What is Science?

Before we start reading scientific papers we should all agree what science is. We all know what science is, right?

So what is it?

From the Oxford English Dictionary (Shorter)

“Theoretical perception of a truth, as contrasted with moral conviction (conscience).”

Sounds a little loose a definition for my purposes, and like it is a derivation of the argument between rationalists and theologians at the beginning of the Enlightenment. Perhaps I should have bought the full OED.

How about Wikipedia?

“Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.”

That is more like it, and “…in the form of testable explanations and predictions…” sounds like an allusion to the scientific method. That builds and organises knowledge… so it is the practice of acquiring knowledge, but also of recording it, or documenting it. Otherwise it would not be very organised.

What exactly is the definition of that, of the scientific method? We have all read about it, but what does it mean? From Wikipedia again:

“The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

Interestingly they quote the OED. More interestingly it is a statement of principles, not a recipe or method. It does not have the rigour or specificity of a law, but it is flexible, so long as one agrees about what methods conform.

Note that there is no mechanism for making a theorem part of the accepted canon of scientific knowledge. Length of time in use, and probably how widely used in place of any available alternatives, for the theorem appear to be what is required for acceptance.

Which suggests as the converse that the opposite is true, too. For an accepted and widely held theorem to be replaced takes a long time, perhaps in proportion in some respect to how long the idea to be overthrown has enjoyed acceptance. Someone described it to me once as waiting for the current generation (of scientists) to die.

But why so slow?

Experience, such as with Newton’s Theory of Gravity, demonstrates why it is customary within science to call ideas, or propositions, theorems, and not laws. Why they are tested, and retested, why the process takes so long, and why they stick around so long when confronted with a replacement. A theorem may possess predictive power across an enormous range of situations and circumstances, but often break down in unusual or extreme situations. Or, when instruments improve and allow us to observe or experiment with more phenomena or with much greater precision. Newtonian physics and his equation describing gravity held true, had the appearance of law, for about two hundred years. If it works, why replace it?

Enter Einstein’s version of physics about two centuries after the adoption of Newtonian physics, and the use of quantum theory, relativity, etc., to describe the fundamental properties of matter, space, energy and time, and the ongoing search for a unifying theory that works across subatomic as well as interstellar distances. Einstein’s theories were not just new, and revolutionary. They were hard, opaque, and seemingly nonsensical in relation to everyday life and observations. If it so conflicts with my beliefs, why replace it?

Facing such resistance to new ideas then, for good reasons and bad, custom became that multiple, different, repeatable experiments be conducted by different people, at different times, and in different locations before a theorem is widely accepted. Nor is there any guarantee that such acceptance be universal, or happen at once.

Hence perhaps the scorn of “hard” scientists for the social side of science, which is not at all amenable to the scientific method, and one of the reasons I believe the scientific method requires adaptation.

Repeatability, as well as rationally deriving conclusions from experimentation, demands certain things. In practice it is very hard to derive cause and effect if more than one factor varies. Repeatability is also made harder.

Any factor that can vary, and that could affect the outcome, which in a strict practice of science has to be accepted as any if one is not to prejudge*, is called a variable. Because of this experiments that have full rigour under the scientific method isolate one variable to test. While all possible variables must be controlled for, kept constant. Or discounted by accepted mathematical or experimental methods.

One measurable phenomenon is made to vary, say temperature, usually in a uniform way, in regular increments. In this way the impact of that variable on the other phenomena being observed can be measured. More to the point the degree of variability correlated to measurable changes in the phenomena observed can be derived. You can see the importance of this with drug testing, it would not do much good to give them three experimental drugs if you want to find out if any are effective. Nor would it be any good to know that a microgram didn’t do much, but a kilo of it killed the subjects. Nor should the range of the variable be too narrow. Nor the steps too large. One can always discard extra data.

So it seems we have the rough basics for methodology for research.

But science also includes the process of publication and of testing of an experiment by others.

So science must also include the dissemination of ideas, theorems, and of experiments and their observations. The process of the testing of experiments and theories by others, and of the arguments that must follow, and the recording and documentation of that process, publishing.

The custom of testing and of peer review, and the demands of the scientific method, saves us from investing time and resources in pursuing the suggestions or ideas springing from theories that lack predictive power. But also why science moves slowly, and only adopts new ideas long after a new theorem has been proposed.

Perhaps the most infamous example of the medical community’s, doctors’, resistance to new ideas is the edifying story Ignaz Semmelweis. His story also illustrates why the business of communicating and sharing scientific research, and subjecting it to wide spread review and consideration, to peer review, is so important.

As well as why being able to read and understand it can be so important. I would not like to have delivered a baby on the pavement because my doctors were so hidebound and because I could not argue otherwise.

The story of Newtonian physics also shows how a theorem may have utility, be right in most observable instances, while being strictly “wrong”.

In terms of predictive power we got along fine with Newtonian physics for centuries, we managed the industrial revolution, powered flight, rocketry, aqueducts, dams, suspension bridges, steam power, and the internal combustion engine just fine without Einsteinian physics. Although Newton’s equations describing gravity are not “right”, we stayed stuck to the earth. So there is clearly good enough science that may not be perfectly correct in all circumstances. This is an important concept for later.

