Viral Diseases and Complementary Medicine

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017

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Anti-viral medicines

While modern pharmaceutical science still has not produced a significant antiviral drug, our greatest laboratory, Mother Nature itself, has evolved myriad chemicals to protect the living organism from the ill effects of the virus. This has been a matter of survival for both animals and plants. Viruses do not specifically target only animal cells or only plant cells. Chemicals that evolved in plants to protect them from the viruses in their environments also appear to work very well in humans. Thus we have numerous recommendations from the medical industry to use such plant-based medicines as echinacea and goldenseal to help protect against the more virulent strains of viral disease, and of the few anti-viral medicines that are being researched, a number are based on herbal medicines and chemicals, such as Tamiflu, which is based on a specific chemical from a type of star anise used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Prostatin, an antiviral based on a Samoan herb. The professional herbalist has many herbs with antiviral chemicals in them to choose from, and a library of reference studies and empirical information on the proven effects of these herbal antiviral chemicals.

The subject of viral illness seems grossly misunderstood by the public despite being the most prevalent health problem in the world. A virus, unlike a bacteria or fungi, is not a living organism, yet we still see advertisements from such products as Lysol that claim to kill viruses. If the public actually believes that products like Lysol are their best bet to prevent viral illness, this could be perceived as a public health threat. Bacteria, on the other hand, are living organisms that reproduce independantly and cause infection when they get past our natural immune defenses, or when there is an imbalance of the natural symbiotic controls of bacterial colonies on our skin or membranes. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, which are products of living organisms, usually other bacteria, which inhibit the growth of the infectious living bacteria, slowing the rate of reproduction so that our own immune systems have a chance to kill the bacteria before they kill us. Our own immune systems counter bacterial infections by producing a host of antibodies, or protein molecules that react specifically with invading bacteria, called antigens. When the antibody proteins react, immune cells are attracted that kill the invading bacteria. Since there are a limited number of bacteria in our world, our bodies retain a complex immune memory which helps it to act quickly. The immune responses that counter viral illness are much different, because the virus in not a living organism, and new strains of viruses pop up each year.

Antibiotics do not inhibit nonliving viruses, yet we still see routine prescription of bacterial antibiotics by medical doctors for viral illness. As stated, a virus is either a bit of DNA or RNA that is encapsulated by a protein shell to protect it, and reproduces only with the mechanisms in the cells that it invades. Our own immune systems fight viruses with a very complex assortment of immune cytokines that identify our own cells which have taken in the DNA or RNA of the virus, and then proceed to kill the infected cells. This mechanism is very complex and difficult. To illustrate, our own genetic material, or genome, found in every cell of our body, is filled with viral DNA or RNA. We have called this viral genome 'junk DNA' in the past, but recent research is finding that some viral DNA plays an active role in our genetic expression and evolution. Our immune systems must identify which of our own cells has bits of the viral genetic material that is active and generating harmful replicants of itself, or producing expression of harmful proteins.

Since we still don't have pharmaceuticals that are safe and effective in inhibiting viral replication, doctors still prescribe antibiotics rather than admit that they have nothing for you. If the antibiotics don't work against viruses, do they help us at all? In certain circumstances, viral infection inflames our membranes, exposing us to a greater chance of developing bacterial pneumonia. If this occurs, yes, the antibiotic is useful. Also, some viruses can invade bacteria as well as normal cells of our body, and in this case, the antibiotic would have some effect against the viral population, or at least that part associated with a concurrent bacterial infection. For the most part, though, the antibiotics will be ineffective, and the standard course of the viral illness involves waiting until our own immune systems react sufficiently to control the viral illness.

Viruses pose a threat to us because they appear in so many different forms that living organisms can't form a simple immune defense that is remembered. Viral vaccines are difficult to create, because, as one expert, Dr. Michael Decker, head of scientific affairs at Aventis, one of the three U.S. vaccine makers, states: "By the time you know what's the right strain, you can't do anything about it." Viruses can't be killed and when they enter our bodies, our own immune systems try to break them down, digest them, or excrete them. Our bodies have a limited success with this set of tactics, as seen from the genome studies that show that a majority of our genome is now composed of nonworking bits of viral material. Certain viruses have increased potential to bind to and enter our cells. The most virulent viruses, the flu and common cold families, have proteins on the surface that attach more easily to surrounding cells in our membranes. Most of the cells that these viruses attach to are actually immune cells sent to counter the infection. Other types of viruses don't attach to membrane cells easily, but penetrate deeper into our bodies, often lying latent for years before expressing and causing symptoms, like Human Immunodeficiency viruses and Herpes viruses, or quietly infecting our own immune cells and causing the production of autoantibodies that create serious autoimmune disorders.

The nature of the virus, not a living species, but rather an early form of genetic data communication used by all species, makes the virus by its nature extremely variable and adaptable. Viruses are constantly changing and adapting, and they are relatively simple compared to plants and animals. The virus uses the host genome to do its work, and to inhibit this work we need to inhibit the host. For this reason viruses will be expected to adapt to any allopathic strategy to inhibit their infection and replication, and when we create drugs to inhibit a particular part of the metabolism of the viral replication we will create problems for the host. The high genetic diversity, high mutation rate, and ability of the virus to replicate on a large scale when necessary favor emergence of drug resistance.

