• Where Does Infection Come From?

    Posted August 25, 2013: by Bill Sardi

    What’s Best To Prevent Colds Or The Flu Or Infections In General:

    • A Face Mask
    • Frequent Hand Washing
    • Avoidance Of Infected Close Contacts
    • Quarantine of ill individuals
    • Flu Shots
    • Use Of Unused Penicillin Tablets?

    Answer: None Of The Above

    More infection may emanate from within the body than without.

    While we hear advice about hand washing to prevent the spread of infection and we take precaution to avoid persons who are coughing or have a runny nose or other cold or flu symptoms, the simple fact is, humans often don’t acquire infection from others but rather develop infection because of disruption of protective internal factors.

    Humans are probably exposed to more potentially pathogenic germs from their own body than they are from contaminated foods or transmissible infectious diseases from others.

    Herpes affects 80% of humanity

    Oh yes, kissing someone with an eruptive herpes infection can initially transmit that virus to you, but thereafter the virus hides in nerve sheaths and erupts when your immunity is low.

    About 80% of humanity ends up with a dormant herpes-family virus somewhere in their body that is triggered by factors such as foods, sunlight or even emotional stress.  For example, arginine-rich foods (chocolate, nuts, gelatin) serve as a trigger for herpes.  High-dose vitamin D, C and zinc can help shorten a bout with any herpes eruption and regular supplementation can keep it dormant.

    Recognize herpes family viruses produce chicken pox during childhood, shingles in late life, as well as Bell’s palsy, genital herpes, Epstein-Barr infection and even HIV.  An estimated 536 million people around the world have a herpes-lip infection.

    Not everyone becomes ill from contaminated food

    And certainly there are food-borne and water-borne infections, but we don’t consume sterile foods or water.  We are continually consuming foods and beverages with low bacterial and fungal counts.  It is largely when a weakness in our immune system or immune barriers occurs, like a disruption in the stomach’s mucus lining or a lack of stomach acid, that  most of human infections occur.

    Use of antacids increases the risk for infection, such as the deadly Clostridium difficile that kills many nursing home patients.  Recognize, older adults already produce less stomach acid that is the last line of defense against incoming pathogens.

    Yes, large outbreaks of food poisoning suggest abnormally high bacteria or fungal counts, but again, not everyone who consumes contaminated foods becomes ill or dies.

    Human bacteria outnumber the number of tissue cells

    Investigators have only recently pieced together some startling facts about human infection and the load of germs we carry.  The startling fact is the human body is composed of more bacteria than it is tissue cells by a factor of ten.

    For every cell in your body that is you, there are ten that live off of you, primarily in your digestive tract and skin.  There are an estimated 1000 species of bacteria on healthy human skin totaling 100 billion individual bacteria.   There are another 10 billion or so bacteria residing in your mouth, largely sugar-loving, acid forming Streptococcus that can then erode the enamel on your teeth.

    Usually the skin serves as a reliable barrier against infection.  However, small lesions in our skin present opportunity for germs that reside on the skin to replicate and spread.

    Internal defense: think gut defense

    A parasitic bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, infects up to half of the American population.  H. pylori shuts off acid secreting cells.  About half of Americans are infected with this bacterium.  Without adequate acid to kill off incoming bacteria and fungi in food, infections may arise.

    Another example of the requirement for an acid digestive tract is the use of antacids to reduce heartburn symptoms that increase the risk for infection, particularly from a potentially deadly bacterium called Clostridium difficile that kills 14,000 people a year.

    Germs are there.  They are a given.  We can’t completely rid our body of bacteria.  The only thing we can meaningfully control is the body’s defenses against infection.

    What about hand washing?

    Hand washing may be overemphasized.  Certainly in hospitals where there are open wounds and patients with compromised immune systems, frequent hand washing by medical personnel is required.

    However, in one study researchers examined whether frequent hand disinfection (every 3 waking hours) in the home actually reduced illness.  Frequent hand washing did not significantly reduce common cold illnesses (rhinoviruses).

    Person-to-person infection questioned

    Another assumption is that viral infections like colds and flu are readily transmitted to other close contacts.

    In a published study of 407 people who were freshly diagnosed with influenza-like illness and were positive for influenza A or B by rapid testing, transmission to 794 household members was tabulated.  Only 8% of contacts developed confirmed influenza virus in the 7 days following diagnosis.  Hand hygiene and facemasks did not reduce flu transmission any better than chance.  Even use of face masks that block viruses (N95/P2 masks) were not found to be effective against flu transmission. These special masks were not found to be effective even in a hospital setting.

    Even more intriguing is the low transmission of the flu within a family.  Close contact does not necessarily equate with transmission.