What we think of as modern science and it’s methods grew out of the Enlightenment, and Newton was alive during the period. The Enlightenment was a movement away from ideas derived from faith and belief, characterised and embodied by the christian church in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and towards one of beliefs obtained from reason and argument. Newton himself embodied this nicely. He successfully resisted the requirement at the time that members of Cambridge University, his college was Trinity after all, be ordained ministers in the Church of England. The origins of science in a movement against faith based beliefs probably helps explain the Christian Church’s antipathy towards science.

This coincided with the widespread use of printing, specifically of movable type and the relative democratisation of the access to knowledge, in Europe. The Chinese and Koreans had enjoyed movable type for half a millenium by the time it came to Gutenberg. It’s impact was enormous, the internet of the day. As printing evolved and printed materials became more widespread, the dissemination of scientific ideas and research spread via the new medium. As it did so it adapted and adopted various new forms as a result. Newton published his work in book form. But one cannot write a book about every idea or experiment. So the practice of bundling papers from more than one author evolved.

From this process, still ongoing, we inherit the scientific journal. Specialist publications devoted, for a profit of course, to publishing science and research deemed worthy of consideration in the first place. That evaluation process often excludes as much as sixty or eighty percent of material submitted. It then undergoes revisions during a process called peer review, which is just as it sounds, before publication. The journal system is the primary way science is shared, evaluated, developed, refined, and accepted so that it becomes part of the library of human knowledge in the sphere of science today, flawed as it is.

I think we have worked our way to a complete definition of science. Here we go:

“Science is both the study of natural phenomena required to obtain an understanding of the universe and its functioning, and the canon of accumulated knowledge derived from that activity.

Scientific research uses methods and practices congruent with the conventions of the scientific method. Those methods, and observations derived, should be reproducible and repeatable, and made in accordance with the traditions of reason. Experimentation should be in a controlled environment, and deal with isolated variables so that cause and effect may be clearly derived. The conclusions drawn should be supported by experimental observations, and analysis of the observations and measurements should itself also be repeatable and congruent with accepted practice and methods.

Scientific knowledge consists of research that has been published and disseminated after a process of peer review, in journals usually dedicated to the branch of scientific knowledge aligned with the subject at question. Science demands critical thinking, evaluation of any claims, and healthy skepticism. It should therefore be read critically, not just accepted at face value because that is antithetical to science itself. With time and use theorems become accepted as part of the canon of scientific knowledge.

Theorems and knowledge derived from science are never be regarded by a scientist as the final word. Further research will almost invariably produce a successor theorem that improves upon its predecessor, but older theorems still often have utility, and often times the virtue of simplicity in comparison to their successors.”

My next post will deal with the topic of “Where science is published and how to find it”, and that is largely the story of journals and how papers get published, where they are stored, and why you might have to pay to read some of them.

Next will be “Where science is published and how to find it”.

Index to this series of posts:

  1. Overview
  2. What is science (October 18th, 2014)
  3. Where science is published and how to find it (October 23th, 2014)
  4. Peer review (October 29th, 2014)
  5. Evaluating science (November 3rd, 2014)
  6. Type of scientific paper, their structure and interpretation (November 7th, 2014)

Changed list of planned posts on October 17 to accommodate increase in number of planned posts and compressed publication schedule, moving dates up.

*Bias is an issue I will address when I discuss evaluating science.

Please do not email me asking for papers, you can do it. In fact send me your favourites, thanks.

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What is the difference between a cure and remission?

I am posting this because I often find myself telling people that helminthic therapy, though it very likely could make you completely well, cannot cure you. The issue is semantics, but it is important we adhere to strict definitions, even if they cause trouble for some, in the interest of accuracy.

A cure is when a disease or illness is treated and then goes away completely. An example of this is when antibiotics are used to clear up an infection such as tonsillitis.

Remission is associated with incurable diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, and others. All of those diseases are very hard to treat with modern medicine, and, at the moment, modern medicine offers no cure. In fact, because of their nature, arising at least in part out of the interplay of genetics and environment, there can be no cure. These autoimmune diseases can be characterised by periods of sickness, usually referred to as “relapse”, and periods of wellness, when the disease symptoms are not apparent at all, referred to as “remission”.

Helminthic therapy helps the body to achieve and sustain remission, and it does so in part by changing the environment in a sense. It is not a cure, because the remission is dependent upon continuing to host the helminths, so far as we know. If you lose your helminth population, you will get sick again. Think of it in terms of antibiotics, if you had to take them for the rest of your life you would not think of them as a cure.

This is why AIT guarantees infection and provides reinfection for just $150 USD during the period of your engagement with us, usually three years for hookworm, or eighteen months for whipworm.

There is however a lot of circumstantial evidence that hookworm and whipworm do bring about changes to our immune systems that outlast infection by at least six months. So it is possible that remission may also outlast the death of the infection, strictly the infestation, for some diseases, in some individuals.

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Reading research for non-scientists

Overview

I taught myself how to read science, even going so far as to dive into statistics so I could understand what “p” meant. I did so originally so that I could understand the hygiene hypothesis, old friends hypothesis, and what came to be known as helminthic therapy. Later I continued to read it so I could do a better job helping clients, but primarily because I had grown to enjoy it.

Reading scientific papers is one of my favourite activities. I even have a “greatest hits” list of my favourite papers, which I reread. I have learned an enormous amount from the activity, and derived even more pleasure. Because of that I wanted to encourage others to do likewise.

Most of what I discuss I developed or thought in relation to my interest in and reading of medical research. But I found my attention drawn to other areas of knowledge as I become more comfortable, and have read papers on anthropology, human history, medical research, who gets admitted to medical school, what medical specialities attract the brightest (not brain surgery, that was number two), genetics, game theory, gambling, economics, the history of medieval, and Elizabethan, London, human evolution, ecosystem collapse, climate change, ocean acidity, biofilms, whatever catches my eye.

