint in the body. In the end stage knee replacements or hip replacements may be necessary. But before a total knee replacement or total hip replacement can even come into consideration, the person’s heart needs a thorough checkup to ensure that it is safe for the patient to undergo surgery under a general anesthetic.

Heart disease

Older people often have heart disease.

When coronary arteries are narrowed, heart attacks occur. Cardiologists can place stents, so that previously narrowed coronary arteries receive normal blood flow. Following such a procedure the patient may live for another 10 to 15 years.

There are also heart valve calcifications. The aortic valve is particularly endangered. A heart surgeon may be able to replace a diseased aortic valve by a porcine valve.

The nervous system of the heart transmits electrical signals from the sinus node to the muscle fibers, which can get diseased. Heart rhythm problems may necessitate the insertion of a pacemaker.

Finally, the heart may enlarge, but pump less blood than before. This condition is congestive heart failure. The 5-year survival for this condition is only 50.4%. Unfortunately there is very little the doctor can do for patients like this.

Cancer

The older we get, the more DNA mutations we accumulate. At one point cancer develops. If the diagnosis happens at an early stage there is a good chance that surgery can remove a cancerous growth, and the patient survives. But there are cancers that are notoriously difficult to recognize in the early stages. These are: cancer of the pancreas, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and certain types of leukemias.

Respiratory diseases

Those who smoked earlier in life may develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronically disabling lung disorder. Often these individuals have to carry an oxygen tank with them wherever they go. The 5-year survival rate for people with COPD is 40 to 70%.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone is brittle. Spontaneous bone fractures can occur at the wrists, the upper thigh bone (femoral fractures) or in the vertebral bones. Women in menopause are hormone deficient and this contributes to calcium depletion of the bones. Lately research has shown that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 are necessary for a normal calcium metabolism. Briefly, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 and 5000 IU of vitamin D3 every day are the necessary dosage that the body can absorb calcium from the gut, eliminate it from the blood vessels and deposit it into the bone. Calcium is present in milk products and milk. If a person does not consume enough milk products a supplement of 1000 mg of calcium daily does make sense.

Alzheimer’s

The older we get, the more likely it is an onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Between the ages of 90 to 94 there is a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 12.7% per year. The group from age 95 to 99 years has a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 21.2% per year. Persons aged 100 years and older have an increase of Alzheimer’s by 40.7% per year. What this means is that essentially there is a doubling of Alzheimer’s every 5.5 years. We do not have all of the answers why this is happening and why Alzheimer’s develops. But we do know that diabetics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. High blood sugar levels and high insulin levels seem to lead to the precipitation of the tau protein in the brain, which causes Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes

When diabetes is not well controlled, there is accelerated hardening of the arteries. This can cause heart attacks and strokes. Longstanding diabetes can affect the kidneys (diabetic nephropathy, kidney damage) and can lead to hardening of the leg arteries. Often the only treatment left is a below knee amputation. Blindness from uncontrolled diabetes is common and pain from diabetic neuropathy as well.

Diabetics have an average life expectancy of 77 to 81 years. However, if they pay attention to their blood sugars and manage their diabetes closely they can live past the age of 85.

Falls and balance problems

As people age, their balance organ is not functioning as well. Also, people with high blood pressure medication may have postural hypotensive episodes that can lead to falls.

There may be a lack of cognitive functioning and misjudging of steps, ledges and irregularities in the floor. When a person has brittle bones from osteoporosis and they fall, a hip fracture is very common. At a higher age surgery for a hip fracture is dangerous. It can have a mortality of 50%.

Obesity

A person with obesity has a life expectancy that is 10 years less than a person without obesity. The reason for this is that with obesity This is so, because the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, arthritis and diabetes is increased.

Depression

Older people often get depressed. It even has its own name: involutional depression. People can get into a state of mind, where they think negatively. Depressed people feel that they have nothing to live for. They lost friends; they are shut in because they can’t drive a car any more. This type of depression needs treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The danger of leaving depression untreated is that the person may get suicidal. In older people depression is often precipitated by physical health problems.

Oral health

When teeth are not looked after, gingivitis and periodontitis can develop. Infected gums can shed bacteria into the blood and this can affect the heart valves. Endocarditis, the infection of heart valves, is a cardiological emergency. Prolonged antibiotic therapy is necessary to overcome this condition.

Poverty

Poverty has real consequences. The aging person may not have access to the optimal medical care facility because of a lack of funds. But even at a younger age there is evidence that people are healthier when they are wealthier.

Shingles

Older people often get shingles, even if they had chickenpox or shingles as a child. This is evidence that the immune system is getting weaker. Shingles in an older person should alarm the treating physician that there could be an underlying cancer. Due to that knowledge a cancer-screening tests should be part of the medical exam. In addition, a varicella vaccine should be offered to the patient to build up immunity.

The Downside Of Living To 100

The Downside Of Living To 100

Conclusion

Living to 100 is often glorified in the press. Maybe you have seen a 90-year old jogger completing a marathon, or you saw an 85-year old couple ballroom dancing. But what they don’t show you is what I summarized here, the less glamorous things about living to 100. You may get a heart attack or a stroke. Osteoarthritis may affect you how you walk. Congestive heart failure may make you get short of breath when you walk upstairs. Then there are various cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early.

If you have smoked in the past, you may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which leaves you breathless.

Other illnesses

Osteoporosis can lead to spontaneous fractures. Because the bone has a lack of calcium, this is difficult to treat and takes a long time to heal.

Alzheimer’s is ever so much more common when you approach the year 100. There are other medical conditions you can get: obesity, diabetes and depression. When you get shingles for the second time, it may mean that your immune system is getting weak and a cancer-screening test should be done.

There are some downsides when you approach the age of 100.

Know your risks and be vigilant

You may keep your physician busy checking out various age-related illnesses, but more importantly, get regular check-ups and tests. Any condition is easier to treat with an earlier diagnosis! The message for anybody reading this is very simple. Prevention through healthy living is something you can actively pursue. Keep your body and your mind busy. Enjoy time with friends and family instead of living a solitary existence. See the glass that is half full instead of viewing it as half empty. Stick to a healthy diet. Knowing all the risks is not a scare but a call to being vigilant. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to enjoy your golden years feeling well and happy.