Current viral pharmaceuticals:

  • Tamiflu (oseltamivir): The U.S. Center for Disease Control monitors the effectiveness of current viral drugs and found that in 2008, 99 percent of patients tested with viral illness with the most common types of flu at hospitals and clinics showed strains of viruses that were resistant to Tamiflu. In 2007, the percentage was 11 percent. The CDC stated that this was the greatest single season rise in drug resistance ever studied, but apparently fails to distinguish development of drug resistance by a living organism, such as Staphylococcus Bacteria, and failure of a pharmaceutical to show effectiveness in the arena of the non-living viruses, where different strains of virus are very numerous and the appearance of specific strains worldwide in a single time frame are common. Tamiflu is a neuraminidase inhibitor. Its use is still controversial, not only because of the poorly understood serious side effects reported, but because some studies find that it only decreases flu symptoms for one day. Tamiflu was widely distributed in Asia, and then pulled off the market, due to the large number of doctors that described patient symptoms of mental illness that resulted from taking the drug. These symptoms included delirium, confusion, hallucination, speech problems, and inexplicable urges to harm oneself, or to not protect oneself in a routine manner. Neuraminidase enzyme proteins are part of the immune system, the complement system, in both animals and plants, that identify antigens such as viruses. These protein molecules are frequently found on the capsule of the virus. Unfortunately, not all viruses have the same neuraminidase in their protein coats. Tamiflu was created to counter the threat of the avian flu pandemic, which is believed from study of the 1918 virus to be of a specific type, H5N1, that mutated to subtypes H2N2 or H3N2. Influenza refers to a large family of diverse viruses that cause similar symptoms, and the types are divided into families, or groups, A,B,C etc. Type A viruses, which include the H5N1, are believed to have 10 genes on 8 separate RNA molecules. RNA molecules are genetic parts that mainly express a number of proteins that cause regulatory cell mechanisms. One of the typical types of proteins expressed by this virus increases its ability to bind with our cells, by forming hemagglutinin spikes that aid attachment of the virus to cells so that they have a better chance of incorporating the viral DNA into the genetic core of the host cell. Tamiflu is supposed to inhibit the virus from exiting an infected cell, but not inhibit the virus from initially infecting cells. To be effective, the manufacture Roche states that the drug needs to be taken within 48 hours of infection. Tamiflu was utilized in 2004 in response to H5N1 outbreak in Asia, but failed to prevent the more than 150 deaths attributed to the viral outbreak. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and headache, and less commonly seen are elevated liver enzymes, hepatitis, anophylaxis and serious skin reactions. In March, 2007, the Japanese Health Ministry banned the drug for use in patients younger than 19, due to the dangerous neuropsychiatric side effects frequently reported by health authorities. The FDA black box warning now includes the possible side effects of delirium, hallucination, and dangerous behavioral problems.
  • Ribavirin: This synthetic nucleoside antiviral powder is delivered in an inhaler to concentrate in bronchial fluid and inhibit DNA and RNA expression and protein coats via competition. Results in clinical use have been poor. Mechanism of action is still unknown, although it is believed that the drug is converted by the body's immune system to a triphosphate nucleotide that interferes with RNA metabolism to inhibit viral replication. This mechanism of action may have adverse effects on normal RNA expression, and the most serious side effect involves hemolytic anemia, or destruction of red blood cells. While not effective for all viruses, it has been used to treat Hepatitis C, in combination with synthetic interferon drugs. Its use in cases of bronchitis, or synctial virus, has shown poor results and has been discontinued. Creation of a derivative type, Viramidine, is in clinical trials to see if this drug produces fewer side effects.
  • Rimantidine: an older antiviral used for SARS outbreak unsuccessfully. This drug, called Flumadine, is used to treat the type A influenza virus. The mechanism of action is unknown, but scientists believe that it inhibits the protein coat of certain virual types from unfolding. Side effects include serious gastrointestinal and neurological problems, including nausea, stomach pain, nervousness, insomnia, asthenia, dizziness and difficulty with mental concentration, most of which were seen in over 6% of the study participants.
  • Interferon: alpha interferon treatment utilizes a synthesized version of the alpha interferon molecule, usually with pegylation to achieve sustained activity, and now combined with various other antiviral drugs to increase the success of treatment for active Hepatitis C. Success with this therapy, which started in the late 1980s, has been dismal, with less than 5% of patients maintaining viral clearance after 24 weeks with the interferon treatment alone, and 100% of patients suffering serious side effects. With the use of a cocktail of drugs, successful clearance after 24 weeks is about 44% in recent studies, yet many patients see a return of viral load and symptoms in the long term, and some researchers complain that these success rates are altered by the large number of patients that drop out of therapy due to side effects and are not included in failure rate. Harsh side effects of severe anemia and neurohormonal depression are common, as well as nausea, diarrhea, fever, headache, muscle ache, joint pain, skin rash, itching, prolonged cough, and asthmatic dyspnea. Fatique, asthenia, hair loss, anxiety, isomnia, susceptibility to infection, pharyngitis, bronchitis, and insulin resistance are some of the common symtpoms that result from prolonged anemia and depression of the neurohormonal system. Tooth and gum problems frequently occur, as well as peripheral neuropathies. Genotyping and variance in the types of drugs are now used to refine the success rates and predict which patients will likely fail in therapy. A 4 year study by the National Institute of Health, the HALT-C Trial, showed little long term effectiveness for current therapy with interferon.