When I started I was openly ridiculed for having the audacity to read science, and to apply what I learned to my life.

How could I, a non scientist, be so arrogant? Why, I never even went to university.

I find that attitude very depressing. Science of all things should not be the preserve of specialists alone, nor should people be so quick to exclude themselves, or to disqualify themselves, from any activity so central to our world. So much of our lives is affected by it. We pay for it, we consume and live within it’s output, we live with the consequences. Who decides certain areas should be explored or developed?

For instance, who decided at the dawn of the atomic age that we should develop nuclear reactors that produce highly carcinogenic, dangerous, but weaponisable waste products with half lives of almost a quarter million years. But ignore an inherently safe alternative that does not produce, that actually destroys, such waste products? 

Clearly such choices have had, and will continue to have an enormous impact on our lives. For that reason alone, never mind our interest in taking more control over our health and well being, I think it should be more open, more democratic, and more participatory. Don’t forget, it is also a lot of fun.

It also provides enormous benefits, and very quickly. How often have you been told you need to take some new drug and wondered about it? Is the drug or therapeutic option being offered really better? What does better mean? How much better? Better for whom?

If you want to know after visiting the doctor whether the drug or surgery they recommend is as advertised, then the ability to find and understand the science concerned is of importance. If you want to go to the doctor and tell them what to do, then you have no choice at all.

The answers to some of those questions in relation to some of the most popular or commonly used drugs may surprise you. I will discuss some in later posts, hint: don’t waste your money on Claritin.

Originally I had thought to write it all as one post and to publish when finished. But the task is too large, and the result will be too long, so I am going to break it up.

I plan on discussing the following things, published here in a series of posts, currently outlined as follows*:

  1. Overview
  2. What is science (October 18th, 2014)
  3. Where science is published and how to find it (October 23th, 2014)
  4. Peer review (October 29th, 2014)
  5. Evaluating science (November 3rd, 2014)
  6. Type of scientific paper, their structure and interpretation (November 7th, 2014)

*Changed list of planned posts on October 17 to accommodate increase in number of planned posts and compressed publication schedule, moving dates up.

Posted in big pharma, drug companies, practice of science, Reading science, reading scientific papers, Research, Science, Scientific Journals | Leave a comment

New direction for this blog

I have not had an editorial position for this blog, until now. No consistent direction or unifying theme for what to say except in general terms to speak about helminthic therapy and anything that might, however distantly, relate to the health of those who approach us for hookworm, or for whipworm.

Often I have been embarrassingly guilty of writing self-indulgent garbage I should have known was of interest only to me. Things that in retrospect should not have been of interest to me.  I apologise, it won’t happen again.

I have decided that I am going to concentrate on science for a while, what it is, how it is practiced, how it is funded, who decides what gets funded, what is published and how, and perhaps how elements of that might be improved. Science has not always been like this, or even been at all.

So at some point soon I will write something to try and put science in context. Because if one does not understand what science is, where it came from, how it is practiced and has been practiced, how scientific knowledge has been disseminated, then one cannot make informed decisions about where it can and will go. Or even be able to participate in that debate. It is important, to me, to widen that discussion, for science and it’s practitioners as much as us, those who fund and consume or are affected by it’s output. As I have spent more time reading science and trying to understand how it is practiced, funded and published, I have grown more and more to see opportunities for improving science.

But to start I plan on writing a guide to reading science for the layperson. Where to find it, how to understand it, why it is in the form you find it, etc.

When I started trying to learn about helminths’ potential therapeutic use the idea of using them in that way was not called helminthic therapy, it did not have a name at all. Except in one paper I read somewhere along the way, and hope to find again soon as I reread a lot of papers to write about here.

Now “helminthic therapy” is used almost everywhere, it has spread as the name of choice for what I do for a living amongst the informed. Everywhere except to the people who do not know that “helminth therapy” is the process of killing off unwanted infections of helminths using drugs like mebendazole. Or among those who prefer the less formal, and less accurate, worm therapy.

I wrote the first copy of the article titled Helminthic Therapy on Wikipedia, so distant now from what I wrote I can not claim authorship. I started the first successful discussion group concerned with Helminthic Therapy on a public forum. I wrote the first blog post back in April, 2006, started one of the first companies, and was the first to be told that helminths are drugs by a regulatory agency and that I should stop selling them.

Doing those things demanded a good understanding of the science behind what I was doing and what I wanted to do. Any posts online back then on the subject were met largely by an outpouring of uninformed rage. Fear, driven by a belief I was going to reintroduce a plague, kill millions (I am not making this up or exaggerating) and worse, informed that rage. To the extent an answer existed to posts and comments that angry it was to reply with information and opinion I could back up with citations. If I could not credibly claim the expertise and knowledge I could at least point to those who could.

Because back then I could not point to magazine articles, nor to any other reservoir of the interpretation of science by others. When I started none of those things existed, there were no articles I could find online in any publication that examined the subject, except what there was in scientific journals or publications.

So I had to read scientific papers, there was no avoiding it. There was no choice if I stood a chance of really understanding the subject, or of explaining it to others,  just as there had been none when I was deciding whether or not it was worth investing the time money and risk in obtaining helminths, and in trying to find a source other than from the third world. It is hard now to remember how afraid I was.

