Friday, April 1, 2011

8 The Friday Four

In this edition of the Friday Four, we'll look at using bacteria itself to deliver antibiotics and treat cancer, a huge touchscreen microscope, the value of Vitamin A in B1 cell immunity, and the mystery of lateral gene transfer between Chagas disease pathogens and its host.

1) 'Bacterial dirigibles' emerge as next-generation disease fighters


Summary: ScienceDaily (2011-03-30) -- Scientists have developed bacteria that serve as mobile pharmaceutical factories, both producing disease-fighting substances and delivering the potentially life-saving cargo to diseased areas of the body. They reported on this new candidate for treating diseases ranging from food poisoning to cancer -- termed "bacterial dirigibles."


I don't know how many people are aware how much genetic engineering already goes on. Once the industry took off... well, it took off like wildfire. It's pretty common to do exactly what is stated in this article: "...Traditional genetic engineering reprograms bacteria so that they produce antibiotics, insulin, and other medicines and materials. The bacteria grow in nutrient solutions in enormous stainless steel vats in factories. They release antibiotics or insulin into vats, and technicians harvest the medicine for processing and eventual use in people."

In this experiment, they programmed E. coli not to pump out antibiotics into a vat in some factory somewhere... No, they created a version of E. coli that could target a portion of the intestine and adhere to it, and begin sending out chemical signals that influenced the production of proteins in different cells around it.

So I'm trying to understand this. They took E. coli, the bacteria that often makes people sick, and made a version that delivers itself to a specific part of the body and is programmed to affect other cells near it. Crazy.

What if this sort of "bacterial dirigible" could seek out and find remote Borrelia burgdorferi in collagen-rich tissues, in the adventitia of the heart, and in the brain? Does this have potential for killing the remaining spirochetes that may survive the initial onslaught of antibiotics?

2) Researchers in Finland Build Giant Multitouch Microscope

This is just too cool.  I want one. I want to see my spirochetes on this sucker.  [Time 1:43]

I think Leeuwenhoek would have just about shit himself if he saw one of those...

3) In the absence of Vitamin A, the body loses immune cells that put the brakes on the earliest stages of infection

Summary: Scientists have recognized the immune-boosting capabilities of vitamin A for the better part of a century, even without fully understanding how it helps the body fight off bacteria and viruses. "Soon after its discovery, vitamin A was termed ‘the anti-infective vitamin’ and was widely used to enhance recovery; but with the introduction of antibiotics, the therapeutic use of vitamin A diminished," says Sidonia Fagarasan of the RIKEN Center for Allergy and Immunology in Yokohama, Japan.


So these researchers fed these mice a Vitamin A-free diet, and when they did, the mice had lower levels of IgA and IgM. They were given pneumonia vaccines and produced zero response. And then, the researchers tried to transplant B1 cells from healthy mice to these deficient mice - only to find that the B1 cells deteriorated, didn't last that long, and died off over several days.

However, the good news is, they found out the stem cells in the deficient mice's bone marrow could give rise to B1 cells - but they wouldn't do it unless they had some Vitamin A.

The researchers found out that a transcription factor protein found in activated T cells (NFATc1), regulates expression of numerous important genes in B1 cells. The researchers observed reduced NFATc1 levels in the mice's deficient B1 cells, but found that expression could be largely restored if these mice were injected with ATRA, a product of cellular vitamin A metabolism. After this injection, B cells increased more than four fold in number in ten days.

Having a balanced diet is definitely important for the immune system, and being deficient in Vitamin A would be problematic. Something so simple.

Even though it sounds like a good idea to take lots of Vitamin A given the immune system benefit, it doesn't work that way: if you're deficient, you need more; if you're taking too much, you need less because it can damage your liver and by extension kidneys because of too much calcium there. (It's also bad to consume high quantities during pregnancy - it can lead to failure to thrive in newborns.)

So get a test to see if you're deficient in Vitamin A first - and if so, then it's pretty easy to find foods full of  Vitamin A.

One thing that comes to mind after reading this is that recently I've read a paper, 'The Important And Diverse Roles of Antibodies in Host Response to Borrelia' by Laroca and Benach. In it, it mentions that B1 cell or x-linked immunodeficiency leads to more severe spirochetemia with B. hermsii... B1 b cells are needed for IgM antibody response.

Source publication:

Maruya, M., Suzuki, et al. Vitamin A-dependent transcriptional activation of the nuclear factor of activated T cells c1 (NFATc1) is critical for the development and survival of B1 cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108, 722–727 (2011).