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Aug
04
2018

Phage Therapy Against Superbugs

Introduction

Phage therapy against superbugs is the latest concept in treating infections. Antibiotic resistance has developed into a huge clinical problem. Every year in the US about 2 million people have infections from antibiotic resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die as result of it. Certainly, there is a desperate need to find alternative treatment options to treat antibiotic resistant infections. One such option is to use phages, a specific form of viruses to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria. Here is a scientific overview regarding the use of phages for the treatment of antibiotic resistant infections.

History of phages

The observation of phages attacking bacteria goes back more than 100 years. The French Canadian microbiologist, Félix Hubert d’Herelle (1873–1949) described in 1917 what bacteriophages are. He also coined the term of “phage therapy” for the treatment of bacteria with phages. Dr. d’Herelle recognized phages to be virus-like organisms that attacked bacteria and could kill them. When Fleming detected antibiotics, phage research came to a halt. Drug companies invented more and more antibiotics, as it was easier to kill bacteria this way. But now with emerging resistances of bacteria to antibiotics, there is a sudden revival of the 100-year old research on phages. The problem is that there has not been much clinical experience with phage therapy against super bugs until lately. In 1923 Dr. d’Herelle co-founded the Eliava Institute in what is now Tbilisi, Georgia. This institute has the world’s most comprehensive database on phage therapy in man.

Two clinical examples of phage therapy against super bugs

Chronic prostatitis due to superbug

Pranav Johri, a Canadian of Indian descent was suffering of a chronic prostate infection. Physicians had used five different antibiotics, but all to no avail. His doctor told him that he had a chronic prostatitis problem for which there was no cure. But Pranav saw another specialist who determined that Pranav had a prostatitis due to a superbug, which was resistant against all the common antibiotics. Pranav traveled to the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia. He paid 6000.00 CAD and had three treatments. After the first treatment his temperature became normal for the first time in months, and his chronic pain subsided. He and his wife were so excited that they felt like celebrating. They did sightseeing, went out to restaurants and enjoyed their travels, all things he was unable to do for months. Pranav had finally received a cure with phage therapy to his chronic prostate infection.

Enteric infection due to superbug

Tom Patterson who had visited Egypt in 2015 together with his wife fell ill on the last night of his holiday. Eventually he went into a hospital in his hometown, San Diego. The doctors told him that he would likely die. He had acquired a multi-antibiotic resistant infection. He was slipping in and out of consciousness. His wife, Steffanie Strathdee, an infectious disease epidemiologist, remembered having heard about phage therapy during a virology class during her training in Toronto. Tom received two separate phage cocktails that two separate research teams in the US had prepared for his condition. He received the first dosage into his abdomen.

Intravenous phage therapy

The second administration was intravenously. There are only a handful of patients who had received treatment with phage therapy in the US; he is probably the first one who received phage therapy intravenously. A few days later he woke up. He had to relearn basic life skills like swallowing and speaking. But he made a full recovery from a serious disease with multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria. The University of California San Diego School of Medicine had helped Tom to recover from his illness. They announced at the end of June 2018 that they would be opening the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics in San Diego.

Modern phage technology

Basically phages are viruses that specialize in killing bacteria. They exist in nature wherever bacteria grow and help that they do not over-proliferate.  But they can be useful in fighting difficult to treat bacterial infections as well, like pseudomonas ear infections, Clostridium difficile gut infections or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in skin wounds. In the former Soviet Union and in the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia, extensive phage research has accumulated valuable data over decades. In the West physician relied on the power of antibiotics, and phages were left on the back-burner of the research lab.

Genetic engineering of phages and toxins produced by phages

Combining phage research and genetic engineering research we are entering a new era of manufacturing biological compounds that can kill bacteria similar to antibiotics. Here is a review article of this new exciting field. I only include this link to show that researchers are now getting a handle on phages. They can be genetically modified to specifically attack one kind of bacterium. The DNA of the phage can be isolated and injected into bacteria. I do not expect you to understand all of what is discussed in this link.

Phage Therapy Against Superbugs

Phage Therapy Against Superbugs

Conclusion

As a result phages are more and more in use to treat difficult chronic infections where bacteria have become resistant to multiple antibiotics. It requires a team of experts who are familiar with phage cocktails. The cocktail is a careful combination of various phages that will fight the antibiotic resistant infection.The composition of it has to be according to the bacteria present in the patient’s bacterial flora. As shown with two clinical examples very sick patients can recover relatively quickly from their chronic infections. After this breakthrough more and more centers for phage therapy will open and this should help reduce the death rate from antibiotic-resistant infections.

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Jun
30
2018

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

A recent article has pointed out that there are 5 dangers that can lurk in beach sand. There are invisible bacteria that can pose a problem. But there are also parasites, fungi and parasitic roundworms. Here is a review of these common dangers.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: hookworms

In February 2018 a Canadian couple from Windsor/Ont. came back from a beach holiday in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. They brought with them parasites in their feet from walking barefoot on infested beaches in the Caribbean. This parasite is known to lay larvae into the sand that can survive there for several days. When beach goers walk barefoot the condition is right for the larvae to attach to the bare feet and puncture the skin. The full-grown hookworm can then develop and produce the symptoms described in the link (rash, itching, pain). The larvae of it are called “larvae migrans”, or in plain English the disease has the name “creeping eruption“. The best medicine for this condition is the anti-parasitic medication Ivermectin, the “wonder drug” from Japan. Originally developed in Japan, Ivermectin is available in the US, but not in Canada.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: Gut bacteria

A California study found that several gut bacteria were present in California beaches. Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Aeromonas, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus, human viruses (adenovirus, enterovirus, norovirus, and hepatitis A virus), amoeba, and protozoa were all cultured from beach sand. However, it is difficult to prove that any one of these pathogens would have caused any gastrointestinal upset. Just picking up one of these bugs on your skin does not mean you will come down with that particular infection. It makes sense though to wash your hands or take a shower after your beach walk. But the study noticed that there was a difference in the infection rate. There were those who only had casual contact with beach sand. Others were digging into sand or buried themselves in sand. The latter group was more likely to come down with gastrointestinal infections shortly after their beach outing.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: superbug MRSA

