History shows environmental problems have caused many human made diseases. For the past 200 years, humans have manipulated life’s problems. Two hundred years ago, 98% of the world ‘s population was farmers. Running water and sewage disposal were introduced less than a hundred years ago. Yet, we are now more susceptible to disease than 50 years ago. We are plagued with resistant bacteria, new virulent viruses and parasites.
Disease and epidemics have changed the course of history.
In 430 BC, in Athens there were 200,000 inhabitants. War broke out with Sparta. Over 1/2 of the Athenians died of some mysterious disease and Athens collapsed. (Cause was possibly influenza and staph with toxic shock.)
In 130 BC, troops from Syria brought smallpox home and 1/2 of the population of 2 million people died. Over the next 14 years, 7 million Europeans. died.
In 550 AD, the bubonic plague hit Europe killing 1/2 of the population. Bacteria had a field day. 30% of the Romans lived past 30 years. In the country, 70% of the people lived past 30.
In 1351 AD, Bubonic plague came and 30 million Europeans died. The cause was a bacteria Yersinia pestis found in the gut of fleas that lived off the blood of rodents. The rodents died and the fleas attached to humans. The lymphatics of man were entered resulting in hemorrhage and dementia. Black and purple spots were noted on the skin. London’s population of 60,000 was reduced to 35,000. Within 2 years 2/3 of China was destroyed with drought and famine following the plague.
In 1519 Cortez brought small pox to Mexico. Within 50 years the population dropped from 25 million to 3 million. (The Spanish were immune to the disease at that time.)
Traders from the Mediterranean, looking for silk, spread malaria to China. Schistosomiasis killed in the southern Yangtze, and smallpox killed in the North.
In the sixteenth century white man’s diseases appeared. 1520 smallpox, 1530 typhus, 1558 influenza and 100 mumps. In the New America, measles, small pox and mumps killed over 90 million Indians leaving only 10 million survivors.
In the late 1880 syphilis appeared on the scene with two spirochetes, the Yans in Africa and the Bejel in the Middle East . Transmutation occurred and a new spirochete Treponema came on the scene.
In 1918, influenza killed 20 million people. Its effect was overshadowed by World War I.
By the year 2000 it is estimated that 40-100 million people will be infected. Already 20 million adults and 1 million children have been killed by the virus. by 2010 it is estimated that 1/2 of Africans south of the Sahara will die of Aids.
In 1989, in Reston Virginia, Ebola fever was found in two Filipinos who caught it from monkeys. After intense treatment, they were saved. This illustrates with our global travel how quickly disease can spread through out the world.
In 1994, Cholera was found in refuge camp of Tanzania during its battle with Zaire. While the Huts and Tutsi fought, neighborhood Rwanda was dying.
THE WAR AGAINST DISEASE
In 1847, a Hungarian Semmelweis noted that 30% of mothers died after delivering their children. He noted medical students were leaving the autopsy rooms and going to deliver babies. His idea of infection was rejected and he died penniless and insane.
In 1860, Pasteur told us that germs caused disease.
In 1880, a German, Koch identified bacteria and discovered how to isolate and grow them.
In 1909, Ehrlich discovered arsphenamine as the first drug for syphilis.
In 1928, Fleming discovered Penicillin but it took until 1938 before it was used in the war against bacteria.
In 1932, Domagu discovered sulfur to kill strep bacteria.
In 1943, Flory and Chain made penicillin commercially and by 1953 400 tons a year were produced.
In 1949, Waksman discovered streptomycin which was used for TB treatment.
In 1947, Chloromycetin and Tetracycline were discovered.
Since 1960 only one new family of antibiotics have been discovered, the Quinolones. They wreck the chromosomes of bacteria but their use have severe side effects.
THE FUTURE OF BUG KILLERS
With the use of antibiotics and vaccines, we thought we could stamp out all disease. Our past successes with small pox, diphtheria, polio, TB and syphilis led us to believe the war against germs was won. In the matter of time all disease will be analyzed and wiped out. We think nature is benign. We mistakenly thought that all agents causing disease would react to our miracle antibiotics. Yet viruses, bacteria, and parasites remain a threat to the survival of mankind without killing the human host.
In 1950 , Penicillin killed 100% of staph bacteria; in 1980 only 10% of staph were destroyed by penicillin.
Bacteria are either rods or round, have no nucleus, and reproduce by dividing (as fast as every 20 minutes). They survive anywhere. 90% of the 1000 million cells that make our bodies are bacteria. Staph bacteria live over our entire skin (1 million per inch).
Bacteria are our friends. Only a few bacteria are harmful. The good bacteria keep the world clean and green. They release nitrogen into plants. Bacteria in our mouth keep harmful bacteria away. Our white cells make macrophages that are suicide cells destroy bad bacteria and then they die.
Antibiotics kill good and bad bacteria. The lactobacillus in the vagina is destroyed causing yeast overgrowth, and Eshcericia coli in the bowel is killed with antibiotics causing diarrhea.
