Respectful Insolence

Homeopathy for malaria? Again?

I know I’ve said it many, many times before, but it’s something that, in my opinion at least, can’t be repeated too often. Homeopathy is ridiculous. Arguably, it’s the most ridiculous of “alternative” therapies ever conceived. And that’s saying a lot. After all, among “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or “integrative medicine” (IM), we have therapies in which people claim that they can tap into some sort of “universal source” and channel it into you for healing effect (reiki, a.k.a. faith healing based on Eastern mysticism instead of Christian beliefs); they can change the flow of some sort of unproven and as yet undetected “life energy” and thus heal you by sticking needles into you (acupuncture); they can diagnose illness by mapping it to your feet, hands, or ears and treat it by massaging those areas (reflexology); they can draw “toxins” out of your feet with foot pads; they can cure cancer with baking soda; and many, many more ideas with no basis in human anatomy, biochemistry or physiology or based on a tortured misunderstanding of these disciplines.

Homeopathy tops them all.

Remember, homeopathy is based on two principles. The first is that you treat a symptom by giving a patient something that normally causes that symptom in a healthy patient. The second is that diluting these remedies “potentizes” them or makes them stronger. Indeed, homeopaths routinely dilute their remedies far beyond the point where one could reasonably expect to find even a single molecule left. They even acknowledge this and explain it away by torturing physics and chemistry to try to claim that water has “memory” that can remember the remedy but forget all the other things that water routinely comes into contact with. That’s why I routinely refer to homeopathy as The One Quackery To Rule Them All. It is, after all, only water, tarted up with magical, mystical, wishful thinking imposed on it by homeopaths. If water really could take imprints of “intent,” homeopathic remedies would be imprinted with terminal stupid.

So stupid that homeopaths once again claim they can treat serious diseases like malaria with homeopathy, as I found on this discussion forum, where a denizen asks:

52 yrs male was attacked by P.vivax malaria parasites in June 09. He was treated by a course of Chloroquine

( Resochin-DS). After completion of the course, the malaria antigen test was again got done in July 09 and the result was found negative. But he is again attacked by the same P, vivax parasite on 5.3.10 which is got confirmed through the malaria antigen test . Now, again he is treated with the same chloroquine drug. At present he has no problem except weakness and low BP . The peripheral blood smear also did not show malaria parasite today. The doctor has advised for G6PD tests for blood after three weeks to assess any cause of relapse of malaria.

What may be the causes of relapse of malaria? Are there any homeo remedy to prevent such relapses to the said patient in coming future? What is the preventive homeo remedy to protect the other family members against spread of malaria ?

The sensible answer to this question would, of course, be “no,” followed up with, “Are you crazy?” However, we are dealing with homeopaths. Sense does not enter into the equation. To demonstrate that, let’s look at a sampling of the responses. First, we have Jayashree Kanoi stating:

For Malaria the best medicine as advised by my late Sir is Ars 6 or 30 alternated with Ipecac 6 or 30. Both must be same potency. First take every 2 hours and then when the patient is better increase the frequency time.

By “6” and “30” I presume that Kanoi means 6C or 30C, where each “C” represents a single 100-fold dilution. 6C dilutions are actually the more dangerous of the two; there might actually still be some actual starting material there, as it would “only” be a 1012 dilution. A 30C dilution is, of course, nothing more than water, as it is a 1060 dilution, which is 1036-fold more than Avagadro’s number. In other words, it’s just water. But note the logic, such as it is. “Ars” is short for Arsenicum Album, which is basically arsenic trioxide. Yes, you read that right. It’s arsenic. On the other hand, I’m guessing that most of my readers already know what ipecac is; it’s an emetic; i.e., a substance used to induce vomiting. Why are these chosen? Because apparently arsenic can induce fever, while ipecac induces vomiting, and fever and vomiting are major symptoms of relapses of malaria.

Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

The problem is, in the world of homeopathy it does make “perfect sense.” Indeed, one of the commenters spells it out:

The main symptoms of Arsenic Album are :

  1. Fever will start arund 1 P.m. or after Midnight (around 2.a.m. usually). Sivering and heat will be there together or alternating. Heat inside and chill outside. Restlessness with anxiety or fear, Drinking water little by little in large quantities. Nausea and Vomit. Bitterness in the mouth, Severe headache, All symptoms aggravate when there is fever and shiverng. Medicine is suitable and moreeffective for those who have been using lot of quinine and complicated the case.
  2. Ipec: Nausea and vomiting are important symptoms of Ipec.There will be distention in the chest before the shiverig starts. Thirstlessness when there is shivering. More thirst when there is heat(fever) in the body.
  3. Nux : Will not cover the body even when there is sweat, due to fear of heat or fever. Dizziness or vertigo. Cramp like in stomch and below knees. Tinnitis.headache, constipation, thirst, Pain on the the sides of the body,.
  4. Arnica ; Intermittent fever. Scanty urine, thirst, pain in bones, Thirst and shivering together., restlessness, the whole body is sore and feels like beaten up., Bed seems rough and try to find soft space on bed. Turning in the bed several times, If the blanket or cover is removed immediatey shivering starts, Intolerable heat, Sore sweats etc.

I will give this commenter credit for one thing. He actually does follow the nonsense above with actual good advice for avoiding malaria by avoiding getting bitten by the mosquitoes the carry the parasite by using insect repellents and mosquito nets and getting rid of the standing water where the malaria-carrying mosquitoes breed. I’d also point out that, if all you’re going to use is homeopathy, your only hope is one of two things. Either avoiding getting bitten altogether or hope against hope that you survive your bout of malaria. That’s about it for homeopathy.

I also can’t help but notice that the undiluted form of the homeopathic remedies for malaria described above sound almost as bad–or even as bad–as the disease itself, at least in the short term. Of course, those symptoms must be the symptoms caused in healthy people by the undiluted form of the remedy. The homeopathic remedies themselves, if diluted to anything higher than around 12C, will be just water.

As if all of this weren’t enough, it is later suggested that this patient be given homeopathic China, which is a an extract of the Peruvian tree Cinchona Pubescens which grows wild in the tropical forests of South America. Here is the recommendation:

You can continue China 30 for longer period. it is a medicine for convalescence. It is a great remedy for affter effects of Malaria. Arsenic Album Should also be given. Cina 30 was advised on my own personal experiments and results and you will not find any reference of that in any of the books or any matching symptoms. The basic philosophy in the use of Cina is that it is a medicine which will work in kind of microorganism entering the body as parasites and thrive in the body. It was experimented on Malaria and the pathologists findings in an instant case cofirmed the thought process. with best wishes.

The “explanation” of how China supposedly works against malaria is, of course, a fetid load of dingo’s kidneys. But how did China become a preferred homeopathic remedy for malaria? It was Samuel Hahneman himself, who declared it so:

This bark is of particular historical significance for homeopaths, since quinine extracted from it became the subject of Hahnemann’s first homeopathic proving. In 1790 he tested quinine on himself, and noticed that it caused symptoms similar to the malaria for which it was prescribed as a cure. He developed the remedy China, which has become a key treatment for malarial symptoms and exhaustion due to fluid loss or long-term illness.

Homeopathy apologists sometimes ask, “What’s the harm?” It can sometimes seem to be a compelling argument. After all, homeopathy is nothing more than water and is therefore not going to cause the symptoms of the starting compounds diluted away to nonexistence in the name of homeopathy’s particularly nonsensical brand of sympathetic magic. The harm, of course, occurs when homeopaths develop delusions of grandeur and think that they can treat anything more than a self-limited disease like a cold. I know, I know, they can’t really treat colds, either, but their likelihood in causing harm by treating a cold and causing it to last seven days as opposed to one week is much less than if they try to treat a potentially life-threatening disease like malaria. There’s the problem. Untreated malaria can kill, and treating malaria with homeopathy is every bit the equivalent of leaving it untreated.

People die that way. Quackery kills.

Comments

  1. #1 Fleegman
    July 1, 2011

    Something stuck me while reading this post. It occurred to me that one of the possible attractions of homeopathy, and why it has such a following, is the detailed and voluminous language specific to homeopathy.