According to the California study cited above there were 2.7% of beach sand samples on California’s beaches that contained MRSA bugs. These are the cause of flesh-eating disease. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. When there is a cut in the skin, this antibiotic resistant bug can pose a big problem. On the other hand, it is not known whether the mere existence of MRSA on the skin actually poses a danger. Researchers do not know at the present time whether or not this will cause flesh-eating disease. But they recommend that after a beach visit it is a good idea to take a shower, as this will cleanse the skin to a large extent of any pathogenic bacteria and viruses.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: fungi

The types of fungi that can hide in the beach sand belong to the group of dermatophytes. Common fungal skin infections are caused by the dermatophytes, Trichophyton rubrum, which is a very common dermatophyte, is the culprit that causes nail fungus, ringworm; jog itch and athlete’s foot. Other fungi around beaches are Aspergillus and Candida that affect mostly people with a weak immune system. Aspergillus may be responsible for lung infections and Candida for yeast infections.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: roundworms

Roundworms become a problem on beaches where dogs are allowed. The main problem is Toxocara canis, a parasitic roundworm. The roundworm normally lives in the gut of dogs. But dog feces from roundworm-infested dogs contain lots of eggs, which can get into soil along with the dog feces. People can inadvertently swallow contaminated sand. An Australian study found roundworm-infested samples among 266 random beach samples. They found that there were not as many positive samples when there were only adult dogs allowed on beaches. In contrast, they found a lot more positive roundworm samples in beaches were puppies were allowed.

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

Conclusion

We associate pristine beaches with nature, health and relaxation. Knowing of these scientific studies we would do well to not let our guards down. Think about the ocean water: is it safe or could it be the cause of contamination of the beach sand? Then think about the beach itself. Is it a busy beach with lots of people that may contribute to contamination of the beach sand? Are dogs allowed or not? There may be dogs that defecate and deposit eggs of roundworms. Or there may be larvae from the creeping eruption, a parasitic disease. Other dangers can lurk in the sand: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that is an antibiotic resistant bacterium that can cause flesh-eating disease. Other bacteria may be buried in the sand that can cause various gastrointestinal upsets.

Being more careful around beaches

Having these thoughts in mind may help you to be more careful about the beach and shower off after you leave the beach. It is also not a bad idea to wear sandals on the beach to prevent direct contact of your skin with the beach sand. It is also obvious that the beach towel on which you lay on the sand is no longer “clean”. Wash it after your beach outing, or choose the option to relax on a cot. Wherever you travel this summer, have a safe journey!

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Apr
07
2018

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Killed By Teixobactin

Antibiotic resistant bacteria killed by teixobactin would be a dream for infection specialists. In the last few decades drug resistance among antibiotics has become a major problem in chronic care homes and hospitals. Fortunately in January 2018 a publication announced that a research team from Lincoln, Great Britain was successful in synthesizing a new antibiotic, called teixobactin.

Origin of teixobactin

First of all, teixobactin is a peptide, and it comes from a soil bacterium that was difficult to culture. But a new culture method made it possible to isolate teixobactin. Subsequently the biochemists were able to create the identical antibiotic synthetically.

This moment likely is as important as the original discovery of penicillin. Experiments in the Petri dish and in mice show that teixobactin is a broad spectrum antibiotic, has no toxicity and treats all of the problem bugs that are associated with drug resistance. To the clinician it is a dream come true. For decades they hoped for an effective treatment for drug resistant bacteria. And now this seems to materialize. In the US there are 2 million drug resistant infections every year. More than 23,000 patients die from them every year.

Six problem bugs that are drug resistant

There are currently 6 problem bugs that have developed resistance. 1 in 4 nursing home patients may have one of these resistant bugs: carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa and multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter.

3 years ago a research team showed that teixobactin killed MRSA and VRE.  The underlying publication by Ishwar Singh and colleagues described how cyclic peptides their research team has successfully synthesized teixobactin analogues. He said that these findings may “lead to the first new class of antibiotic drug in 30 years”.

Mouse experiments using teixobactin analogues

The next level of evidence came from mouse experiments. Ten analogues of teixobactin were tested on mice that had infections due to drug resistant bacteria.

One team working at the Singapore Eye Research Institute could show that mice that had Staphylococcus aureus keratitis (infection of the cornea with bacteria) achieved a cure of this infection with synthetic teixobactin. An additional observation was that the amount of swelling (edema) and inflammation that is part of the infection was quickly resolving with teixobactin. This additional anti-inflammatory effect of teixobactin is an asset that will be a necessity, when it comes to treating infections in patients.

At this point there have been no clinical trials. This is the next step before physicians can prescribe teixobactin for their patients. Dr. Singh said, “We are probably around six to ten years away from a drug that doctors can prescribe to patients”.

New antibiotic treats

antibiotic resistant tuberculosis

In addition to teixobactin there is another story that gives hope for cases of resistant tuberculosis. In an Iranian publication from August 2017 it is described how compounds from the Persian shallot have full antibiotic activity against known drug resistant E.coli strains.

The same antibiotic derived from Persian shallot is also effective against resistant tuberculosis. Dr. Sanjib Bhakta and Professor Gibbons from Great Britain said that their ability to synthesize the effective antibiotics is a great breakthrough. Prof. Gibbons said: “Natural products from plants and microbes have enormous potential as a source of new antibiotics. Nature is an amazingly creative chemist, and it is likely that plants such as the Persian shallot produce these chemicals as a defence against microbes in their environment. Dr. Bhakta and I will be dedicating our research to discovering new antibiotics and understanding how they function.”

Persian shallot-derived antibiotics

Dr. Bhakta tested the Persian shallot-derived antibiotics against various drug-resistant bacteria. There were inhibitory effects on Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, multidrug resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Proteus mirabilis. But the most impressive inhibition (inhibiting growth by 99.9%) was against the tuberculosis bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Consequently this is a significant finding as drug-resistant tuberculosis strains have been on the rise killing a lot of people.