4) Two new studies seek to validate the results of a retracted 2004 paper on parasite-to-host gene transfer, but skepticism lingers


Do not let this bug kiss you - it can
carry Chagas disease parasites...
Summary: The microparasite that causes Chagas disease really can integrate bits of its genetic material into its host's genome, where it can then be inherited by the host's offspring, according to two studies published in PLoS ONE and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (PLoS NTD).


So this is kind of insane. Interesting and insane. The claim is being made for what might be the first documented instance of lateral gene transfer from the parasite that causes Chagas disease to not only its host but also a following vertical transfer to the host's offspring.

WTF. This is almost as far out as Lynn Margulis' claims about Borrelia burgdorferi.

These two recent studies are supposed to confirm the research found in a 2004 paper published in Cell which was later retracted. That paper showed - or supposedly showed - that University of Brasilia researchers found that T. cruzi could transfer genetic material to its rabbit, chicken, and human hosts. This sort of gene transfer - specifically of mitochondrial kinetoplast DNA (kDNA) - may contribute to the disease by disrupting host gene function and causing an autoimmune response.

Those looking at the newer research are eyeing it cautiously because of the earlier publication's retraction, which was done because Cell's staff made the determination that certain important information was missing from the paper. Speculation was that it was because identification and analysis of the specific sites of DNA integration were omitted.

I think this study and the two subsequent studies recently done will need to be repeated by another party not related to them, since this would be pretty big news if it's true. Also, someone needs to make sure their PCR methods don't create weird chimeras in passing.

Source publications:

M.M. Hecht et al., "Inheritance of DNA transferred from American trypanosomes to human hosts," PLoS ONE, 5: e918, 2010. 

A.R.L. Teixeira et al., "Trypanosoma cruzi in the chicken model: Chagas-like heart disease in the absence of parasitism," PLoS Negl Trop Dism, 5: e1000, 2011.


And here's a bonus link set for my readers who are interested in aberrant and unusual contrails in the sky:

Here is the study to which the above article refers:

It was posted at the source on March 29, so I reassure you that it was not an April Fool news item.


  1. Wow, such great research as usual, Camp Other! Love it.

    I referred in a previous thread to a panel discussion with 6 physicians which I attended, and the topic was immunity.

    The physicians talked about vitamin D (and other things). They called it a "Firewall" for the immune system, taming down hyper-active immunity while toning up the under-active system.

    As for toxicity with vitamin A (and D too, balance is key in all good things), I would suggest people can get the pocket-sized paperback book, Earl Mindell's The Vitamin Bible of the 21st Century. This book lists supplements in alphabetical order, listing optimal dosage, toxicity ranges and nutrient deficiencies, symptoms thereof, etc.

    I have mixed thoughts about the introduction of a bacteria that can travel around the body to targeted areas. I have read about bacterial translocation from the gut, and in some cases (with unfriendly bacteria) this can cause organ failure. With friendly bacteria like acidophilus, in the apparently very rare event that this too translocates, even it can infect heart and other muscle and indeed becomes an *infection*. According to the book Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions by Stargrove/Treasure/McKee, an ND, MD and world-ranking herbalist, the Finnish government has seen a wide safety range with very few incidents. Those few incidents usually happen with people with severe auto-immune compromise, such as an elderly woman with auto-immune diabetes and infants born prematurely whose intestines were malformed. So it's an extremely rare event.

    However this spooks me a little bit, though I understand the thinking that one bug can attack another. The idea of it translocating and being used in that capacity is what I think is a bit scary. This would need to be very, very carefully researched before it was publicly approved.

    If it is not, eyebrows should raise and queries should ensue. It's our health, after all.

    I think to use one friendly bug to attack another is probably a very wise idea, so long as it is not translocating or used in that capacity.

    As for E Coli being dangerous, only if overgrown and in the wrong places. E Coli is involved in fecal formation, as I best understand it. So there is a time and a place for it. It's only in the wrong settings or if overgrown that it becomes noxious.

    The above reflects my best understanding. I am not a doctor.

    Best, CI

  2. Hey Chiquita,

    Just a quick response here because I am responding to this late at night and need to crash soon...

    Vitamin D is an interesting vitamin. I think it needs more study, and so far as I can see, people need more of it than they've been getting in general - but how much is enough? It isn't clear and there are differing opinions on this matter.

    In terms of translocation, one supposedly common cause of subacute bacterial endocarditis is dental work that leads to infection in the heart. I say 'supposedly' because doctors used to advise people with certain heart conditions to take prophylactic antibiotics before dental work and surgery to avoid this kind of infection - and now they are saying it is no longer as great a risk as once thought.