    It reminds me of Scientology in that way. That particular organisation has so much scientology-specific language that learning it, and speaking it with fellow cultists, helps to increase the divide between them and non-scientologists.

    It makes something much more believable when special terminology is invented to describe it, and more intriguing, too. After all, “how can this not work when so much has been written about it?”

  2. #2 becca
    July 1, 2011

    So lovely takedown of homeopathy, as always. However, no offense, but you don’t sound totally coherent in your description of malaria, and I’m in a compulsive mood, so…
    “I also can’t help but notice that the homeopathic remedies for malaria described above sound almost as bad–or even as bad–as the disease itself.”
    Uhm, no. That is, although there is some overlap of symptoms, and the compounds sound pretty nasty, at least if you take a low dose of arsenic you are *done* with the symptoms after a time. Vivax malaria can reoccur for years.

    ” Untreated malaria can kill, and treating malaria with homeopathy is every bit the equivalent of leaving it untreated.”
    Which would contradict what you said above, but is more importantly untrue for viax. At least in the vast majority of cases (and by that I mean, you get to write a case report when there is an exception), vivax does not kill. P. falciparum malaria (more common in Africa) can. But you might as well leave that untreated as treat it with chloroquine, so widespread is the resistance.

  3. #3 Orac
    July 1, 2011

    Uhm, no. That is, although there is some overlap of symptoms, and the compounds sound pretty nasty, at least if you take a low dose of arsenic you are *done* with the symptoms after a time. Vivax malaria can reoccur for years.

    Um, that’s being a tad on the annoyingly pedantic side, don’t you think? I thought it was pretty clear from the context that I wasn’t referring to long-term symptoms and outcomes. However, since you insisted on being so pedantic, I have added a couple of qualifiers to that passage (“in the short term” and “undiluted”) to make it utterly clear to my more pedantic readers exactly what I meant when I wrote this.

    You’re in a compulsive mood; I’m in a…less than compulsive mood.

  4. #4 Matthew Cline
    July 1, 2011

    It is, after all, only water, tarted up with magical, mystical, wishful thinking imposed on it by homeopaths.

    That’s not true! Often times it’s a sugar pill with wishful thinking imparted onto it via magical water.

    But note the logic, such as it is. “Ars” is short for Arsenicum Album, which is basically arsenic trioxide.

    As if all of this weren’t enough, it is later suggested that this patient be given homeopathic China, which is a an extract of the Peruvian tree Cinchona Pubescens which grows wild in the tropical forests of South America.

    Why not a homeopathic preparation of the malaria protozoa?

  5. #5 Orac
    July 1, 2011

    That’s not true! Often times it’s a sugar pill with wishful thinking imparted onto it via magical water.

    True, but the sugar pill contains the water tarted up with magical, mystical, wishful thinking.:-)

  6. #6 Matthew Cline
    July 1, 2011

    True, but the sugar pill contains the water tarted up with magical, mystical, wishful thinking.

    It does? I thought it dried up before the patient ate it. Or does the water bond to the sugar in a way that prevents it from evaporating?

  7. #7 Ken
    July 1, 2011

    You must admit that there is a bit of truth in it:

    He developed the remedy China, which has become a key treatment for malarial symptoms and exhaustion due to fluid loss or long-term illness.

    Homeopathic remedies actually could be used to treat fluid loss, although I would still prefer to use glucose, sodium chloride, and potassium chloride in non-homeopathic dilution.

  8. #8 Orac
    July 1, 2011

    The “memory” of the homeopathic remedy remembered by the water is left behind in the sugar when the water evaporates. Simple!

  9. #9 Prometheus
    July 1, 2011

    At first, I was surprised that homeopaths would try to tackle malaria Homeopathy’s “forte” – in these modern times – is the “treatment” of vague or self-limited illnesses (as well as fictional illnesses); malaria is neither vague nor self-limited (nor fictional).

    However, I realised that the relapsing-remitting pattern of malaria would fit nicely with the homeopathic mind-set: the patient experiences symptoms, takes the useless water or sugar pill, experiences the (natural) remission of symptoms, attributes them to the useless water or sugar pill and is then a perfect customer when the relapse occurs.