    Among 122 households with laboratory confirmed influenza, secondary transmission to family members was only 6%.  In another study of students with laboratory confirmed influenza who returned from a trip overseas, transmission of the flu to residential contacts of ill students was only 2.1%.

    Even airline passengers who sit close to fliers with active cases of the flu only have a 3.6% increased risk of contracting a pandemic strain of the flu.

    We hear of plans to quarantine the infected or zone off populations where infection rates are high, but studies do not confirm these are entirely effective measures.  Closing down public transportation systems (subway) in a computer model of disease spread would only reduce spread of the flu by an estimated 4%.

    The reason for low transmission rates more likely represents the adequacy of the immune system to ward off infection.

    Other factors

    It is a fact that seasonal and geographic factors influence the rate of infectious disease more than the rate of vaccination.

    The flu strikes a higher proportion of people in mid-northern and mid-southern hemispheric lands than in equatorial countries.

    Age is another factor, with young children who do not have fully developed immune systems at greater risk for flu infections.

    In the Journal of Virology Dr. John Cannell of The Vitamin D Council has cited conundrums involved in the global spread of the flu.  Among them are:

    • Why is the flu seasonal and ubiquitous and where does the flu reside between epidemics?
    • Why do flu outbreaks end so abruptly?
    • Why does the flu occur coincidentally in countries at a similar latitude?  Why is the attack rate on close family members so low?
    • How did historical epidemics spread so rapidly despite the lack of modern transportation?
    • Why does intentional inoculation with the influenza virus fail to fail to cause illness in all subjects?
    • Why haven’t death rates from influenza among the aged fallen with increased vaccination rates?

    Vitamin D(estroy)

    The answer to all these questions points to “sunshine” vitamin D as a seasonal, geographical, internal immune factor that controls the timing, spread, and individual risk for influenza in human populations.  Circulating vitamin D levels a master controller of rapid immune response.

    Vitamin D activates an army of fast-responding white blood cells known as neutrophils that literally blow up circulating viruses, bacteria and fungi via production of natural antibiotic peptides known as cathelicidins.  These cathelicidins do not induce germ/treatment resistance as do antibiotics.

    The bottom line lesson of this report is that it is better to focus on building what is called host defense than it is to use antibiotics or antivirals after infection has set in.

    Activating internal defenses is still required for effective use of vaccines, antiseptics and antibiotics.  (The best online graphic description this author could find of “host defense” is provided by the University of Hartford and is worthwhile for personal education.)

    Vaccines are archaic, outdated

    The world is mired in outmoded technology — vaccines.  Recall vaccination (inoculation) started when individuals began to crudely transfer a little bit of disease to others.  It was Edward Jenner in the late 1700s who took matter from a fresh cowpox lesion in an adult and inoculated a young boy with it, which produced a mild fever.  Two months later Dr. Jenner inoculated the boy again with fresh matter from a cowpox lesion and no disease symptoms developed.  Jenner concluded that protection was accomplished.

    Today we know that our late-responding immune system, called adaptive immunity, has memory and produces antibodies against specific strains of viruses and bacteria.  Our adaptive immune system also produces T (thymus) and B (bone marrow)-derived white blood cells.  It is that knowledge which is employed in vaccine development.

    An assumption is that the body is capable of making antibodies when a small amount of disease is injected into individuals.  But an individual’s immune system may be compromised, resulting in ineffective vaccination.

    This is why most vaccines include an adjuvant, something slightly toxic like mercury to provoke a stronger immune response.  Yet even that idea needs to be challenged.  Without essential nutrients like vitamins C and D and trace minerals like zinc and selenium, the production of antibodies will be compromised.

    The direction of modern medicine is away from building immunity via nutrients and towards total reliance upon vaccines.  Those who do not have a fully developed immune system, the young, and those whose immune system is timeworn, the aged, are at the greatest risk for death from infectious disease.  In fact, flu shots do not appear to significantly reduce mortality among the very young and very oldFully vaccinated children still die of the flu.

    Innate immune system also has memory

    But there is a new revelation.  It has only recently become known that our first-responding immune system, called innate immunity, also exhibits memory.  There is now recognition that protection from infectious disease develops apart from T and B cells.  White blood cells produced by the innate immune system – neutrophils, macrophages and natural killer cells, which are the first to respond to infection – also build cross-protection.

    Microbiologists now postulate that innate immunity exhibits a memory of past infection.  Microbiologists now called this “trained immunity.”  They say “understanding trained immunity will revolutionize the view of host defense and immunological memory. ”  Nutrients like vitamins C and D and trace minerals zinc and selenium are required to produce neutrophils, macrophages and natural killer cells and could become the new vaccines.  But there is sure to be denial and resistance to adopt this new knowledge.