How effective are viral vaccines?

Everyone agrees that vaccines are great inventions, first conceived and used in Ancient China by the Daoist physicians in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Today, a number of vaccines work remarkably well, such as the Polio vaccine, Vaccines for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A (short-term effect), Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (MMRV), Tetanus, Rotovirus and Smallpox have been successful, most of these targeting problematic viral endemics. The idea that we must be divided into 2 binary camps, with either complete acceptance of all vaccines put on the market, or dangerous "vaccine-deniers" who are "conspiracy theorists" is ridiculous. Obviously, the subject of nuanced need for targeted populations, the individual assessment of benefit versus risk, and the individual health concerns as well as community concerns present a complex subject, not a binary choice. Are we managing our public health concerns with vaccines properly, or led by quasi-religious propaganda from the medical industry? For instance, why haven't we completed a workable vaccine for viral threats like Ebola? The answer is that all of our public and private money and energy has been devoted to vaccines that make money, not to vaccines that are essential to prevent the most dangerous epidemics.

A November 6, 2012 article in the New York Times Health, entitled Reassessing Flu Shots as the Season Draws Near, outlines the unspoken problems with viral vaccines as the expected influenza pandemic draws nearer. Scientists at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota released a report in the fall of 2012 that outlined the deficiencies of the massive flu vaccine program, an enormous economic boon to pharmaceuticals, but a failure for the public. These researchers still promote influenza vaccine, but are concerned that exaggeration of the vaccine's effectiveness deters research into more effective and comprehensive protocols. The director of the Minnesota center, Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, a former preparedness advisor to the former health and human services secretary, Tommy Thompson, stated: "We have over-promoted and over-hyped this vaccine...It does not protect as promoted. It's all a sales job; it's all public relations." Dr. Osterholm stated that as he led this study he realized that the health community was perhaps making a serious mistake promoting a belief that the vaccine program was the answer to preparedness for viral disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have acknowledged that the vaccine does not appear to decrease mortality in the elderly, the population most at risk, and the esteemed Cochrane Collaboration, perhaps the most valued medical research evaluater, concluded in a 2010 review that the vaccine program does not affect the number of people hospitalized, transmission of the virus, or rates of medical complications.

In 2015, the U.S. CDC admitted that they did not achieve a flu vaccine that targeted the usual 3-4 most virulent strains of the season, and stated that "during years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it is possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed". The CDC also stated that individual characteristics of a person determine the efficacy of the vaccine as well, although no mention of improved use of preventive medicine and immune boosting therapy with Complementary and Integrative Medicine was seen, of course. The Cochrane Collaboration has also pointed out that almost no randomized controlled human clinical trials have been conducted to assess the actual efficacy of the vaccine in older persons. Dr. Roger Thomas, a Cochrane Collaboration coordinator for the University of Calgary in Alberta, was quoted as saying: "Not having evidence doesn't prove it doesn't work; we just don't know." When the vaccine program was recommended for high-risk groups in 1960 by the U.S Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney, a decision was made that conducting large randomized controlled trials would be unethical, denying participants the apparent protection of the vaccine. This policy has apparently not changed in 50 years, as safety issues arose, problems with vaccine quality, and production problems have made the program wax and wane. Today, the U.S. government is pushing for 80 percent of the population to receive the vaccination by 2020, although currently, public skepticism keeps the percentage well below 30.

In 2016, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, who advise the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced that the live attenuated flu vaccine as a nasal spray, FluMist, does not actually work, and recommended that all parents utilize the normal vaccine injection. This recommendation followed that of study findings of 2015, which found that the flu vaccines was ineffective, and followup study completed in 2016 that showed that the nasal spray was only effective for 3 percent of participants, and that is does not work against the most likely strain that will produce the next viral pandemic, the H1N1. In 2013, the H1N1 viral strain was seen and the live attenuated vaccine as a nasal spray was shown to be ineffective against it. AstraZeneca stated that they redesigned the spray vaccine, but in the next flu season none of the vaccines worked very well against the 3-4 strains that they were created to vaccinate against. Experts stated this year that they did not know why the vaccines are not working as well as they need to, and the inactivated flu vaccine was found to be effective in 63 percent of participants last season for the targeted strains. The hope is that we keep learning enough to design an effective vaccine against the most dangerous strains of influenza, or that we keep producing vaccines and the stockpile will have some effect when a pandemic strikes. It is still impossible for us to quickly design and create a vaccine once a pandemic strain does strike, and the exact viral strain in the next pandemic is surely going to be a new variant. We probably need to quit pretending that all we need to counter such threats are just a flu vaccine, or these few pharmaceutical antiviral medicines that are available currently, which many strains of influenza virus have already adapted to. A sensible approach would be to institute better immune strengthening, overall public health, and to utilize herbal antiviral medicines to stimulate better responses to viral infection.