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Killed By Teixobactin

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Killed By Teixobactin

Conclusion

Research has opened a door to a new era that will be ready for prime time in 6 to 8 years. Research has identified two groups of new antibiotics, synthetic teixobactins and Persian onion-derived antibiotics. They are both effective in preliminary in vitro and in vivo mouse experiments against drug-resistant bacteria. The most important effects are against Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and antibiotic resistant tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis). At this stage there is an urgent need to conduct clinical trials to get FDA approval for these new antibiotics. With this approval the new antibiotics are ready for use in clinical medicine against drug-resistant infections. In the antibiotic field no such finding of that significance has occurred in the last 30 years. In the US more than 23,000 patients die from them every year. It is high time that there is a cure for these infections.

Jan
06
2018

Lyme Disease The Great Imitator

Dr. Pamela Smith talked about Lyme disease the great imitator when she gave a presentation. This was at the 25th Congress of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Dec. 14-17, 2017, which I attended. Dr. Smith gave a talk about how to approach a complex patient when multiple systems are affected. Part of that talk dealt with Lyme disease, which I will review below in some detail.

Transmission of Lyme disease

Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the US. As a result about 200,000 new cases of Lyme disease occur in the US every year.

The transmission occurs through ticks that that carry a spirochete, called Borrelia burgdorferi.

This bacterium, much as syphilis, which also is caused by a spirochete, produces imitator disease patterns. Clinically it can be a challenge to diagnose Lyme disease.

The common way of transmission to humans is by infected ticks that bite the skin. But Dr. Smith said that transmission of the spirochete can also occur by breastfeeding, blood transfusions, in vitro fertilization and finally by sex. Although originally Lyme disease infected ticks were found on deer, other species can also be carriers. Ticks from mice, foxes, raccoons, songbirds, chipmunks, and squirrels can also transmit Lyme disease.

Clinical presentation of Lyme disease

Only 30 – 40% of adults with Lyme disease have the characteristic rash of the “bull’s-eye lesion” (erythema migrans). With children this presentation is even less common (only 10% have erythema migrans). If there is a bull’s-eye lesion, this will last from one week to several months. A laboratory test using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA test) can confirm the diagnosis of the disease.

Disseminated early or late Lyme disease

Fatigue, headaches and weakness can be non-specific symptoms of Lyme disease. Furthermore, other non-specific symptoms like back pain, muscle and joint pains as well as chills can detract the physician from diagnosing Lyme disease. In addition irregular heartbeats, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands, memory loss, gait problems, bladder and kidney problems are other symptoms. Finally, liver problems, sore throat, fever, seizures, depression, dementia, hallucinations, mood swings and arthritis can be other symptoms.Even eating disorders, verbal aggression, schizophrenia and suicide can be symptoms of Lyme disease.

Common symptoms that have a link to Lyme disease

Common symptoms of Lyme disease include headaches, fatigue, joint pain and swelling of joints, stiffness of the neck or back. There can be difficulties with concentration, speech or writing. Further symptoms are sleep disturbances, numbness or tingling of arms or feet and forgetfulness. 

Lyme disease development

Borrelia burgdorferi can be found inside body cells and outside of cells as biofilms. This form makes them resistant as it allows Borrelia burgdorferi to exchange DNA and makes them resistant to antibiotics. There are also two major forms of Borrelia burgdorferi, namely cell-wall forms and cystic forms. Once the patient has been bitten by the infected tick Borrelia can quickly change shape into the more difficult to treat cystic form. Within 24 hours Lyme disease can spread to other parts of the body. Common such areas are the eyes, brain tissue and glial cells, heart, collagen, synovial fluid of joints and skeletal muscle fibers.

Lyme disease can also complicate many other diseases. These are ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, MS, bipolar disorder, neurological disease, heart disease (Lyme carditis) and autism.

Treatment of Lyme disease

  1. Dr. Smith said that Lyme disease is often complicated by dysfunctional gut flora. She prefers to start patients on a sugar-free and gluten-free diet. The patient also has to take probiotics.
  2. 75% of Lyme disease patients show a cure after three weeks of Doxycycline 100 mg twice per day. Alternatively cefuroxime 500 mg twice per day is a medication of choice.
  3. Cefuroxime only treats the cell‐wall forms. Doxycycline treats the intracellular forms. Metronidazole or tinidazole will help to eradicate the cystic forms of Lyme disease.
  4. Grapefruit seed extract is another treatment modality if the patient is allergic to Metronidazole. It eradicates the cystic form of Lyme disease.
  5. Serrapeptase from whole leaf stevia extract will also help to eradicate Borrelia biofilms and persisters.
  6. Monolaurin, a coconut oil extract is effective in treating all three morphological forms of Borrelia burgdorferi.

Patients with neurological symptoms

Patients with neck stiffness, headaches or neuropathy need treatment for a longer period of time. These patients also need monitoring for recurrent Lyme disease at the end of the treatment.

Case presentation of a patient with Lyme disease

Dr. Smith presented one of her patients with Lyme disease in detail. She was a 45-year old executive. She suffered from extreme fatigue. It took quite a few tests to find out that her antibody titers against Lyme disease were very high.

Here is her long list of symptoms: hair loss, four urinary tract infections in quick succession, brain fog, extreme fatigue, systemic pain, musculoskeletal pain, anxiety and depression, eczema, psoriasis, itching, stomach ache, trouble eating, weight loss of 12 pounds, flu, strep presented like meningitis.

Comprehensive treatment of patient with Lyme disease

Dr. Pamela Smith instituted a comprehensive treatment protocol. It turned out that she had developed gastritis, which was the reason for her weight loss. This needed conventional treatment. After the treatment with antibiotics, her energy picked up, and her appetite came back. She also engaged in yoga and other self-awareness programs. She deliberately slowed down her lifestyle activities. Her symptoms were mostly gone or significantly diminished. She was able to function. She experienced energy, joy, and could focus again. The only symptoms left were some mild pain, some bladder problems, some limitations with her diet and mild brain fog.

Husband had Lyme disease

Part of the work-up was to test her husband for Lyme disease. He tested positive. He was also treated although he was entirely asymptomatic. When his treatment was finished, the doctor tested him for a specific antibody and this came back as negative. This meant that he now was free of Borrelia burgdorferi and would no longer be able to infect her. The doctor thought that it was most likely through sex that she had contracted Lyme disease. The problem is that some people are completely asymptomatic, but nevertheless they can be carriers of Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease The Great Imitator

Lyme Disease The Great Imitator

Conclusion

Lyme disease, the great imitator, has become a more common disease in the US and around the world. Years back Lyme disease was often overlooked. But lately physicians have diagnosed Lyme disease earlier as diagnostic tests have improved. With earlier treatment a lot of suffering of the patient can be prevented. But in many cases symptoms are confusing as Lyme disease involves several organ systems. This makes the diagnosis more difficult. By diagnosing Lyme disease earlier, treatment can start at an earlier stage, and the patient will soon return to a state of wellness.