    Good bacteria

    Another new development is recognition that antibiotics kill off good bacteria along with pathogenic bacteria, therefore destroying beneficial bacteria like acid-forming acidophilus in the digestive tract.  It is only now being recognized that overuse of antibiotics may lead to an increase in autoimmune disorders and obesity.  The administration of low-dose antibiotics to young mice increases obesity.

    Germ free animals manifest excessive immune responses when immunized and they do not develop normal immune regulatory function.

    The microbiome (the library of germs that reside in the human gut) differs between individuals and is likely unique to each person.

    Lack of early-life exposure to certain microbes, or shifts in the composition of the gastrointestinal microbiome, have been linked to the development and progression of several intestinal and extra-intestinal diseases, including childhood asthma development and inflammatory bowel disease.

    Many experts now believe the intestinal microbiome shapes individual immune mechanisms.

    The newly recognized regulator of the gut microbiome is, of all things, vitamin D, a nutrient that was discovered over 8 decades ago.

    Old armamentarium failing

    Despite extensive campaigns to eradicate pathogens (via antibiotics, vaccines, hygiene, sanitation, etc.), the incidence and/or severity of multiple immune-mediated diseases including, paradoxically, infectious disease has increased in recent decades.

    The prevalence of allergic diseases also continues to rise globally in developed countries.

    To begin, avoid Cesarean sections

    Beginning at birth, the sterile gut of the newborn acquires a diverse spectrum of microbes, needed for immunological priming. However, current practices (Cesarean sections, use of formula milk) deprive newborns from being exposed to this broad spectrum of microbes. Unnecessary use of antibiotics and excessive hygienic precautions (example: chlorinated drinking water) together with the Western diet further contribute to a decreased microbial diversity in the adult gut.

    Implantation of healthy gut bacteria

    While probiotics (supplemental acidophilus and bifidus) don’t generally take up residence in the digestive tract, the recent practice of implantation of bacteria from the gut of healthy subjects (so-called fecal transplantation) has been shown to resolve diarrhea among patients infected with the dreaded Clostridium difficile bacterium.

    Given the dire problem of antibiotic resistance, the future control of infectious disease may rest upon defensive antibiotic molecules produced in the human body via vitamin D called cathelicidins.  These germ-killing peptides do not induce germ resistance as do prescription antibiotics.  It is now known that cathelicidins can indeed protect against a wide range of infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites.  Cathelicidins also inhibit inflammation. 

    Neutrophils, the first white blood cells to respond to infection, have a half-life less than 7 hours.

    Take home lessons:

    • The human gut is the current central focus of bacteriologists concerned with stubborn infectious disease.
    • Vitamin D is the central focus for healthy immune response in humans, with vitamin C, zinc and fish oil playing other important roles.
    • Maintenance of an acid digestive tract is also central to maintaining control over incoming bacteria, viruses and fungi. Alkaline diet and use of antacids are problematic.
    • First-responding white blood cells such as explosive neutrophils and as well as germ-engulfing macrophages track down invasive germs more aggressively (called chemotaxis) when vitamin D and vitamin C are employed.  First-responding neutrophils, activated largely by vitamin D, are enhanced by the provision of fish oil (EPA-DHA).
    • High-carbohydrate foods (bread, rice, pasta, refined sugars), typical in western diets, impair the immune response and need to be limited to maintain adequate immunity and prevent overgrowth of yeast (Candida albicans). Consumption of carbohydrates compromise the human immune response and foster the growth of yeast (Candida albicans).
    • It is more important to maintain the human immune system than it is to avoid, wash off or kill germs outside the body.  All that occurs by brushing teeth, use of antiseptics and avoidance of contact with other infected individuals is to limit the overall germ burden, not infection per se.
    • The very bacteria that cause skin infections, lip sores, shingles, gastric ulcers, chronic diarrhea, blood infections (sepsis), sugar craving (Candida albicans) already reside within the body or on the skin.
    • In very resistant cases, implantation of healthy gut bacteria to infected individuals with chronic diarrhea may be helpful in quelling stubborn treatment-resistant cases that have failed antibiotic therapy.
    • The connection between obesity and Cesarean section suggests a portion of the current diabesity epidemic may be attributed to needlessly cutting babies out of the womb, a practice that needs to be curbed.
    • Quarantine practices, hand washing and use of antiseptics are limitedly effective against infectious disease.  Building internal immunity without problematic vaccines for every form of bacteria and virus is a desirable direction for the control of infection.

    ©2013 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.

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