The World Health Organization states that influenza results in an estimated 500,000 deaths worldwide on average. In the United States, an estimated yearly death toll varies between 5000 to 17,000, and a decrease in mortality is not associated statistically with the number of flu vaccines administered. Each year the types of flu virus vary, and current vaccines target 3 viral strains that are deemed likely to be most dangerous from the 3 most common families of the flu virus. The problem is that current vaccines use fragments of a protein called hemagglutinin from these viral strains, which the human immune system uses to make antibodies that are able to attach to the cell surface to initiate immune defense, and even the 3 types of virus used to make the vaccine may have evolved a different surface protein since last encountered. In addition, it is estimated that the human immune system may take weeks to develop these specific antibodies, and the vaccine does not work during this time period. Finally, if the individual immune system is not healthy, the ability to manufacture specific antibodies to the viral strains targeted is insufficient to build protection. Scientists are hopeful that a flu vaccine targeting the T cell system, not the antibody B cell system, will someday be developed, and are hoping that a relatively safe version can be developed before the next worldwide influenza pandemic occurs. This pandemic phenomenon has occurred nearly every 100 years, and the last pandemic, in 1918, killed between 20 and 50 million people. So far, very small trials with such a vaccine have offered a relatively small degree of potential benefit, and of course, the long-term adverse health effects have not been analyzed. Another type of vaccine being explored may be able to make a more efficient viral antibody, called a tendrilled antibody, which attaches to a groove in the hemagglutinin protein of the viral surface. Whether nature will counter such research by evolving the viral structure is still unknown, but the ability of the virus to mutate and evolve defenses to host immune systems is phenomenal. It appears that the viral intelligence is greater than the human intelligence.

Intelligent patients realize that there is more that can be done to protect them from serious influenza illness. The Cochrane Collaboration, in their 2010 meta-review of research, concluded that the influenza vaccinations may save people about a half-day of work on average, but this was heavily dependent on the matching of the serious viral strains each year, with a poor match resulting in 100 vaccinations needed to prevent a single incidence of influenza viral sickness. Supporting immune health and taking herbal antiviral medications could significantly effect the protection against viral illness. While continued research in vaccines may someday provide significant protections, the long history to date in this research has not provided enough success to give confidence.

The hope is that increased production worldwide of trivalent influenza vaccine will target a flu type involved in the next viral pandemic. Whether this gamble pays off, considering the enormous variety of virulent viral types, will only be known after the next pandemic. The last pandemic, the 1918 influenza pandemic, is now estimated at killing 40-70 million people worldwide in a short period of time. Those that survived the pandemic were individuals with a strong healthy immune system. Integrating Complementary Medicine into this plan may insure that many more survive the next pandemic. Depending on the promise of a viral vaccine to effectively counter the next viral pandemic does not seem realistic at this time, especially with the wide variance in the genetic makeup of viruses, and the inability to create a specific vaccine fast enough when a pandemic occurs.

In 2015, experts at Oxford University and the University of Bergen published a report on the current state of flu vaccines. In this paper, the authors stated: "Natural infection (with a specific virus) is able to induce this multifaceted mucosal and systemic immune response (mucosal IgA and other antibodies targeting hemagglutinin, T-cell responses, antibodies targeting NA and M2e) to confer protection against subsequent influenza with similar strains. Thus, the challenge for an effective influenza vaccine is to mimic natural infection in conferring protection against influenza." These experts point out that anti-NA (neuraminidase) antibodies have been shown to be expressed after natural infection, as well as an array of T cell responses and cytokines. It is clear that a vaccine-like immunity could be triggered if a patient were infected with a specific virus and the illness was mild. Use of herbal medicine to prevent the progression of the infection at an early stage would then infer a vaccine-like immunity that would be in effect for like viruses. In 2015, a study at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in China, showed that the most common formula to prevent viral illness in Chinese herbal medicine, Yu Ping Feng San, composed of Astragalus, Atractylodis, and Saposhnikoviae (Huang qi, Bai zhu and Fang feng) exerts antiviral and antibacterial effects, and induces an immune response that inhibits neuraminidase activity (protein antibody responses). To see this study, just click here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25586308 . Another 2015 study, at the Heilongjiang University of Science and Technology, in Harbin, China, showed that the Indian herb Withania somnifera (Ashwaghanda) also targets the neuraminidase of the H1N1 family of viruses, stimulating anti-NA responses. To see this study, just click here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25627548 . The list of common immune enhancing and antiviral herbs that are now proven to provide this vaccine-like response is growing. A 2011 study at Jilin University, in Changchun, China, evaluated the anti-NA activity of 439 water extracts of Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs, finding 5 herbal extracts that exhibited potent neuraminidase inhibition to effectively create a vaccine-like effect against Influenza A H1N1, the viral family believed to be the biggest pandemic threat, and yearly threat. These 5 herbs, Melia Toosendam (Chuan lian zi and Ku lian pi), Prunella vulgaris (Xia ku cao), Liquidamber formosana (Lu lu tong), Lithospermum erythrorhizon (Zi cao), and Duchesnea indica (She mei) exerted strong anti-NA inhibition against H1N1 viral infection. To see this study, just click here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699971 . These 5 herbs are commonly used in formulas to provide the strongest antiviral effects in TCM practice.