    Of course, none of this does anything to reduce the morbidity or mortality of malaria or the transmission of malaria. But it does serve to enrich the homeopaths and give them a false sense of success.

    As for the “narrative” in the post – chloroquine resistance is a growing problem in Plasmodium vivax (see: Baird J. Chloroquine resistance in Plasmodium vivax. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2004 November; 48(11): 4075–4083. – I’m sure there are more recent publications, but that is one I have in my files). In addition, even sensitive vivax malaria can show “clinical resistance” if the chloroquine dose is marginal. Finally, it wasn’t mentioned in the “narrative” whether the patient remained in an endemic area, in which case re-infection with vivax malaria (or any species) is a distinct possibility.

    It seems criminal for homeopaths to peddle their nostrums to people suffering from a real, treatable disease which has the potential to kill. Have they no shame? They should stick to treating the worried well and those diseases (like aging) that have no treatment. There they have less potential to do serious harm.

    Prometheus

  10. #10 René Najera
    July 1, 2011

    As someone who has seen the parasites up close under a microscope, and seen patients sick with P. vivax, I can tell Becca to go fly a kite. Her argument is that, because it doesn’t kill you, it can’t be all that bad. Guess what, Becca. It f*cking is!

    From “The neglected burden of Plasmodium vivax malaria” in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (vol 61, no 1, pp 97-106):

    Although the effects of repeated attacks of P. vivax through childhood and adult life are only rarely directly lethal, they can have major deleterious effects on personal well-being, growth, and development, and on the economic performance at the individual, family, community, and national levels.

    Yes, it’s not deadly (for the most part), but all those other ugly little things it does make it something we should address… Not with homeopathy but with antimalarial drugs, mosquito nets, and better medical technology in developing nations (particularly sub-Saharan Africa).

  11. “Why are these chosen? Because apparently arsenic can induce fever, while ipecac induces vomiting, and fever and vomiting are major symptoms of relapses of malaria.”

    If there ever was a healing modality than was more concerned with the symptoms than the underlying cause of the symptoms (the disease) than homeopathy, I surely don’t know what that could be. Homeopathy seems to have an utter and complete disregard for the cause of a disease beyond the symptoms it causes.

    Shouldn’t the best homeopathic nostrum for any disease be a dilution of the actual thing that causes the disease: Lead for lead poisoning, malaria plasmodium for malaria, etc?

    /snark I was going to make a homeopathic nostrum for use on drowning victims, but I couldn’t figure out how to dilute it to sufficient potency. /endsnark

    -Kwrl Withakay

  12. #12 Bruce Small
    July 1, 2011

    What’s a “malaria germ?”

  13. #13 Guy Chapman
    July 1, 2011

    @Fleegman: I believe it’s even simpler than that. When you ask a scientist why malaria recurs in some and not in others, they will answer “I don’t know”. A homeopath will give you a whole bunch of waffle pretending to absolute certainty. People would rather hear bullshit delivered confidently than honest uncertainty.

  14. #14 pv
    July 1, 2011

    @Fleegman: Homeopathy is a religion. It has a bible written by its founder (Sam Hanemann). Lots of anecdotal stories and claims with absolutely no evidence to support. In fact every claim for homeopathy’s efficacy has a mountain of unimpeachable evidence against it. It has Churches in the form of the various Societies. Priests and prophets in the form of the practising homeopaths with their rituals and pseudo-scientific jargon, and a devoted congregation of believers.

    Also, just like a religion each time a claim is debunked a new one is invented. After a while the old claims start coming around again.

    I suspect the demographic for devout religious belief and homeopathy are similar too.

  15. #15 Vicki, Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief
    July 1, 2011

    Bruce,

    That’s an excellent example of the imprecision of the term “germ”: malaria is caused by protists including Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax (see upthread).

  16. #16 becca
    July 1, 2011

    Rene Najera- my dissertation is entitled “Inflammatory Cytokine Responses to Malaria Parasite Glycosylphosphatidylinositols” (we used P. falciparum cultured in vitro for the GPIs).
    While I have not had experience with patients, I have done my share of geisma stains.
    So, must I commence launching an airborne diversion, or may we discuss science? I did not mean to diminish impressions of the legitimate seriousness of malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax. However, could we please discuss that serious in a fashion that not perpetuate the conflation of vivax and falciparum malaria?