Deadly bacteria reproduce in less than one hour, doubling all the time. As they reproduce they are not the same bacteria, but mutants occur. The antibiotics may wipe them away anyway, but some resist and may survive in the host. Previously harmless bacteria now become hostile. They can pass on resistance to the antibiotics without inheriting it.
In 1983, McClintock found bacteria have rings of DNA (plasmids) that reproduce and have genetic changes that tell the bacteria how to defend against the antibiotics. Pnemococci bacteria were found to devour random strings of DNA and cause mutations.
This results in super bugs in high concentrations in locations where antibiotics and bacteria are found, mainly in the very sick people in hospitals. Workers in hospitals carry strep to the hospital. Intensive care units harbor super bugs that are not destroyed by germicidal cleaning. Personnel go outside to smoke and return with outdoor bacteria. Nurses and doctors constantly attending to the very sick harbor bacteria in their noses and on their skin that to them are not harmful but to the immune deficient patient these bacteria become virulent.
"Bugs are out there to get us". All we have to do is wipe out the enemy and we will be cleaned. Kids in day care centers are given antibiotic creams for cuts and bruises that result in super bugs. Patients visit the doctor with a cold and insist on an antibiotic to get well fast. Doctors comply rather than discuss the matter. Besides, it could become a malpractice issue if the patient later got pneumonia.
We have been destroying good bacteria that are part of us, that help us in ways that we do not know. Bacteria change and we create new antibiotics to kill them but the bacteria alter again. We have new organisms proliferate that never existed before in nature. Our body’s defenses now make antibodies against our own cells. Our immune system becomes deficient . The macrophages and T cells can’t reproduce fast enough to build up our defenses.
There are other reasons for this decrease in body immunity. Some are: industrial pollution, domestic waste, animals fed antibiotics which become our hamburgers. These and others will be discussed later in this chapter.
We must keep our immunity strong. American acupuncture is one excellent way of restoring the bodies balance and defenses to fight existing diseases.
In this next section we shall see that parasites that we destroyed over the last 200 years are making a return to plague us again. Malaria, Cholera, and Yellow fever were thought conquered but they also like the super bugs are again present despite our heroic public efforts.
YELLOW FEVER (also called white man’s grave) endemic in Africa, is characterized by bleeding from the stomach and nose with associated high delirious fevers. Out breaks occurred on ships in 1648 at Martinique and then Cuba. in 1803 Napoleon sent an army to Haiti of 33,000 men with 90% of them perishing from Yellow fever. For over 20 years a Cuban, Dr. Farlay, kept saying that a mosquito caused the disease but couldn’t prove it. Later the mosquito Aedes segypti was implicated. It was present only the first few days of the disease and then the patient would only be contagious within the first two weeks. In 1793, 5,000 people were killed in Philadelphia by the disease.
In 1927 the virus was found in the rhesus monkeys and ten years later Thailes made a vaccine that was 100% effective. Sounds like the end of Yellow Fever. But we could vaccinate all humans but couldn’t vaccinate all the monkeys in the jungles. The forest virus was found to spread in the jungles. Cuba and other islands were sprayed with DDT to eradicate the mosquito.
In 1959 the disease reappeared in South America. In 1960,as the dangers of DDT were discovered the people refused to have their lands sprayed. Yellow fever has been noted again in the jungles. It seems that no disease is ever defeated in its own habitat and only grows more lethal in some parts of the world.
MALARIA has killed 400 people annually with 90% of them in tropical Africa.. At present, three million people still die annually in Africa from Malaria.
The bite of infected anopheline mosquito injects plasmodium parasite into the human blood. The mosquito injects saliva into the blood so no clotting occurs while the mosquito feeds. The parasite enters the liver and remains a sleepy animal until a sudden shock reactivates it. Four species were discovered by Dr. Laverian in 1880.
In 1820, Pelletier discovered quinine from the bark of the quinchona tree. It was found to arrest the disease. In 1942, during W.W.II the Japanese cut off our supply of quinine from Java and we were forced to use something more powerful, Chloroquine. In 1958 we sprayed the jungles with choroquine (active ingredient DDT). Resistant strains of mosquito and other pests flourished. The insects returned with new resistance.
In 1969, 1/2 million people died in Sri Lanka of the disease. In 1975, six million people died. There was three times more cases of malaria in 1975 than in 1961.
During the Vietnamese war we made floquine which stopped the enzymatic reaction. Resistance again developed. In 1980, the wormwood vaccine was made from a plant in china to control the disease. Again resistance developed. In 1983, 97 % of the patients were cured with Carbochlorquine and pyrimethane. In 1990 only 21% of these patients were cured with this treatment.
In 1986 a new strain falciparun was found and it became resistant to our new drug Mefloquine. This mosquito caused 1/2 of all the malaria in Cambodia, and we had no weapon.