An Array of Viral Vaccines Other than the Influenza Vaccine

Other viral vaccines have had similar fates to the influenza vaccine. In 2013, the National Institutes of Health called off the long-term trial of the most promising HIV vaccine, HVTN 505, after more of the nearly 2500 volunteers randomly assigned to the vaccine acquired new cases of HIV infection than the ones taking the placebo. 41 of the 1250 given the vaccine acquired new infection of HIV, compared to 30 of the group of sexually active gay men assigned to the placebo. There have been notable successes, with the polio vaccine hailed as the "holy grail" of viral vaccines. In 1948, Dr. Hilary Koprowski developed the first successful attenuated live viral vaccine in his laboratory north of New York. This successful polio vaccine was used in many countries with great safety and effectiveness, yet never approved in the United States. Seven years later, an injectable vaccine was approved in the U.S., created by Jonas Salk, and years later, an oral polio vaccine developed by Albert Sabin was introduced in stages, largely eliminating polio disease. This live attenuated oral vaccine of Jonas Salk is credited for effectively eliminating polio infection worldwide. Today, polio has again emerged in some countries, notably Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria, but the total number of suspected cases worldwide in 2013 was 389. Since these early successes, though, there have been few viral vaccines that work. Vaccines for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A (short-term effect), Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (MMRV), Tetanus, Rotovirus and Smallpox have been successful. These successes are attributed to the nature of these viruses, not mutating into ever-changing forms like the influenza and HIV viruses. Viruses that mutate may easily form resistance to the vaccine.

Currently, in 2014, two viral vaccines are being heavily promoted, the Herpes Zoster vaccine, and the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, vaccine. Again, controversy and hype cloud the issue of these vaccines as well. The initial studies by the manufacturer, Merck Pharmaceuticals, showed that the Herpes Zoster vaccine may decrease risk of zoster episodes by almost half, and in the first nationwide study, published in 2013, and inclusive of participants greater than 65 years of age, the relatively small vaccinated study group experiencing a rate of 5.4 episodes per 1000 person-years, in 154 vaccinated subjects who had episodes nationwide, while the larger non-vaccinated study population experienced 10 per 1000 person-years. Incident follow-up varied considerably from state to state in the U.S., with data showing incident at 90 days or greater varying from 0 to 7 percent of the vaccinated population. Of 766,330 subjects eligible for the study, only 3.9 percent chose to get the vaccine, even though it was provided free of charge by Medicare. Medicare recipients over age 65 who had a Medicare Advantage plan, or were also covered by an HMO were excluded from the study. The length of study of the participants was unclear, but the participants were chosen from databases of patient visits to hospitals and clinics between 2007 and 2009, and the study was published in 2013. Incidence of Herpes Zoster were highest in older age groups, women, patients with immunosuppression (such as those taking immunosuppressive drugs), with immune-mediated disorders, especially inflammatory bowel diseases and SLE, and those with chronic kidney disease. Herpes Zoster incidence rates were lower in low income and black populations. The long-term effectiveness, and the potential of the virus to evolve protections against the vaccine are still undetermined. While Herpes Zoster was downplayed for decades in standard medicine, it has suddenly been talked about as a common problem and the incidence reported has grown considerably, although actual diagnosis of Herpes Zoster still uses mainly guesswork and reliance on clinical signs and symptoms, and a diagnosis of exclusion, rather than a definitive objective test, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Obviously, the general public is still skeptical. The story of HPV vaccine, almost mandated for pre-teens, is even more complicated, and explained more fully below, in a separate section of this article.

For patients that have already experienced Herpes Zoster in their lives, the question of efficacy of the vaccine has also been raised, and the vaccine is not approved for these patients. A review of studies in the October, 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (cited below with link in Additional Information) showed that the risk of recurrence in the elderly population with no immunocompromised state was less than 1 percent per year. A review of study data published earlier in the year by Cohen noted that there was no evidence that the vaccine further reduces the rate of postherpetic neuralgia in this group, and the evidence shows a waning of effectiveness over time in the first 5 years after vaccination. Studies showed that in the age group between 65 and 80 years of age, the efficacy for prevention in patients not previously having experienced Herpes Zoster was about 38 percent. While many published reports imply that efficacy of the vaccine is not in question, a number of distinguished M.D. experts replied to this review of studies with skepticism that the proven efficacy was strong, that the effects in the population over age 80 was strong, that the question of adverse events of the live attenuated virus in the first 42 days after receiving the vaccine is not a problem, and that there are no other viable treatments for Herpes Zoster neuralgia, or shingles, with the Europeans demonstrating success with a local injectable anesthetic. Dr. Roy E. Fried, M.D., M.H.S. of Premier Senior Care, in Bethesda, Maryland, states that the efficacy and safety of the Herpes Zoster vaccine in the elderly is still questionable. The reply by Dr. Jeffrey I. Cohen, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, is that while questions of certainty of efficacy, and uncertainty about the degree and duration of effectiveness, as well as safety, do exist, and that the Shingles Prevention Study did show reduced efficacy of the vaccine in older persons, that the vaccine was effective and safe. Dr. Cohen noted that while the risk of recurrence of Herpes Zoster is low during the first few years after an episode, the vaccine might be delayed in patients after shingles episodes for a few years, but then would be recommended.