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Dec
16
2017

Mouth Flora And Your Health

You may not be aware that there is a connection between mouth flora and your health. But a recent publication provided proof that certain bacteria can cause esophageal cancer.

Esophageal cancer from certain bacteria

In a 2017 publication a study of mouth flora from 122,000 people showed an association to two types of esophagus cancer. The finding was that the periodontal pathogen Tannerella forsythia had as association with esophageal adenocarcinoma. This cancer is originating from the glandular tissue of the esophagus. In contrast, the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis caused another histological type of esophagus cancer, namely esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer originates from the inner lining of the esophagus. In addition, two mouth bacteria showed a relationship with reduced risk of causing esophageal adenocarcinoma. These two common mouth bacteria were the Neisseria species and the species Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Clinical example of a patient with esophageal cancer

To illustrate this with a clinical case description, here is an example from another publication. This is regarding a man who suffered from esophagus cancer. Initially doctors were puzzled about his diagnosis. He was a 53-year old patient with chronic alcoholic liver disease. He had an increased white blood cell count. A blood culture isolated Parvimonas micra, which is a pathogen normally only living in the mouth flora. A gastroscopy as part of the work-up showed an invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. It had almost completely blocked the passage to the stomach. The pathological bacterium had accessed the blood circulation via the tumor mass in the lower esophagus. In the past physicians did not know about these associations.

Brush your teeth and floss every day

Brushing your teeth and flossing everyday controls the bacteria in your mouth. It prevents leakage of bacteria into your blood affecting your heart valves. Studies have shown that this also prevents heart attacks.

The literature on this is clear: chronic gingivitis has a link with bacteria in the mouth. They grow on the gums and can spread into your blood. They can then colonize in your heart valves and even in the lining of the arteries. This is particularly so in cases where there is already hardening of the arteries (arterial plaque). This can lead to heart valve disease like mitral valve disease. If this process occurs in coronary arteries, it can lead to heart attacks.This reminds you that there is a connection between mouth flora and your health.

Mouth wash

Many people feel they have “bad breath” and they need a mouthwash product. This is good marketing for companies that produce mouthwash. However, the truth is you need to be diligent about appointments with a dental hygienist, brush your teeth regularly and floss your teeth. If you suffer of constipation, increase your fiber intake and consider colonics. If you still think you have bad breath, use a natural mint product (read the ingredients). Why do I not like mouthwashes? They kill your mouth bacteria that are naturally there; this can disbalance the rest of your gut bacteria as you swallow part of the mouth flora when you eat or drink fluids. If you still want to use a mouthwash, use one without alcohol and without any carcinogens such as parabens. Also read this 2009 news item. It is as valid as it was then.

Chronic gingivitis and heart disease

It was not until about the mid 1990’s when it became apparent that gum infections and severe tooth decay could cause inflammation in the blood measurable by using the CRP marker (C-reactive protein). Dr. Joseph Muhlestein at the University of Utah demonstrated in 1996 that chronic gum infection could cause a heart attack. He isolated the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae in 79% of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery, while samples from heart transplant patients isolated this bacterium in only about 5%. The new thinking was that bugs that multiply in diseased gums could migrate into the blood and cause platelets from the blood to clump together and block coronary arteries causing heart attacks. Also, restenosis after percutaneous coronary intervention was more likely to occur, if the pathogen count of gum bacteria in the blood was higher.

Infectious causes of endocarditis and heart attacks

Harvard University researchers have confirmed this. In the past physicians did not know that a bad tonsillitis with an aggressive bacterium, Streptococcus viridans, could cause subacute endocarditis, a dangerous infectious disease of the heart valves, which can be responsible for sudden death in younger persons. Neglected cavities in teeth can also harbor this bacterium. Another study in 2009 showed that two particular strains of bacteria in infected gums, Tannerella forsynthesis and Preventella intermedia, showed a connection with an increased risk for heart attacks; but it was more the overall burden of bacteria in the infected gums than the specific bacteria strains that mattered most.

See your dental hygienist regarding your mouth flora and your health

Given this background it is easier to understand that we need to take good care of our teeth and gums, if we want to maintain good health. As a start most people should see their dental hygienist (who usually works in a dentist’s office) twice a year. The dental hygienist will probe the depth of gingival pockets with a periodontal probe. A normal depth measures up to and including 3 mm. Deeper pockets than that usually indicate that the patient did not floss the teeth regularly. One needs to floss at least once per day, better twice per day, and it should not bleed after flossing (initially when a person flosses for the first time the gums tend to bleed a bit).

What the dental hygienist does

The hygienist will do scaling of plaques on the tooth enamel. If the hygienist detects any cavity, he or she will bring it to the attention of the dentist. At the end of the scaling procedure the hygienist will apply fluoride, which puts a coating on the tooth surfaces to prevent tooth decay.

When deeper pockets (6 mm or more) are detected a trial of sub-gingival root brushings has shown to have a very beneficial result within only 14 days.

Periodontal pockets were improved and bacterial counts of periodontal infections also showed improvement.

Mouth flora in alcoholics

This 2016 study from Poland examined the mouth flora of 25 alcoholics. They were compared to the mouth flora of 25 patients from a periodontology clinic.

There were significant differences between the two groups. The alcoholic group had higher bacterial counts of these three strains: Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Treponema denticola. There was no difference in bacterial counts between those who drank only little alcohol compared to those who drank lots. The bacterial concentration in the sub-gingival flora was the same. Patients with severe periodontal disease had the same distribution of the three strains of bacteria as chronic alcoholics. However, the concentration of bacteria in alcoholics was much higher. This fact may explain why chronic alcoholics are very sensitive to infections. Alcohol inhibits the immune system, but stimulates the growth of sub-gingival bacteria, which find their way into the system and in serious cases can kill the patient.