The parasite formed a new enzyme that pumped out the drugs out of the cells. The mosquito is winning against all human attempts. We must view our natural world more critically. We interfere with natural world forces and subtle forces affect our heath. We tackle disease with head on cures, vaccines, vector controls, and change how we live. The result is the release of previously hidden microbes.
Cholera is a disease that results in very watery stools and death in 24 hours. A vaccine was developed in 1893 which practically eradicated the disease. In 1961 a new strain was found in Indonesia called ‘El Tor". An outbreak occurred in South America, Africa and India in 1990. In 1991, Lima Peru stopped chlorinating its water and 9600 deaths from cholera resulted. In 1992 a new strain was discovered in Bangkok.
EBOLA virus was discovered in 1962 in eastern Bolivia. It is an African hemorrhagic virus (called Marburg from the village in Africa where the first outbreak was noted.). The virus destroys all clotting mechanisms and destroys the immune system. The heart bleeds into itself. Holes appear in all the organs. It destroys itself and the human it infests in 5 days. To survive the virus must leap into an new host.
It is the only virus that curls itself up in a ring. It has 7 proteins wrapped around a strand of RNA and twists into weird shapes. Its genetic structure is very settled (implying it is a very old virus). It has not mutated. There currently is no anti viral drug to fight this virus.
LASSA VIRUS is a virus that has been endemic in West Africa for years and was camouflaged by other infections. It is characterized by dark spines with a pitting firm perfect sphere. Dr. Cords was infected with this virus and injected himself with the plasma of another infected patient. He recovered rather quickly. Today there are antiviral drugs that work on this disease.
GLOBAL WARMING AND ITS EFFECTS
For the last 200 years we have been burning oil, gas, and coal which has released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Plants rotting and animal digestive systems release methane into the air. Carbon dioxide and methane trap heat from the sun that would be reflected back to us as infrared light. This additional heat in our atmosphere adds to warmer summers and warmer wetter winters in the North. Storms increase in the south in the winter and summer draughts occur where farming is intense.
Sea levels rise with rivers and low lying wetlands overflowing. Beaches disappear. It is predicted that Spain will be a desert and France will be like Spain is today.
As the ice caps melt the ocean will become warmer. Atlantic coast beaches will disappear. (1.7 billion people live less than 49 miles from the Mediterranean sea and 135 million live in coastal strips.
Rainfall will increase and flooded areas will flood more. Water will evaporate faster so deserts will be drier. Hurricanes will get stronger since they get their energy from the warm oceans.
The good effect of this is that the cloudier sky will counter this warming. The danger is that viruses, yellow fever, malaria and dengue fever increase in warmer weather. With increased migration and fighting in the Middle East and the loss of basic health services in Russia more disease should multiply. Nevertheless, global warming is here to stay and with it many problems.
THE CHLORINE PROBLEM
Chlorine is the source of wildlife problems. Since 1930 organochlorines have made pesticides, solvents, propellants, coolants, fast food packaging, insulating foam, plastics (PVC), plastics for clothing, building materials, containers, additives (PCB) ,heat resistance for neon lights, and many other products. One third of these byproducts enter the sea.
Some of the fluorocarbons go into the sky and are broken by the sun’s radiation. the unattached chlorine reacts with the ozone forming chlorine oxide and leaves regular O2 behind.
Ozone is a vital filter of the sunlight. It prevents ultraviolet rays from damaging all living things. The ultraviolet rays destroy at the genetic level resulting in mutations in algae and microbes.
The initial thought was that it is chemically inert. It does not react with other chemicals. The danger is that it has a love affinity for human body fats. There is a build up through the food chains to planktons in the sea to fish and finally to mammals.
PCB harmfully effects the hormone systems, results in decreased immunity, arrest of sexual development, is implicated in various cancers, and results in damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system. It interferes with genetic function. Dioxins are strong human carcinogens, especially brain cancers. Eating fish from waters with high levels of PCB also have been implicated in causing anemias, edema, and infectious diseases.
THE ROLE OF ALGAE in disease is interesting. In 1988 it was found that in the North Sea 60% of the harbor seals died. The cause was a morbillivirus (the virus that causes measles). The seals all had high levels of PCB, organochlorines and impaired immune systems. The question arose as to where this virus came from.
It was found that there was an abundant amount of red algae in the sea. Algae is a well nourished consumer of oxygen in the water, leaving little for other living things. It also produces toxins and was found to harbor exotic viruses (1970 Colwell).
In 1970 an outbreak of Cholera was found in Asia. That same year an outbreak occurred in Lima Peru. A Chinese freighter carrying cholera emptied its holding water into the sea in Lima. This algae rich water spread the epidemic throughout Lima. (When water is warmed and nitrogen is added, bacteria flourish.)
Human and animal wastes feed algae with nutrients contributing to interbreeding and multiplication of viruses. The sewage of two billion people flows untreated into the sea. These factors result in new mutations of viruses from the ever blooming algae. Our food supply contaminated by PCB results in weakening of the human immune system.