By 2015, the popularity of vaccines was waning slightly, due to the problems and failures cited above, and as companies introduced more and more vaccines, almost completely protected from medical liability by an act of government in the United States, and lobbied hard for government mandates to reverse freedom of choice in this realm, fewer and fewer parents decided to have their children receive all of the vaccines that the pharmaceutical companies now offered, especially as the cost per vaccine soared inexplicably to an average cost per child of over $2200.00. Still, the U.S. CDC reported in 2015 that most of the 7 most important vaccines showed a compliance rate of over 90 percent, and the Combined-7 series was taken by about 72 percent of all children in the U.S. Incidence of cyclical increases in viral diseases, such as whooping cough and measles, came with enormous media pressure to get more parents to receive vaccines. These parents were derided as 'vaccine deniers' who had a cult-like belief that all vaccines were evil, but numerous studies showed that the choices of whether to vaccinate or not were for the most part nuanced and informed, with the greatest avoidance of some select vaccines occurring in the most educated population. While over 50 percent of cases of whooping cough (a bacterial infection) and measles occur in children not vaccinated, the incidence in the vaccine era continues to follow the same cyclical spiking of incidence as in the pre-vaccine era. Explanations that avoidance of vaccination creates these cyclical spikes in incidence do not make sense in assessment, and appear to be motivated by the need to sell more vaccines. For instance, in 2012, there was a spike in Whooping Cough, or Pertussis, in the United States, and in Vermont, 90 percent of cases occurred in patients between the age of 6 months and 18 years old who had received the vaccine, with a majority of those having received 5-6 doses of the vaccine, and only 9 of the 160 children and youth affected receiving less than 4 doses of the DTaP or TDaP. Clearly, the vaccine did not protect as it was supposed to, and this cyclical spike in incidence occurred despite the population being largely vaccinated. Statistics show that cyclical spikes in these endemic diseases occur despite high percentages of children receiving vaccination. While these vaccines are for the most part shown to be very safe for most children, and the mercury preservative theimerosal has been eliminated from most vaccines due to a link to autism pathology as a contributing factor, there is still a concern for safe manufacturing practices and a continuing history of just a few cases of harm that factor into the risk versus benefit equation for many parents. Some of the parents affected by vaccine injury from specific vaccines, attributed to manufacturing practices, spurred the creation of the movie Vaxxed in 2016, which was withdrawn from the Tribeca Film Festival due to strong industry pressure. Robert De Niro, the sponsor of the Tribeca Film Festival, who himself had a child afflicted with autism, stated that he still thought that the film should be viewed and that the issues of specific MMR vaccines that were protected from liability and may have contributed to injury certainly should be properly investigated. Mr. De Niro stated that the issue was one of insuring safe vaccines, not denying vaccine use and efficacy. It appears that educated parents are making reasonable decisions on certain vaccines, and few of these parents are crazy "vaccine deniers". The vehemence directed at these parents is the astonishing fact.

In 2015, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that found that only 0.7 percent of children in the United States received no vaccines between the years 1994 and 2013 - I repeat: only 0.7 percent of the children in the United States received no vaccines during this 20 year period, and many of these were due to valid religious beliefs. Obviously, this widely reported cult of "vaccine deniers" in the media does not exist. Instead, a more intelligent and informed selection process is occurring by parents. The public should be alarmed that the pharmaceutical manufacturers of vaccines are so powerful that our media is repeatedly broadcasting these stories that are causing parents so much stress. This is shameful. Individuals that work in the news media should be appalled at their harmful behavior. Big money has apparently created a false belief that there is a large cult of "vaccine deniers" that are threatening children, and the only logical explanation is that someone in marketing came up with the idea that such media coverage would increase sales. When will such behavior not be tolerated?

