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Rethinking The Germ Theory
By Philip F. Incao, M.D.

Before he died, Louis Pasteur acknowledged the error in his thinking on his Germ Theory, making the following statement: "Le germe n'est rien, c'est le terrain qui est tout." ("The germ is nothing, the terrain is everything.")

About 3 years ago I first met Christine Maggiore, who is HIV-positive, lives in Los Angeles and wrote the book, What if everything you thought you knew about AIDS WAS WRONG? I found her story very compelling, and was further impressed when Peggy O'Mara, the editor/publisher of Mothering magazine, strongly and openly supported her in the publication. I then decided to inform myself better about AIDS and soon learned what a Pandora's box of superficial thinking, misinformation and bias existed in the mainstream coverage of the issue.

I learned about Valerie Emerson of Maine, an HIV-positive lady with 4 children, 2 HIV-positive and 2 HIV-negative. Her HIV-positive daughter died after a long course of anti-HIV drug therapy and Valerie decided to stop giving the drugs to her three-year-old son, whereupon his condition markedly improved. She was taken to court by the state for refusing drugs for her son. Two expert witnesses came to her defense (pro bono) and she won the case! On appeal to the Maine Supreme Court, a panel of 7 judges, she won again! I have met and gotten to know the two expert witnesses, David Rasnick, Ph.D., and Robert Giraldo, M.D., and have learned much from them about the various errors and deceptions in the mainstream views and treatment of AIDS. The worst and most incredible of these errors is that all of the anti-viral drugs used to treat HIV and AIDS are extremely toxic, immunosuppressive and are sooner or later lethal. Yet this is not recognized because the drug toxicity symptoms are always attributed to the effects of the HIV virus!

So the horrible Kaflcaesque outcome is that thousands of patients have died of drug toxicity misdiagnosed as AIDS who might have lived much longer if they had chosen to deal with their HIV by improving their life-style and strengthening their immune system in natural ways. This deception continues because doctors are taught that the "viral load" and the number of CD4+ T cells in the blood are accurate prognostic signs when in reality they are useless for prognosis and worse than useless for monitoring the effects of treatment.

These tests are worse than useless because when the numbers look good they deceive the doctors into believing that their patients are doing well even when they are slowly dying from cumulative drug toxicity!

Christine Maggiore's book reviewed in this issue of Cancer Forum is likely to be unbelievable, even shocking, for many readers. Yet, the history of medicine is full of examples of serious systematic errors which for a time became incorporated into medical practice on a very large scale, and which caused harm or death to many patients before they were corrected. The late professor of medicine, Eugene Robin, M.D., in his book, Matters of Life and Death: Risks vs. Benefits of Medical Care,1 coined the term "iatroepidemic" to describe the harm caused by these systematic errors.

He listed a sample of twenty-four iatroepidemics, from DES in pregnancy to frontal lobotomy for mental illness.

Dr. Robin explained that iatroepidemics often follow a predictable pattern: "A practice was introduced into medicine on the basis of a fundamentally unsound idea or poorly interpreted experience. The practice took hold without adequate studies to establish its efficacy and then developed a life of its own. It was supported by a group of experts whose opinions encouraged its continued use. Their own reputations or positions partially depended on the practice and when challenged, they leaped to its defense. As a result, changes were slow to come. Because the idea was fundamentally unsound, many patients were harmed. This process, repeated time and again, fosters iatroepidemics...At any given time, most [iatroepidemics] are hidden. Unless and until special circumstances arise, they remain unidentified."

If history proves that Christine Maggiore, Peter Duesberg, Ph.D., and other AIDS dissidents, including the courageous HIV-positive people quoted on this issue's cover, are essentially correct in their view of the AIDS phenomenon, then we will have borne witness to one of the greatest iatroepidemics of all time. And when historians seek to answer the question, "How could we have blundered so badly?" I think our popular obsession with the germ theory of disease will have to bear a good deal of the responsibility.

Reality is usually a lot more complicated then the simplistic; half-truths we easily become accustomed to believing. The human mind seems to gravitate toward simpler explanations of phenomena, and hesitates before complexity. The germ theory of disease is just such a neat and simple explanation of the complex nature of inflammatory, contagious illness.

The eminent microbiologist René Dubos, who died in 1982, once said that the conventional wisdom regarding "...the relation between patient and microbe is so oversimplified that it rarely fits the facts of disease. Indeed, it corresponds almost to a cult generated by a few miracles, undisturbed by inconsistencies and not too exacting about evidence."2

Dubos was fond of pointing out a fact that is almost always overlooked in our popular concept of infectious diseases. It is that all of us are often "infected" with so-called "nasty" bacteria and viruses, but we only seldom get sick. Most of the time we harmoniously co-exist with our germs and we harbor moderate numbers of them in a stable relationship.

The germ theory arose from the consistent observation that certain states of acute illness like TB, diphtheria or scarlet fever were accompanied by the rapid proliferation of certain specific germs far beyond the small numbers generally found in healthy people. The all-important question was, are the germs proliferating because they are feeding on certain substances produced by a diseased body, or are the germs invading, attacking and causing the body to become diseased? The microscope could not resolve that question.

In the case of germs, the turning point in the argument may have been the famous outdoor public experiment in which Pasteur killed a number of sheep by injecting them with a culture of anthrax bacilli. This experiment provided great suggestive power to convince human minds that germs were indeed deadly predators, but the result still left open the logical possibility that the sheep died not from the attack of microscopic predators, but simply from the toxic, poisonous effect of a strong concentration of anthrax germs.

Since Pasteur, germs have increasingly come to be identified in the public mind as hostile, savage predators on humankind, against which our best response is to kill them before they kill us. It is not difficult to see how this mental image of our body as fair game for hordes of attacking minipredators, somewhat like microscopic piranha fish, could lead to what Dubos described as "almost a cult." Psychologically the obsessive power of such a mental image derives from its ability to tap into the deepest and darkest fears of the human unconscious mind. Before such powerful fears, logic and rationality break down. Three diagnoses, infection, cancer and AIDS, have the greatest force to inspire unreasoning, disempowering fear in us and to compel us to accept treatments designed to eradicate the encroaching evil, often doing us more harm then good.

The renewal that the art and science of medicine so greatly needs will only come as medicine learns to base itself, not on concepts which inspire fear and the desperate need to control an imagined outer evil, but on concepts which inspire self-knowledge, compassion and the courage to learn from our often painful experience.

  1. Robin, E.D., MD Matters Of Life & Death: Risks vs. Benefits Of Medical Care The Portable Stanford, Stanford Alumni Association, Bowman Alumni House 1984.
  2. Dubos, R.L. "Second Thoughts on the Germ Theory", Scientific American, Vol. 192, No. 5, May, 1955, pg. 31- 35.

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