All the time I read scientific papers, and as those devoted to helminths ran out I switched to reading about genetics and immunology, about anthropology and human history.

I came to enjoy it, it has been a source of great pleasure, and some edification I hope.

But when I started I was frightened, really frightened primarily by my responsibility to the sick who approached me for help. I wondered if I should, that I might not be capable of understanding it, that it might not work, that it might harm. That I might be being presumptuous, arrogant, that I might be guilty of hubris. That I might be wrong. Of course that is a stupid set of worries or ideas, and in retrospect I think very damaging. For me, for anyone afflicted by the attitude, but also for science and our society.

But I also think it is commonplace, as all the criticism expressed directly to me when I started reading science or suggesting I would to friends or family illustrated. People wondered how it could be possible I could understand it without having studied at university. The accusations of arrogance and hubris were especially bruising and frequent. What made me think I could, or had the right, to read science unfiltered?

I think this has come about because, or at least in part, of the more general and damaging tendency to deify scientists and science as more than human, as requiring super intelligence. That science was the domain of a priesthood of arcane knowledge with entry only for the initiated. As well as the tendency to rely increasingly on specialists, as we have all become more specialised in our work. Real Estate agents, furniture shops, green grocers, shoe stores, tailors and clothing stores, no one is the kind of self reliant generalist we all were just a century ago in the developed world. We used to grow our own food, now the idea is widely seen as absurd.

So I want to make science accessible to you, to explain how I went about developing what I believe is a well developed ability to read and understand a large proportion of scientific research, and, perhaps how you can too. Where to go when you need help, and how to develop your abilities over time.

Such as where to find papers, often for free. What to read amongst those available, how to choose among the millions of papers out there. How to find older, harder to find papers that may not be online yet. What tools you can use at the beginning to make the specialised vocabulary understandable. How to examine a paper critically to understand if it is affected by bias, in questions, methods or conclusions, etc. How to find related papers, to the one you just finished to round out your understanding of the area in question.

I will go through some of the papers I read along the way over the past ten years, starting in 2004 when I first encountered the hygiene hypothesis, with a link to the full text I am discussing, of the paper I want to examine and it’s findings and weaknesses.

I do not claim to be an expert and welcome any constructive criticism, I want to be better too. Hopefully this will stimulate the interest and belief you need to explore science yourself, and to become a better, more critical consumer of it. Science clearly needs our participation in some way if we expect it to better serve us. To me it seems as though much of it has been hijacked by a minority with the money, means and interest in directing science. Much like politics at the national level in the US and UK.

I would like mine and other more disparate voices to be included in the debates science and in particular regarding about what gets studied, when, by whom and how.

Hopefully if anyone is interested we can use this site and the comments sections to discuss some of the papers and issues, and I encourage people to send me any science they would like to discuss with me privately or here.

Posted in big pharma, biome restoration, ecological medicine, ecosystem, helminthic therapy, helminthic therapy research, History of Autoimmune Therapies, hygiene hypothesis, Old Friends Hypothesis, practice of science, scientific method, the body as an ecosystem | 2 Comments

Thank You Automattic for the Akismet Anti Spam Plugin

I wanted to thank Automattic, the developers of the Akismet anti comment-spam plugin for writing what is a very helpful tool for blocking comment spam on WordPress blogs.

I forgot to mention that it is free.

If you look at the screenshot below it quarantined 2,574 comments that were spam, this from early this year, around mid March I think, until now, mid September.

Most of it is in Chinese, though I did not get past the second page examining it.

If I deleted your honest post, if you submitted it and it is not published here somewhere then I deleted it, please resubmit it and I will be sure to publish. Please no marketing links, I just burn those comments.

Spam Count

2,574 comments marked as spam in less than six months

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Time to re-examine our slavish devotion to the scientific method

Someone sent me a link to some research on Psoriasis and it got me thinking again about the way science and particularly drug research is conducted, and its limitations with respect to complex systems we do not understand, like the immune system.

The subject of the direction of research in the area of immunological diseases really bothers me. I think science, because of its history and prejudices, has gone in entirely the wrong direction, and that the scientific method is part of the problem.

The scientific method works very well for simple systems like the physics of semiconductors for instance, where all but one variable can be controlled for, where all variables have been identified and understood.

That just is not possible currently for the immune system, we do not even know all of its components, or even the behaviour of any one component in all circumstances. Never mind those circumstances we create with modern drugs.

Furthermore the timescale of research required to understand the long term effects of a drug are prohibitive, not possible. Bear that in mind when you read the known side effects for a drug introduced more recently than 30 or 50 years ago. That list may be incomplete.

Given the complexity of the immune system I am convinced that barring a breakthrough in research tools or methodology akin to the discovery and development of PCR technology and techniques, which has played out over the course of 25 years, current drug development methods are not going to produce anything effective and safe except by dumb luck.

Attempting to control disease by targeting specific components of the immune system with knockout drugs will never yield anything more effective or safe than the monoclonals that we have now. They are of course neither safe, nor effective.

Crudely knocking out a major component of the immune system using proteins or other molecules that themselves can become targets of the immune system, seems to me, guarantees bad side effects and a limited period of effectiveness.

So an approach like ours where you step back so that the resolution of what you are looking at and of your thinking is reduced, and the problem and challenge are simplified, presents a more promising approach.

Understanding that immunological diseases and those involving chronic inflammation arise out of damages to the environment defined by our bodies reduces the complexity of the problem and it’s possible solutions.