The threat of measles was presented with much alarm after 2014. The incidence of measles in the United States remains very low, though, with a 4-8 year cycle of spiking incidence still producing less than 200 cases per year out of a population of 350 million, except for 2014, where the U.S. CDC reported that 23 measles outbreaks occurred, with the largest occurring among the Amish community, who have a religious belief that proscribes vaccination and much modern medicine, and suffered an outbreak of 383 cases, but no deaths. In fact, even with the relatively large and unusual spike in measles cases in 2014, there have been no deaths from measles in the United States in the 10 year period from 2004 to 2015. Prior to the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963, the incidence of death from measles had leveled off to about .3 per 100,000 of the population since 1952, with 90 percent of cases in children younger than 5. News articles have printed statistical charts with incidence stating that (0.3) meant percentage, while it actually meant 0.3 per 100,000, further confusing the issue with alarm. While these vaccines have been very effective, these statistics do not scare parents who just look up the actual records, unless those records are reported falsely. Pertussis, or whooping cough, presents a more serious danger, with cyclical spiking of disease leading to 20 pertussis-related deaths in 2012, but most of these occurring in infants younger than 3 months of age, with the great majority not directly catching the whooping cough from unvaccinated children at school, obviously, hence a push to get pregnant mothers vaccinated has occurred. Since the vaccine only shows effectiveness for 2-5 years, widespread vaccination of adults to avoid transmission to newborns is problematic. Of course, pertussis is a bacterial infection, and bacterial vaccinations are easier to accomplish than viral, but even with 84 percent of children under the age of 3 receiving multiple DTaP shots, a high percentage of vaccinated children continue to get whooping cough when incidence spikes. An Oxford study noted that 20 percent of children with a persistent cough reporting to a medical clinic or hospital tested positive for pertussis, with 18 percent of these children fully vaccinated against it, and a high percentage of these studied patients having received at least 1 vaccine shot (BMJ 2014 Jun 24;348). In an ideal world these vaccines would actually protect 95 percent of the vaccinated population, and cyclical spikes in these endemic diseases would no longer occur, the vaccines would be free and everyone would get them, and there would be no cases of harm, from normal effects, poor production quality, or contamination. In the real world there will always be those that decide that the benefits of certain vaccines may not outweigh the risks, however low. What is needed is a nuanced individualized assessment.

The answers to why endemic diseases, especially viral diseases occur in cyclical spikes, have been hard to find. Scientific study has found that climate changes are strongly correlated with this phenomenon, though. For instance, periods of more extreme and frequent El Nino events, created by massive weather changes over the Pacific, have been heavily correlated with changes in the occurrence of infectious disease and epidemics, and many viral and other microbial diseases have been linked to El Nino cycles, not only mosquito-borne diseases, but also viral diseases such as Kawasaki Disease, which is poorly understood but appears to be related to a pre-existing viral infection and its effects on the immune response. Remarkably, Daoist physicians in China wrote of such phenomena, the relations between cycles and changes in Nature and the corresponding changes in humans, and the effects on disease patterns, in the early extensive texts of Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as the Nei Jing de Huang Di. These comments, using the language of elements, such as Wind to describe these patterns of swiftly changing natural phenomena, have of course been highly ridiculed in modern medicine in the West. It seems that they were valid. An article on the subject in Newsweek in 2014 quoted Jonathan Epstein, an epidemiologist at EcoHealth Alliance, who studies these patterns: "Humans are the major driver of emerging diseases. Things like agricultural expansion and deforestation...and certainly travel and trade - these are things that manipulate our environment and allow pathogens to get from animal hosts to people and then travel around the world." This article cited a 2012 study that interviewed infectious disease experts in 30 countries and found that the majority agreed that climate change affected infectious disease patterns in their countries to a high degree. Such scientific debate is not new, and was a concern during the industrial revolution after the turn of the twentieth century by disease experts as well. By ignoring such empirical science and blindly depending completely on the use of vaccines alone to rescue us from our dilemma, we continue to head for cyclical human disaster.

The history of attenuated live viral vaccines dates back to ancient China, and perhaps to an even more ancient Ayurvedic tradition in India, although the Western Civilization continues to insist that the only real discoveries occurred in the 18th century, in Europe, and finally resulted in American discovery of the useful attenuated live virus vaccine in the twentieth century. The first live attenuated viral vaccine in history is attributed to Max Theiler, who introduced a successful yellow fever vaccine in 1939, but further research has revealed that the introduction of a live attenuated viral vaccine occurred around 1000 to 1400 AD in China, when a physician used a carefully prepared powder created from smallpox scabs that was blown into the nasal membranes. This vaccination was mentioned in the Douzhen Xinfa, a medical text of Wan Quan (1499-1582). This method supposedly had a risk of death of 0.5 - 2% in early use, and so was utilized in the Ming Dynasty only in populations with a high risk of smallpox. This crude method of attenuating the virus for vaccination had been lost in history, though, as later medical authorities discounted the possibility of success. We do not know how this physician processed the material from the human smallpox scabs, only that the safest and most successful means of attenuation later developed was by decocting an aqueous extract of the pulverised dried scabs, allowing a moistened plug of cotton-wool to soak up a bit of the decocted material, and inserting this in the nostril of a child, a method described in the text Golden Mirror, or I Tsung Chin Chien, of 1743. Texts describe the the method of drying the scabs in a sealed bottle away from the sun or heat for 20-40 days, then pulverising the material (Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization of China, Vol.6). This method may, of course, have probable limitations concerning the ability to store the water decoction of the attenuated virus. Exact methodology in China was not revealed, as the culture highly valued the maintaining of trade secrets. Hopefully, both the success of future viral vaccines, and the intelligent way of utilizing these vaccines, avoiding viral vaccine resistance, and intelligently weighing risk versus benefit, will improve. Surely, integrating Complementary Medicine to both provide safe antiviral herbal chemicals, as well as improved immune function, would help with the overall success.