Mouth Flora And Your Health

Mouth Flora And Your Health

Conclusion

It is now a well-established fact that mouth bacteria play an important role in our health. Some of the healthy bacteria find their way into the gut providing the foundation of a healthy gut flora. But as described above there are also pathological bacteria that can multiply in our mouth cavity and our gums. This happens particularly in people who do not floss and who develop gingivitis and periodontitis. Tannerella forsythia was associated with esophageal adenocarcinoma. In contrast, the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis caused esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Streptococcus viridans could cause subacute endocarditis, a dangerous infectious disease of the heart valves. Tannerella forsynthesis and Preventella intermedia showed an association with an increased risk for heart attacks.

Bacteria associated with alcoholism

Here are three mouth bacteria associated with alcohol consumption and with chronic periodontitis. They are Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Treponema denticola. Don’t let the strange sounding names of mouth bacteria confuse you. Fact is that these bacteria, when entered into the blood vessels and the rest of the body, will play havoc with your health. Keep brushing your teeth at least twice per day and floss your teeth conscientiously once or twice per day as well. This will improve your mouth flora and your health.

More info: https://www.askdrray.com/flossing-and-brushing-saves-your-heart/

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Aug
26
2017

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

What do decreased sperm counts in men tell us about our world? A recent study has shown that over the past 40 years males in many centers that tested for sperm counts have lost 50% of the sperm count that was normal in the 1970’s. The question is, what could have caused this? Nobody has definite answers. But here are the factors that the Mayo Clinic lists for low sperm counts.

Medical causes of decreased sperm counts in men

  • A varicocele: A varicocele is dilatation of veins close to the testicles. It is presumed that this leads to a higher temperature inside the testicles and this causes a lowered sperm count and poor sperm quality.
  • Antisperm antibodies can cause infertility. Due to low sperm counts.
  • Infections in the testicles reduce sperm production. Gonorrhea and HIV infection are some of the common infections.
  • Some men develop retrograde ejaculation. With this the sperm enter the bladder on ejaculation instead of coming out from the tip of the penis. Alpha-blockers, a type of blood pressure medication can do this as a side effect. But there are also various health problems that can cause retrograde ejaculation like diabetes, surgery to the prostate, urethra and bladder. Spinal injuries can be also a cause of retrograde ejaculations. In many cases the sperm production in the testicles is still present and sperm could be sampled from there for artificial insemination.
  • Tumors of the pituitary gland can interfere with hormone production of testosterone and sperm counts will fall or stop. But other pituitary hormones, thyroid hormone and adrenal gland hormones are needed for fertility.
  • Chromosome defects like Klinefelter syndrome and others can be a cause of abnormal development of the male genitals with low or missing sperm production.
  • Celiac disease is a bowel disease that is due to gluten sensitivity. It causes low sperm counts and infertility, which responds to a gluten free diet. Sperm counts normalize with this diet.
  • There are medications that can decrease sperm production like chemotherapy, anabolic steroid use, antifungals and certain antibiotic medications and some ulcer medications.

Lifestyle causes leading to decreased sperm counts in men

Certain lifestyles and occupations can cause a man to have a decreased sperm count.

  • Drinking alcohol excessively can reduce testosterone production, which decreases sperm count.
  • Recreational drug use: steroids to increase muscle mass cause testicular atrophy and decreased sperm count. Cocaine and marihuana also decreases the sperm count.
  • Certain occupations like welding from exposure to heat and truck driving from prolonged sitting have been associated in some studies with infertility. But there are other studies that could not confirm this correlation.
  • Smoking: Men who smoke have lower sperm counts than men who don’t smoke.
  • Excessive weight: Obese men transform some of their testosterone into estrogen through the action of the enzyme aromatase, which is amply present in fat cells. This leads to low testosterone levels and low sperm counts.

Environmental causes of decreased sperm counts in men

The environment in terms of heat production around the scrotum or exposure to chemicals or ionizing radiation can lower sperm counts in men.

  • Heat around the testicles: studies do not all agree, but there is a tendency for low sperm counts when using saunas and hot tubs frequently. Sitting for longer times or using a laptop computer for longer periods can also increase the temperature of a man’s scrotum and lead to a low sperm count.
  • Exposure to heavy metals like lead, mercury and others can be the cause of infertility.
  • Exposure to radiation can reduce sperm production. With high doses of radiation sperm production may cease entirely. With lower radiation exposures sperm counts may be down for several years before they recover to normal.
  • Industrial chemicals: exposure to fumes from certain chemicals can lead to low sperm counts; benzenes, herbicides, pesticides, xylene, toluene, painting materials and organic solvents are on this list.

Recent study about decreased sperm counts in men as an indicator

We have now reviewed the major causes of low sperm counts in men. I like to revisit the recent sperm study I mentioned in the beginning of this blog. It is unlikely that men in North America, Europe and Australia would spontaneously produce less than 50% of the sperm than men 40 years earlier had produced. The next puzzling fact is that the study found normal sperm production in men in Africa, South America and Asia.

This points to epidemiological differences that reduce the sperm count in men in North America, Europe and Australia. In view of the multitude of possible causes it will require a task force that does a comparative study worldwide looking at exposure history, diets, social habits and other factors.

Fertility clinics are thriving because couples want children. With low sperm counts of males there is more infertility than there was in the past. Density gradient centrifugation is a reliable method of enriching sperm counts.

In the past a couple had no problem getting a successful pregnancy when they wanted it. Now couples often have to be assessed in a fertility clinic because of problems with regard to decreased sperm counts in men, which can cause infertility.

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

Conclusion

A new study has noticed that over the past 40 years many men have developed low sperm counts. This has caused significant problems with fertility among couples. Fertility clinics are busy trying to help these couples. Density gradient centrifugation has become a common technique to enrich sperm samples prior to artificial insemination. It is a puzzle why the recent study has found normal sperm counts in samples of men living in Africa, South America and Asia. In contrast men living in Europe, North America and Australia have 50% lower sperm counts. The reason may be multifactorial. It will require a team of experts to sort out this discrepancy and hopefully find an answer for men in Europe, North America and Australia to bring their sperm counts back to normal.