Another reason why the viewpoint of science and the regulators is skewed and inappropriate, helminthic therapy has been categorised as a drug based on the definition of drugs used by agencies like the FDA. But one has to realise that using their definition of a drug would mean sunlight and food, even a kiss, could be defined as drugs as well. Given how broad and therefore useless that definition is, its use in this case creates a damaging regulatory posture, as well as an attitude of fear and conservatism amongst the public and regulators, who do not understand all the issues. That limits the development and use of a therapeutic tool that is inherently safe, clearly effective, and were it not in a ghetto created by inappropriate regulation, very, very cheap: helminthic therapy.

Regulators, because of their inability or unwillingness, to appropriately categorise helminthic therapy, ensure that millions continue to unnecessarily get sick, remain sick, grow sicker, and suffer permanent damage, and death, while paying for approved drugs that kill.

Regulation was never intended to ensure that hundreds of millions of people entered and remained trapped in severe and progressive illness by reason of that regulation. All the while being provided, at the desperate patient’s insistence absent anything better, lethal and toxic molecules identified, tested and sold on the basis of perilously sparse and incomplete knowledge of their affect, or of the systems they are meant of change. Without testing sufficient, and invariably gamed, to understand potential side effects.

I think the reason drug and therapeutics development for complex diseases, like cancer, autoimmunity and chronic inflammation, has slowed to a crawl and become astronomically expensive, is because of this complexity. Self-imposed by the fetishisation of the scientific method, its status as a holy cow, perfect and unchanging, unchallengeable and immutable.

Our inability to spend the decades waiting to work out the consequences of a particular approach using current methods also means that drugs developed under the current system have not been appropriately tested given the potential risks.
Hence also the lack of movement on helminthic therapy because of categorisation it as a drug. That and the unwillingness of the drug industry to follow any potential route to a product that does not enjoy patent protection and the artificial monopoly that regulation creates. Something that is impossible commercially given the nature of our patent system and the motivation of drug companies by profit ahead of general welfare.

Without an almost complete understanding of the immune system and all its components, as well as a computer model of it that has predictive powers, it is impossible to develop safe effective drugs.

Helminthic therapy may be categorised as a drug by a regulatory system that has clearly not adapted to current knowledge and understanding, and is likely inhibited from doing so by it’s parasitic relationship with the collection of drug companies it purports to regulate.

But it is not a drug.

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I posted this on Facebook here if you are not aware of our Facebook page and a version to the Yahoo forum.

I post small snippets and shorter material to Facebook that does not show up here, and Twitter is linked to that as well, you can follow me @wormtherapy

Posted in biome restoration, ecosystem, helminthic therapy research | Leave a comment

Multiple Sclerosis and helminthic therapy

Every one of our Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis clients who has maintained a therapeutic population of hookworm has reported achieving near or complete remission within twenty-four months, most show an improvement within six to nine months.

Every. Single. One.

I recently spoke with the gentleman who sent me the email quoted below, and he has agreed to write up an account of his experiences with helminthic therapy. I will post that here as soon as I get it.

Nor are our results always entirely subjective, although this one is typical of the emails I get from our MS clients, in this case their response is documented by their neurologist using pre- and post-helminthic therapy MRIs.

Start of email:

Hi Jasper, I just recently had a brain MRI and I wanted to share the great results with you. This is the letter from my neurologist:

“Just a short note to let you know about the results of your recent MRI of the brain done 5/30/10. We were finally able to get it compared to your previous MRI done 6/22/07 done at Kaiser Woodland Hills. Here’s a copy of the report: “Comparison exam dated 6/22/07 from outside institution is now available for review. Compared to this study, a lesion in the lateral aspect of the right thalamus has significantly decreased in size. A previous lesion in the right brachium pontis is not seen. Other white matter lesions are without significant change. Hyperintensity in the left optic nerve was not definitely seen on the prior but this area was not seen clearly given technique. No new lesion has developed.”

So things are actually improved and no new lesions are seen! This is great news! I think we can safely reduce your Copaxone to every other day provided you have an annual MRI. What are your thoughts?”

This is better news than I could have hoped for. It looks like the mild symptoms I was having were not an actual relapse. Some people get these flare ups when they get too hot, but I think that I may get them when I don’t get enough sleep. From what I understand, it is not actually disease activity, but more like a “short circuit” caused by existing scar tissue in the brain when it is exposed to certain stresses. I definitely think that the hookworms are a big part of the reason that I am doing so well. So thank you again for all the sacrifices that you’ve made to make this treatment available.

End of email.

You can read another quite incredible account on our page devoted to Multiple Sclerosis and Helminthic Therapy. The one you want is by “Ric”. He was in the very first cohort of clients, on September 25, 2007. Reading his account just now I realised I need to get him to update it, and have emailed him so we can bring it up-to-date.

If you want more than anecdote there is plenty of research, in particular that of Correale and Farez over the last decade, theirs is some of the best research into helminth’s impact on any disease there is, even now. If what is available here is not sufficient a search of PubMed, the online medical research database maintained by the National Institutes for Health is a great resource.

Correale and Farez’s work is superb(1,2,3), as you can see for yourself below, the full text of one of the papers below is available for free. See link below also.

What their work shows is that just about any infection with a helminth will slow or stop the progress of Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.

Furthermore, their work examines some of the mechanisms explaining the impact of helminth infection on the immune systems of those with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Explaining how the improvement of symptoms of those with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis who are infected with helminths is caused by the helminths.