    Regarding one bug attacking another, it happens... And viruses can live in parasites - which is funny, when you think about it. I shudder to think about the worm infected with bacteria which is infected with a virus - infectious sandwich time, right there. Nature is what nature does.

    E. Coli... a lot of people think it's dangerous - but actually most strains are harmless, and it lives in your digestive system in harmony with other friendly bacteria. It's only a strain like serotype O157:H7 that causes serious food poisoning and leads to food recalls. That and other mutant strains.

    Not all E. Coli are alike. In fact, one strain, strain Nissle 1917, is used in special probiotic medicine (Mutaflor) used to treat inflammatory bowel disease... So with these researchers who are engineering a particular strain that's harmless? Shouldn't be a problem, although you are right that it requires more study before clinical trials on people and before it would be a common treatment.

  3. How do we know the engineered bug isn't harmless?

    Do you want to talk about antibiotic resistance? Just try superbugs!

    I don't trust this even one little bit, to be honest.

    FYI cattle grazing on GMO feed have been seen to develop torques and ulcerous patches in their intestines.

    Of course that is not the same as superbugs, but the point is once something is engineered by man instead of nature, we don't know what its impacts are going to be.

    If you want to talk about feeling safe being the first to try tomatoes, then how about feeling safe trying superbug therapy?

    No thanks, not for me.

    Best wishes, CI

  4. Hey Chiquita,

    I'm not promoting the use of these bacterial dirigibles one way or the other right now - I am finding them fascinating, and thinking 'what if'? though. If they can get the system to work, maybe there *is* a way that it could be used to remove spirochetes. If there is persistent infection, what if this was one sure fire way to get rid of it?

    Rather than being afraid of this technology, I'm interested in the possibilities of it... And something to know is that they might *not* perfect this system for medical use - this might be as far as they get. We just don't know yet.

    This might be a better candidate for use in people: - nanotechnology. It means delivering the antibiotic right to the cell wall of bad bugs and using a much smaller dose in people - abx delivered this way have fewer side effects and are more effective. Does that sound better than the bacteria dirigible?

    How do you know the engineering bug isn't harmless? If you began with a harmless strain of E. coli, what makes you think it has or will become harmful? The use of E. coli ushered in the biotech era and has been pretty well studied - and under controlled conditions in a lab, I can't see how it's going to become harmful. Right now, genetically engineered bacteria sit in giant vats in companies and make antibiotics for people to take all the time. Do you find the idea of that troubling, because that's how we get so many antibiotics these days? This has been going on for some time now - it's nothing new.

    I hear that you're concerned about antibiotic resistance. That is a serious problem, agreed. But superbugs are created because not only did people use antibiotics for less serious conditions that they should have tried herbs, acupuncture, and rest for - not to mention patience - but because those who really needed antibiotics stopped them too soon, people used antibacterial soap, the factory farming industry keeps animals in deplorable conditions and pumps them full of antibiotics, and because hygiene practices in hospitals haven't been stringent enough.

    There are many things which have contributed to antibiotic resistance which could have been and could be prevented so that antibiotics could be used only for the most serious infections in humans... Lyme disease is one example where antibiotics are very important; it's a serious bacterial disease and even all the naturopaths I know say to use antibiotics *first* along with herbal and supplement support. If even they are saying 'use antibiotics for this', I think here is a serious adversary in this bacteria.


  5. (For Chiquita - more)

    There are reasons I look for research particularly like this on TB: - the description of TB sounds like what might happen with Lyme disease at times, hm?

    I see GMO feed as being a separate issue from antibiotic development. I don't like Monsanto's policies - they create low quality grains that are bad for livestock and monopolize the industry, and penalize farmers for no good reason and no fault of their own. I'm well aware of the issues involved in GMO corn as I've read much about it, and I have seen 'King Corn' and 'Food, Inc'.

    I haven't come to the conclusion that absolutely *all* GMOs are evil - I can't when I see how a GMO - the bacteria which creates the antibiotics that Lyme disease patients use - is so stable and helpful. GMOs or genetically modified organisms - cover a lot of ground and some are questionable, some are not.

    Some people might find that position surprising - how can one be in support of some GMOs and not others? But one can be, just as one can be a liberal democrat and a gun owner who is against new gun laws. It happens.

    Regarding trying the tomatoes first versus superbug therapy? I wouldn't want to be the first for either. This is a good reason why studies on animal models are used first, even though I wish animals didn't have to go through what they do... being as humane as possible and conducting the studies as safely as possible is important. I would want them to do so first, then after much study, try humans who are basically very ill and not expected to live, anyway, due to acute severe infections. Then later on, maybe see how the technology works for people with severe infections that are chronic but not expected to kill people right away... These things come in stages.