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Jan
02
2017

Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

The neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter gave a keynote address where he pointed out that gut bacteria can protect your brain. The topic of his actual talk was “Rewrite your brain’s destiny” and the venue was the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas. Many of the talks centered around the gut microbiome. Specifically, in this talk Dr. Perlmutter stressed the fact that the right mix of gut bacteria will protect your brain, while the wrong mix can make you sick. There were many slides, but too much information to mention all of details of the talk here. With this in mind, I will summarize the broad outline of Dr. Perlmutter’s presentation and certainly emphasize the practical implications this has for everyday life to prevent degenerative brain diseases.

A few facts

Did you know that the brain uses 25% of the body’s energy, but has only a 3% of the body’s weight?

There are trillions of gut bacteria

The gut flora has trillions of gut bacteria with its own DNA material. 99% of the DNA material in our body comes from the gut bacteria and the bacteria on our skin surface; only 1% of the entire DNA in the body is your own DNA. We are eating for 100 trillion bacteria, but it is important to remember that if they are good bacteria they provide us with important vitamins and they produce molecules that stimulate our immune system.

We need healthy gut bacteria

This means we better have bacteria in our guts that are friendly, not the bad bacteria that can cause us problems. An Italian study determined the gut flora of children in central Africa (Burkina Faso) and compared the gut flora to children from developed countries in Europe. There was a significant difference with the African children having a healthy microbiome in the gut and the children from developed Europe having unhealthy gut bacteria. This is important new information. Many other research papers have established that leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases are linked to dysbiosis, which is the name for the unhealthy microbiome in the gut.

Chronic inflammation

Dr. Perlmutter showed several slides where literature was cited showing that chronic inflammation in the civilized world is increasing. He also showed that dysbiosis (unhealthy gut bacteria taking over) is also increasing. On several slides Dr. Perlmutter showed that in civilized countries like Iceland, Denmark, Germany, the US, Japan and others the bacterial diversity of the gut bacteria in people was vastly reduced compared to the diversity of gut bacteria of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria or rural India.

Diminished gut bacterial diversity causes more Alzheimer’s disease

The same countries that have diminished gut bacterial diversity (dysbiosis) also have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand the same countries with diverse gut bacteria have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. When infestation with parasites was examined there was also a parallel between increased parasitic stress and low Alzheimer’s disease rates, again in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria or rural India. The same countries where gut dysbiosis was present the parasitic infestation was low.

Further research has established that gut dysbiosis leads to an inflammatory condition of the gut where lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from gut bacteria are absorbed causing inflammatory reactions within the body.

Leaky gut syndrome causes neurological diseases

At the same time this leaky gut syndrome can cause obesity and leakage in the gut/brain barrier as indicated in this link. The result is neuroinflammation, cognitive impairment and vulnerability to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Our most dreaded brain diseases come from inflammation: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, autism, multiple sclerosis etc. These are degenerative brain disorders due to chronic inflammation. If you eat a lot of red meat, sausages and processed foods your gut microbiome will undergo negative changes. If you eat healthy food with lots of vegetables, fruit and you cut out sugar and too many starches, you have a healthy microbiome, which develops a robust immune system. We have to rethink the gut/brain connection and learn how to prevent these chronic illnesses.

Obesity and gut dysbiosis

The link above showed that obesity has a connection to inflammation. It was also shown with MRI scans that the part in the brain, called hippocampus was shrivelled up (atrophied). This is a typical sign of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The investigators also confirmed with mental health functional tests that these patients had cognitive decline.

Another study also noticed that in a group of obese patients the hippocampus part of the brain was shriveled up the more obese people were. Obesity and dysbiosis of the gut flora are part of the same problem.

Practical application: the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet are both healthy, balanced diets, strikingly different from the Standard American diet. In a study the hypothesis was tested whether the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet would postpone dementia in a group of elderly patients. The answer was: yes, the hypothesis is true.

What does gut dysbiosis do?

It was shown in mice that chronic inflammation of the gut through ingestion of an irritant (dextran sodium sulfate) led to reduced new nerve growth in the hippocampus compared to control animals. It only took 29 days to show a marked difference between experimental and control animals in terms of reduced growth in the nerve cells of the hippocampus, the center of cognitive control.

The gut wall released inflammatory kinins, which were the negative mediators affecting the brain.

Antibiotic residue and Roundup in food causes gut dysbiosis

Antibiotic treatments and antibiotic residues in milk, milk products, meat, but also in all GMO foods are the irritants of the gut wall in humans. The antibiotics change the gut flora and lead to dysbiosis, which then causes gut wall inflammation and the cascade of events described above. The new finding is that GMO food contains RoundUp (they are “Roundup ready” crops). The herbicide Roundup was originally patented as an antibiotic and still leads to significant dysbiosis. Dr. Perlmutter urged the audience to buy organic food as the only method to reduce our exposure to Roundup. Roundup contributes to causing celiac disease and gluten intolerance in addition to exposure to the modern wheat (Clearfield wheat). The FDA is starting to do testing on foods for Roundup (glyphosate).

Roundup linked to cancer

If things are sounding bad for Roundup, it only gets worse: Roundup has now been linked to causing cancer. In medicine it usually takes some time before the effect becomes obvious is. The agriculture industry has embraced the use of Roundup; I suspect that denial will be the first line of defense. My first line of defense in turn is to stick to organic food.

To sum up: Roundup and the Standard American diet lead to dysbiosis in the gut, which causes leaky gut syndrome. This causes inflammation with the release of cytokines and LPS from the gut wall to the blood. These substances cross the blood/brain barrier and lead to inflammation in the brain. This affects the hippocampus with the classical sign of shrinkage.

Chronic inflammation and neurological disease

But Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism in children and Alzheimer’s disease in older people are all caused by chronic inflammation. There are three more brain-related diseases that are related to gut inflammation: stroke, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dr. Perlmutter spent some time explaining that antibiotic overuse even leads to an increase of breast cancer as a Danish study has shown. Antibiotic use showed a linear increase of breast cancer as a result of increased antibiotic amounts used. The highest group had a twofold risk compared to a control group with no antibiotic use. Dr. Perlmutter interpreted this to indicate that chronic gut inflammation can even cause a disease like breast cancer.

What can we do to diversify our gut bacteria?