Taken together this has enormous potential to treat, or to eliminate, Multiple Sclerosis.

Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis is about 85% of all cases of Multiple Sclerosis.

Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is what Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis turns into after a few years or decades. Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis forms about 10% of all cases of Multiple Sclerosis.

So, Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis is responsible for about 95% of all cases of Multiple Sclerosis.

Summarising, based on our 100% response rate treating Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis using hookworm alone, supported by powerful results from a series of well-designed and executed studies showing similar results for a variety of helminths, that provide at least part of the reason for the beneficial effects of helminth infection on the course of Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, it appears reasonable to believe that it is possible, using tools and techniques we have right now, to prevent or to “cure” approximately 95% of all cases of Multiple Sclerosis.

But is it safe?

One branch of the United States Federal Government says so. The Centers for Disease Control.

The Centers for Disease Control, a department of the National Institutes for Health in the United States, recommends US doctors not treat light infections of hookworm (see diagnosis and treatment algorithm published by the CDC/NIH here).

Light infections being all that is required to treat Multiple Sclerosis, it is hard to understand why there is so little excitement about all this.

Source: Public Health Image Library, ID#:52454

Unfortunately the CDC is not the portion of the US Government that is concerned with regulating, and deciding what are, drugs. Sadly, for us, that portion of the Federal Government, the FDA, has decided that helminths are a drug.

According to various estimates that can be found on the web, a disease not worth treating according to the CDC is in fact a potentially dangerous drug requiring years, decades, of research likely to cost approximately $800,000,000.00, this according to sources quoted on Wikipedia. It is hard to imagine a drug company undertaking such a task to gain approval for the therapy that it could not patent, and that would supplant some of the most expensive drugs on the market today.

Take Tysabri as an example, a drug used in the USA to treat Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. One estimate I have read on the internet states that the cost of five years treatment with Tysabri costs $140,00.00, that is the drug alone. It does not include the blood tests and doctor’s visits required by use of the drug. The cost of hookworm currently for five years benefit? $3,050.00.

Put another way, treatment with hookworm for Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis is 2.1% of the cost of Tysabri over a five year period.

While I understand why no drug companies are championing this approach for treating Multiple Sclerosis, given that doing so would amount to financial suicide, what i don’t understand is why Multiple Sclerosis sufferers, and the Charities that represent them, are not.

I don’t understand why everyone with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis is not aware of the potential of helminthic therapy to treat Multiple Sclerosis. Why aren’t the charities championing research or promoting the use of this therapy right now?

It’s safe, remember?

Because of the universal response among our Multiple Sclerosis clients, and the excellent science available courtesy of Correale and Farez, we have decided that Multiple Sclerosis is the route to gaining wider acceptance of helminthic therapy. To persuading the medical and scientific establishment to treat the subject with the seriousness and resources it deserves.

If anyone with experience writing grant proposals, for research in particular. Or with experience working with charities wants to help, or to advise us in these efforts, please contact me by leaving a message in the comments section here, or by visiting http://autoimmunetherapies.com/contact.html.

This is absolutely the most important thing we have attempted since starting to sell helminthic therapy in September, 2007.

Success with a study will help us towards our ultimate goal, the transformation of the practice of medicine o include the use of benign infectious organisms to prevent and to treat disease. We might even help accelerate the eradication of Multiple Sclerosis, too.

Jasper Lawrence

References:

(1) The impact of parasite infections on the course of multiple sclerosis.

Correale J, Farez MF.

Abstract: Previously, we demonstrated that helminth-infected MS patients showed significantly lower number of relapses, reduced disability scores, and lower MRI activity compared to uninfected MS subjects. In the current study, 12 patients with diagnosis of relapsing remitting MS presenting parasite infections were prospectively followed during 90months; due to exacerbation of helminth-infection symptoms after 63months of follow-up, 4 patients received anti-parasite treatment. Helminth-infection control was associated with significant increase in clinical and radiological MS activities. Moreover, these patients showed significant increase in the number of IFN-γ and IL-12 producing cells, and a fall in the number of TGF-β and IL-10 secreting cells, as well as CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ Treg cells evident 3months after anti-helminth treatment began. These new observations on parasite infections associated to MS indicate that parasite regulation of host immunity can alter the course of MS.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

PMID: 21277637 Link to PubMed Entry

(2) Helminth antigens modulate immune responses in cells from multiple sclerosis patients through TLR2-dependent mechanisms.

Correale J, Farez MF.

Abstract: To better understand the link between parasite infections and the course of multiple sclerosis (MS), we studied the role of TLRs in helminth product recognition by dendritic cells (DCs) and B cells. Baseline expression of TLR2 was significantly higher in infected-MS patients compared with uninfected MS subjects or healthy controls. Moreover, cells exposed to TLR2 agonists or to soluble egg Ag (SEA) from Schistosoma mansoni resulted in significant TLR2 up-regulation. SEA suppressed the LPS-induced DCs production of IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-12, and TNF-alpha and enhanced TGF-beta as well as IL-10 production. Similarly, after exposure to SEA, anti-CD40-activated B cells increased IL-10 production. Both processes were MyD88 dependent. In addition, SEA down-regulated the expression of LPS-induced costimulatory molecules on DCs in a MyD88-independent manner. DCs stimulation by SEA and TLR2 agonists induced increasing phosphorylation of the MAPK ERK1/2. Neither stimulus showed an effect on p38 and JNK1/2 phosphorylation, however. Addition of the ERK1/2 inhibitor U0126 was associated with dose-dependent inhibition of IL-10 and reciprocal enhancement of IL-12. Finally, cytokine effects and changes observed in DCs costimulatory molecule expression after SEA exposure were lost when TLR2 expression was silenced. Overall, these findings indicate that helminth molecules exert potent regulatory effects on both DCs and B cells through TLR2 regulation conducted via different signaling pathways. This knowledge could prove critical in developing novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as MS.