Viral vaccines

  • Currently, pharmaceuticals have used politics and lobbying to push a mandate for forced vaccination against viral infections. Libertarians are voicing objection, as are many individuals and experts in the field, as these viral vaccines have not had a good track record. Mandatory vaccination against HPV, or human papilloma virus, is currently being urged by the drug manufacturers, for all pre-teens, both male and female, to decrease the risk of cervical cancer from a few strains of a viral wart. The subject of benefit versus risk has been complicated. For instance, various health authorities are investigating reports of autoimmune reactions, including lupus, or lupus-like syndromes, following immunization with the HPV vaccine. A 2012 report published in the medical journal Lupus 201221(2):158-61, reports on an investigation into cases presented at the University of Santo Tomas, Philippines. To see this evidence, click here: http:/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22235047. The effectiveness of the HPV vaccine has been called to question by the very researchers that developed it. In 2009, Dr. Diane Harper, a lead researcher at Merck who helped design the phase 2 and 3 trials of Gardisil, questioned the efficacy of the vaccine, even voicing this doubt in a CBS investigative report. Dr. Harper stated that the vaccine lasted a mere 5 years, with no data to support its effectiveness after this period of time. Dr. Harper stated: "If we vaccinate 11 year olds and the protection doesn't last...we've put them at harm from side effects, small but real, for no benefit. The benefit to public health is nothing, there is no reduction in cervical cancers, they are just postponed, unless the protection lasts for 15 years, and over 70 percent of all sexually active females of all ages are vaccinated (to significantly stop the spread of the HPV strains that cause cancer)." Dr. Harper also stated that the risks of serious adverse events after taking the HPV vaccine is comparable to the rate of serious cases of cervical cancer in the population, and that she believed that these risks with the vaccine are underreported, as they are based statistically on the denominator of doses distributed from the Merck warehouse, not the number of doses taken by the patients. Since only a few strains of the human papilloma virus are associated with cancers, and these strains may mutate, the subject of vaccination is problematic. The theory holds that widespread vaccination at an early age of the entire population may significantly reduce or eradicate these viral strains. Yet, given the history of the virus, this scenario is likely to change, and the benefits significantly reduced in the future. The likelihood that this vaccination program will work to eliminate the current strains of the HPV in the entire population, that new strains will not be created via viral mutations, that resistance to the vaccine will not occur, and that this will even significantly effect the future incidence of cervical cancer, is controversial at best. The likelihood that many patients may be affected by serious adverse effects of the vaccine are great. While the attempt to eliminate, or significantly reduce, a type of cancer, is laudable, do we not question these regimens? In 2011, the FDA released this statement on the safety and efficacy of vaccines that protect against viruses, as regulators sought to review the safety of attenuated viral vaccines (weakened versions of the viruses) that are now commonly used. The statement: "There are as yet no reliable markers (biological evidence) that can be used to determine whether such viruses have been successfully attenuated (made safe) - other than the failure of the vaccine to (immediately) produce obvious symptoms of disease in recipients. This problem is based on the lack of knowledge of 1) virus virulence factors (molecules that help viruses infect cells and cause disease); 2) characteristics of cells targeted by such viruses; and 3) how these viruses spread in the host. In addition, for many of these vaccines there are as yet no known markers of efficacy (measurable responses of the body that accurately signify that the vaccine is working effectively). This lack of markers of efficacy, such as specific level of antibody, makes it difficult to interpret immune response data collected during clinical trials of these vaccines." In other words, the data that supports the use of viral vaccines is questionable, and may be relying on hopeful signs of success rather than real proof.
  • Newer technologies in viral vaccine are going through stage 3 human clinical trials in 2015, designed to inhibit genetic coding enzymes that are used in viral reproduction. Favipavir is a new antiviral compound that potently inhibits the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) of influenza and many other viruses that are composed of RNA rather than DNA. This chemical appears to both incorporate into viral RNA to inhibit replication in the human genome, and misincorporate into the viral RNA to cause lethal mutagenesis. So far, studies have shown a high selectivity for viral RNA, with a more than 2000 times selectivity for influenza virus RNA over the host human DNA or RNA. There is great hope that such drugs will be effective for treating and preventing many endemic viral diseases. Whether this will negatively impact normal commensal viral genetic code with adverse long-term effects will be seen. The outcome of a 'universal' vaccine may be catastrophic if indeed the human organism is dependent on the viral system to provide genetic data. We still have a very limited understanding of the endogenous viral elements and the endogenous retrovirus (HERV) in our genetic system, and we are now just beginning to understand the importance of the bacterial Biome in the human organism, which appears dependent on the viral genetic codes to adapt and evolve. This persistence in denying the holistic picture of human life may be leading to an ignoring of the long-term outcomes of a universal viral vaccine.