  1. Exercise: A recent study has shown that regular exercise is associated with a diversified gut flora. The reason seems to be the production of butyrate with exercise, which leads to a diversified gut flora. LPS levels (lipopolysaccharides from gut bacteria) are lower in people with a higher fitness score.
  2. Eat a DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet as indicated above.
  3. Avoid GMO foods because of the presence of Roundup, which functions like an antibiotic and leads to gut bacteria dysbiosis.
  4. Remember “Antibiotics are weapons of mass microbial destruction”. If you need to take them be careful that you rebuild your gut flora with probiotics. Use of antibiotics increases the risk of type-2 diabetes by 1.53-fold. It also causes a quadrupling of Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. A woman should consider natural childbirth whenever possible, as with a vaginal birth the child gets into contact with gut bacteria. Vaginally delivered children remain healthier than children delivered by Cesarean section for several years.
  6. Acid-suppressing medications and NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medication for arthritis) can also lead to dysbiosis. Proton pump inhibitors increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 44%.
  7. Prebiotic fiber can prevent Alzheimer’s. Probiotics do the same.
  8. Avoid sugar: even the Oompa Loompa knew that “If you eat sugar, you get fat”. Obesity and gut dysbiosis cause a higher risk of degenerative brain diseases.
  9. Take magnesium supplements (250 mg twice per day) and DHA from fish oil capsules. It stabilizes your brain metabolism.
  10. In severe, persistent cases of gut dysbiosis a fecal transplant can be considered by your gastroenterologist. This procedure takes place in more than 500 hospitals in the US.
Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

Conclusion

The diversity of gut bacteria is immensely important. As discussed, in rural areas of the world there is gut bacteria diversity. In civilized parts of the world dysbiosis of the gut flora frequently occurs. This can lead to gut inflammation and the inflammation eventually becomes internal and can even reach the brain. These are the points to remember: exercise; avoid GMO foods, use prebiotics and probiotics. Avoid antibiotics; also avoid meat from animals that were fed antibiotics for faster growth. Don’t eat processed foods and avoid sugar. A healthy gut creates a healthy body, and this includes a healthy brain as well.

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Dec
24
2016

Spironolactone Helps Against Herpes Infections

There are limited numbers of antiviral drugs for herpes, but certainly now research showed that spironolactone helps against herpes infections. Spironolactone is an older heart medicine that helps with cardiac failure, but it is also used in unwanted hair growth in women with a hormone disbalance, called hirsutism.

Dr. Swaminathan and colleagues have shown in new research from the University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT that spironolactone blocks the multiplication of herpes viruses.

Common herpesvirus infections

Although there are 100’s of different herpes virus strains, you will recognize some of the following names.

Herpes, type 1 (HSV-1)

HSV-1 causes cold sores on the lips or inside the mouth.

Herpes, type 2 (HSV-2)

HSV-2 is the cause of genital herpes.

Herpes, type 3 (HSV-3)

HSV-3 causes both chickenpox and shingles (herpes zoster). When the immune system is immature, it presents as chickenpox (mostly in children). But when there is partial immunity from a chickenpox childhood infection, shingles can present in an aging person as a localized shingle infection (medically called “herpes zoster”). An interesting vaccination study showed that vaccination against varicella caused a suppression of chronic HSV-1 so that there were no more cold sores compared to the non-vaccinated group that did.

Herpes, type 4 (HSV-4)

You may know HSV-4 as the Epstein-Barr virus. It is the cause of infectious mononucleosis. Other names for this disease are glandular fever or “kissing disease”.

Treatments for herpes infections

The typical antiviral treatments for HSV-1 and HSV-2 are acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex). As a matter of fact, all these drugs belong to the same pharmacological class of drugs. The same drugs work for chickenpox and shingles/herpes zoster (HSV-3).

In a 2013 publication researchers gave acyclovir (Zovirax) to patients who had been hospitalized with infectious mononucleosis.

They had a shorter duration of hospitalization and fever than a control group not treated with acyclovir. The authors did propose that patients with mononucleosis should receive acyclovir.

Drug-resistant herpes strains

One problem that has surfaced is that herpes drug resistant herpes strains seem to evolve, which are resistant to all of the newer anti-herpes drugs as well. The reason for this is that current anti-herpes drugs work by inhibiting the ability of the virus to replicate DNA, thus stopping its proliferation. When the virus learns to overcome that barrier we call this resistance and this will also affect all of the drugs that utilize the same mechanism of action.

The team from the University of Utah screened several drugs and came upon spironolactone, which is a standard medicine for treating heart failure. Dr. Swaminathan and his team found that spironolactone was also able to stop the viral proliferation, however the drug blocked the virus through a different mechanism. Spironolactone inhibited the action of a protein, the SM protein.

This different mechanism of treating herpes virus infections has opened a new door to further research for newer drugs. Hopefully these new drugs will only have the anti-herpes virus effect, but not the anti-heart failure effect. Dr. Swaminathan is confident that his team will be able to separate these two actions and then come up with a new group of anti-virus drugs.

Spironolactone helps against herpes infections, has few side-effects

Spironolactone has been on the market for over 50 years and has a very good low side effect profile. It is useful for people with heart failure to reduce the retained fluid that can accumulate around the heart or in the lungs. This allows the patient to breathe easier and have more energy. Spironolactone also helps with fluid accumulation in patients who have cirrhosis or have nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disease.

In a completely different set of patients spironolactone can help women who produce too much male hormone in their ovaries. This normalizes the hormones and help them lose the awkward, unwanted facial hair growth.

Some generalized side effects are: mild nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Breast swelling or tenderness can develop. Dizziness, headache and mild drowsiness can occur. Some people develop leg cramps. Males can experience impotence and difficulties having an erection.

Spironolactone Helps Against Herpes Infections

Spironolactone Helps Against Herpes Infections

Conclusion

It is not often that an existing drug that has been well researched in the past finds a new application in a completely different area than originally developed for. This is the case for spironolactone, which is effective as an anti-herpetic drug. Further research will likely be able to separate the anti-viral effect of spironolactone from the anti-heart failure effect. Dr. Swaminathan and his team did not think that this was too difficult a problem. In the meantime physicians can use spironolactone for severe herpetic infections when the other drugs do not help. These may be cases of drug resistance.

Overall the detection of an anti-herpetic effect of spironolactone has been an important step forward. This is also true with respect to treating the whole group of herpetic diseases.