PMID: 19812189 Link to free copy of complete paper.

(3) Helminth infections associated with multiple sclerosis induce regulatory B cells.

Correale J, Farez M, Razzitte G.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To assess the importance of B-cell control during parasite infections in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.

METHODS:

Peripheral blood CD19+ B cells from 12 helminth-infected MS patients, 12 MS patients without infection, 10 patients infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, 8 subjects infected with Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, and 12 healthy control subjects were purified using magnetic cell sorting. Interleukin (IL)-4, IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, lymphotoxin, transforming growth factor-beta, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and nerve growth factor secretion were evaluated after stimulation with CDw32 L cells and CD40 antibody using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. The production of anti-myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein IgG and IgM antibodies was evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot assays. Cell phenotype was assessed by flow cytometry.

RESULTS:

Helminth infections in MS patients created a B-cell population producing high levels of IL-10, dampening harmful immune responses through a mechanism mediated, at least in part, by the ICOS-B7RP-1 pathway. The IL-10-producing B-cell phenotype detected expressed high levels of CD1d and was similar to the one observed in mature naive B2 cells (namely, CD11b(-), CD5(-), CD27(-), and IgD+). Moreover, B cells isolated from helminth-infected MS patients also produced greater amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and nerve growth factor compared with those of normal subjects, T. cruzi-infected subjects, P. brasiliensis-infected subjects, or uninfected MS patients, raising the possibility that these cells may exert a neuroprotective effect on the central nervous system.

INTERPRETATION:

Increased production of B-cell-derived IL-10 and of neurotrophic factors are part of the parasite’s regulation of host immunity and can alter the course of MS, potentially explaining environmental-related MS suppression observed in areas with low disease prevalence.

PMID: 18655096 Link to PubMed Entry

(4) For those wanting to find the hookworm diagnosis and treatment algorithm image for themselves it is impossible to bookmark, I expect the CDC does not want their servers being used by sites like this one to host their images and to provide their bandwidth. But you can find it at http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/home.asp, use the search field to search on “hookworm” and the image is about halfway down on the right.

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More evidence of the power of ecosystems

Just read at the second pass by an interesting article on the Independent.co.uk, a national newspaper in the UK concerning a recent discovery. Scientists claim to have worked out why honey is so good as an antibiotic and it has nothing to do with honey bees directly, but rather the ecosystem formed by their stomachs, as with us and helminths and the hygiene hypothesis/old friends hypothesis. Turns out they believe that bacteria living in honey bee stomachs is what confers the antibiotic properties on honey. I will leave it to your imagination how bacteria in a bee’s stomach transfer that power to the honey you enjoy. But yet another, they are stacking up fast, demonstrating that thinking of ecosystems on any level as separate or distinct from one another is not productive. Although the hippy connotations have always bothered me I think Gaia deserves another look, and hopefully a better name with less mystical associations.

From the Independent:
For millenia, raw unmanufactured honey has been used to treat infections.

Scientists believe its effectiveness could lie in a unique formula comprised of 13 types of lactic acid bacteria found in the stomachs of bees. The bacteria, which are no longer active in shop-bought honey, produce a myriad of active anti-microbial compounds.

….

Honey is an antibiotic because of bacteria in bee's stomachs

Honey has long been known, centuries in fact, to have extraordinary antibiotic properties. It’s the bacteria in the bee’s stomach…


By applying the bacteria to pathogens found in severe human wounds – including MRSA – scientists from Lund University, Sweden, found that the formula from a bee’s stomach successfully counteracted the infections.

Researchers believe that the formula works so potently because it contains a broad spectrum of active substances, unlike conventional man-made antibiotics.

My only sadness was in reading that the active ingredients had been killed by the time it is bought, honey must be pasteurised. Doing so would not just kill any bacteria but denature any ESMs left behind in the honey.

If you want the benefits you would likely have to eat raw honey. But one to store away for after the zombie apocalypse.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/bacteria-found-in-honeybee-stomachs-could-be-used-as-alternative-to-antibiotics-9724292.html

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Things I would do if I was still sick

Or that you can, or use to try and stay healthy.

If I suffered from, any, nasty immunological disorder or any involving inflammation this is what I would do:

1. I would not rely on experts, so-called, who have managed to create a situation where all these diseases are out-of-control and increasing. Clearly “modern medicine” not only does not have the answers for these conditions, it is clear that it is part of the problem. Having said that if you are currently reliant on some modern drug to function you are going to have to continue to rely on it until you can get things under control such that it is possible to discontinue its use.

2. I would systematically make my life as close in its daily routine to that of a hunter-gatherer. This sounds wildly impractical, but if you understand what is important about each difference between modern living and the stone age in terms of health it is very easy.

So what does that mean in terms of practical advice?