  6. Hi Camp Other
    Thanks for this interesting conversation! Good friends can have different thoughts about things, right? And hence, fruitful conversations. So...thank you!

    As for keeping an open mind to superbugs compared to GMO plants, I see your point and would like to say "yes, I will keep an open mind".

    But here is where a stumblingblock comes up, at least for me.

    You say that you can't imagine a benign critter becoming virulent once genetically engineered. Neither could I.

    But then again, who would ever have thought that the nutritive herb alfalfa, once genetically engineered, would cause ulcerous patches in the intestines of grazing sheep? Who would imagine cows getting torques in their intestines and cancer rates going up (that's right) in connection with GMO *foods* ?

    I would never have envisioned such a thing either.

    So is a benign fighter bug going to remain so benign after engineering? We don't know.

    That's where I agree with you, it would need to be tested on some unfortunate animals prior to being used on humans. And we'd have to go very slowly with it.

    I really do understand the principle of using a friendly bug to fight off an unfriendly one. Just as they use probiotics to fight off yeast overgrowth and other things. Brilliant, and important! I agree.

    When it comes to a) genetically engineered, I become concerned and watchful of what the outcome might be b) when it comes to being used for targeted translocation, I become even more concerned c) triply so if antibiotics will most likely fail to wipe out any ensuing superbug colonizations and breeding, cross-breeding in a foreign organ where the bugs don't really belong.

    Again I understand and appreciate the idea of friendly bacteria as *part of* therapy. But to use it in this context and this capacity scares me.

    Only time and scientific testing will tell.

    That said, if a corporation is behind the sale of an item, money talks and (full-disclosure) science walks.

    I have several doctors' articles, and attended one physician's lecture which stunned me, and have seen examples of this above fact on Pubmed.

    Best wishes, CI

  7. ps as for nanotechnology, in and of itself I think it is a marvel and the offshoot of peoples' brilliant minds at work.

    I appreciate where you are "going" with the idea of nanotechnology to deliver antibiotics (abx) to targeted areas, where otherwise spirochetes might hide out and be inaccessible to the abx therapy.

    However, what comes up to mind immediately on the thought of nanotechnology inside the human body, is the concern about auto-immune attack.

    As you know I am sure, the immune system recognizes "self" and "non-self" and attacks invaders or foreign material.

    When a foreign object is in the body, the immune system is bound to go on overdrive.

    Should any of these foreign bodies attach to human cells, the body's own cells are also mistaken for "non-self" and attacked by the confused immune system. Hence osteoarthritis, MS et al.

    Again I appreciate the idea of this and the purpose of it, but some things may be worse than the disease, or just as bad.

    I think a better answer is to use the herbs Buhner writes about in his book. Here, he writes how Knotweed and other herbs can deliver abx to targeted areas such as the skin, joints, heart et al, where they otherwise would not be able to reach.

    I am presuming that this happens by dilating the capillaries, in a similar manner to the way ginkgo does. Again this is an assumption.

    And clinical testing *is* done on herbs and can be read about on Pubmed.

    The American Herbalist Guild also sends daily emails with updates about new studies every single day. I receive these and there are usually about 2 dozen every day, logged anew to Pubmed, and representing both sides of the aisle.

    Best wishes, CI ps I am not a doctor.

    The above information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. This is for your education only, and does not substitute for medical advice. If you have any health questions, talk to your doctor.

  8. Hey Chiquita,

    I'm setting aside the modified alfalfa for now and will get back to discussing it later... (I also thought I was going to have another post ready tonight, but it needs more tweaking - tomorrow is probably more likely now for that, too.)

    I have concerns about autoimmune attacks as much as you do. I still think there is a possibility that patients with persistent symptoms with Lyme disease not only still have some pathogens left and have developed a form of immune system dysregulation - different from autoimmunity but problematic, too.

    Let's see if I can help you with some of what you're concerned about here, though: I hear you're concerned about translocation and engineered bacteria creating an autoimmune condition.

    But here's the thing:

    *If* they use E. coli that is the same E. coli that is already found in our intestines and program that to travel to and live in a specific part of the intestine to do its job - and the programming doesn't change any inherent characteristic that will lead to an autoimmune disorder because it already *looks* like the same E. coli in our guts - what is the concern?
    Because that is what it sounds like the E. coli in the experiment above was programmed to do.


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