These are the changes I would make to my life knowing what I know now, and to a large extent have. The more severe your disorder the more disciplined you need to be with each of these changes:

1. Eliminate carbohydrates, both simple and complex, from your diet, as close to entirely as possible. Eat vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, and flesh of one kind or another. No grains or their products, ever. No sugar, no rice, no bread, no crackers, no cereal, no pizza crust, no pastry, no cake, no pie, you get it. Never eat prepared food, prepare it yourself from fresh ingredients, preferably organic or grown yourself. If you cannot pronounce it, from the label, and have no idea what it is, why the hell are you eating it? If you garden you win thrice, see below.

2. Make your meals smaller and more frequent. No large set meals, snack all day. Subject yourself to periods where you don’t eat at all. Episodic hunger is good. But drink a lot of water.

3. Expose yourself to sunlight, and drop the sunblock. Yes it may increase your odds of developing skin cancer, but be smart about it. When I lived in the tropics I stayed out of the sun from 11 am to 3 or 4 pm, and never burned although I went shirtless most of the time and never wore sunblock. I am blue-eyed and had blond hair as a child. If you have to go out during those hours wear a hat and a long sleeved shirt. Our skin can produce 20,000 IUs of Vitamin D, the right kind, in a few hours of shirtless exposure to sunlight. The RDA is 200 or so IUs? Really? If we evolved to produce that much vitamin D there is a reason for it, and lack of vitamin D is implicated in a host of immunological disorders.

4. Get in the dirt every day, ideally this would mean hikes in the woods, gardening, swimming in unpolluted rivers and lakes. You need to be exposed to the bacteria and other organisms in soil. Be smart, don’t rub dirt into cuts, by exposure I mean some should end up in your digestive tract, on your skin, in your lungs. Every day. Breathing dust is good, in moderation. If this is not practical eat some small amount of dirt from natural source every day. The practice is called Pica, and not just humans, but animals, have and do practice it, and have for millennia. Go to the woods, to areas you know they don’t spread fertiliser or herbicides. Mix it up. You can bring a week’s worth back with you, just store it in an open container and don’t refrigerate it. Quantity is not important, frequency is. If you garden eat tomatoes or carrots with minimal washing out of the garden, for instance.

5. Exercise, a lot. It has an enormous impact on well being, stress, etc., and our forebears were nothing if not active. But again, be smart, walking is vastly underrated as an exercise, but requires more time to produce a given result than something more intensive. Be sure to mix it up, I am not advocating marathon running, which is a modern abomination guaranteed just about to result in damage and injury. Combine walking, running, swimming, climbing, weight lifting, dancing, wrestling, boxing, etc., and do things you enjoy. Be active for 1 hour a day at least, and mix it up. You are not competing, you are doing it for pleasure, I hope. You can make all this stuff more time efficient by combining things whenever possible, so running or walking barefoot in the woods would deal with both exercise and exposure to dirt at the same time.

6. Simplify your life, we are not meant to live in large complex societies, or deal with all these modern distractions and contrivances. The result is stress, implicated in about every immunological disorder there is. Turn off the TV, close the laptop, bring your point of view down to the level of someone living in a social group of a few hundred people, tops, and a geographical limit of fifty miles, and unplug. The world will manage to continue to screw itself up without your active participation, don’t worry about it. Why the hell is the world so upset and angry anyway? Do you really need your share of that action?

7. Stop replacing your skin’s oils and biome with artificial substitutes on a daily basis, or ever. You can shower every day, but don’t use soap or shampoo. Think about it, you strip your skin and hair’s surface of naturally occurring oils, and by extension organisms, every day, and then immediately replace those lost oils with artificial substitutes. Stop using soap and shampoo, and the things that follow their use, and I guarantee you that within a few weeks you will wonder why you ever used either of those things. I still brush my teeth and recommend you do to. No, I don’t have an odour. My skin and hair are in the best shape of my life.

8. Repopulate your intestinal tract with the organisms your modern life, either by lack of exposure or by use of antibiotics, etc., has denied it and that you have evolved to live cooperatively with. See eating dirt above. We used to live in close contact with the soil and the organisms it contains, it was in our food, on our skin, we breathed in dust every day. Food preservation was largely fermentation or drying. Eat natural yoghurt’s, seek out odd fermented foods, if necessary acquire intestinal worms, helminths, for the most important class of organisms for your immune system, helminths or worms.

If you do all those things, if you are sick with a so-called “modern disease”, things will almost certainly radically improve.

This is not a quick fix, you have spent years screwing your body up, you can expect things to improve in a time frame of months and years, and that the changes will be slow but ongoing for a very, very long time.

I originally posted this to a different blog which I am now consolidating here. It was first published in 2010 I think. There is a follow up post coming soon from the same site.

Posted in biome restoration, ecological medicine, ecosystem, helminthic therapy, History of Autoimmune Therapies, History of helminthic therapy, hygiene hypothesis, Jasper Lawrence, paleo, paleo diet, pica, the body as an ecosystem | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Another great result for Crohn’s, this time in an adult

In his words, edited to remove any identifying phrases or words:

“Today marks exactly (Jasper, while it did not take this long for him to respond, he was slow to respond as I recall, and this should be born in mind by anyone on or considering therapy) days (20 months) since I have taken immunosuppressive medication of any kind. I suffer moderate to severe Crohn’s, since 2006. I dosed with hookworm late 2010 (22 months ago), and twice in 2011. After three doses totalling 150 worms, I estimate that the hookworm alone achieves 85% symptom relief for me. I rejoice at the phenomenal benefit to my life. It would be no exaggeration to call my case a small miracle. I hope to continue to experience this degree of relief.”

No drugs, quite a result, and not atypical.

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