    I would, of course, NEVER assume that our most esteemed Orac could have ever have made such a mistake, but since he is in charge of educating people about MANY things, and not just malaria, it is perhaps permissible to suggest that he may, possibly, not have quite as much insight into how falciparum and vivax malaria are occasionally confused by lay populations as someone who has devoted many years specifically to malaria.

    To be CLEAR:

    Vivax can still (usually) be usefully treated with chloroquine. It causes a nasty disease, that is likely less terrible than arsenic poisoning. It does not cause cerebral malaria*. It can reoccur, in the sense of a long-term subclinical liver infection reemerging. Vivax is NOT endemic in sub-saharan Africa, and more often found in southeast asia and south america.

    For falciparum, you might as well treat with homeopathy as with chloroquine, so widespread is drug resistance. Falciparum malaria causes hundreds of millions of cases, of which perhaps 800,000 are fatal. So it’s not even “generally” fatal, but it can be. Particularly in children, who are prone to cerebral malaria. It does not reoccur, in the sense it does not hide in the liver* (though you can get either form of malaria, or indeed, co-infection of both species, multiple times if transmission conditions are right). Falciparum IS endemic in sub-saharan Africa.

    *rare exceptions are possible

    Anyone who knows anything about malaria knows that if you actually give a flying fig about patients, it’s important to keep the darn organism causing the disease straight.

    “When you ask a scientist why malaria recurs in some and not in others, they will answer “I don’t know”.”
    Well, an honest scientist will be quick to point out we don’t have a perfect answer to that question. But I don’t want anyone to get the impression it is a huge mystery in a neglected area of science, either.

    Depending in part on what you mean by ‘recurs’, there are several things we know make a difference. If you mean recrucedence (say a person gets malaria, is treated but the parasites grow back), the most common explanation as to why one person had a problem and the other person didn’t is “parasite drug sensitivity differed” (or even “drug metabolism differed”).
    If you mean “what determines who gets infected multiple times?”, there are a LOT of interesting answers, none of which accounts for everything. My favorite is “if you are the sort of person that is genetically prone to a robust yet controlled TH1 tilted inflammatory response, with production of IFN-gamma and IL-12, you are more likely to mount a protective immune response and be left less susceptible to clinical infection”. But I am biased to care about cytokines (since that is one of the earlier clinically detectable ways to distinguish who will get infected again and who will not; as well as telling how the person is faring medically at the time), and there are plenty of antibody or memory T cell oriented responses that are also perfectly reasonable.
    If by ‘recur’ you mean “of those who get vivax malaria, who has it hide in their liver for years/decades only to re-emerge later”, I do not think we have any perfect scientific answers, although I eagerly await results of studies in this very active area of investigation. Also, you could go ask a Hep C scientist the same question…

  17. #17 Todd W.
    July 1, 2011

    The denizen quoted by Orac asks:

    What may be the causes of relapse of malaria?

    My first thought was, “He was bitten by an infected mosquito again?”

    Seemed like a pretty straight-forward and likely scenario to me, though another possibility was just that the original round of drugs didn’t get all of the parasites, with the survivors causing the relapse of symptoms once they repopulated a bit.

  18. #18 mikee
    July 1, 2011

    Why don’t all the homeopaths who believe they have a treatment for malaria go to a malaria ridden country for three months and treat themselves?
    Then they can come back and tell us how good their remedies are.

  19. #19 Chris
    July 1, 2011

    Todd W., it could also be the complex life cycle of the Plasmodium. One thing they do is hide out in the liver for a while, and the medication may not get them there (part of your scenario). It is so complicated it took two podcasts, TWiP 10 and TWiP 11, which you can find here.

  20. #20 julia
    July 1, 2011

    A “new” attempt at vaccine blaming has emerged. Can anyone comment on this: “Deadlier Whooping Cough Epidemic Likely Caused by Vaccine” http://healthfreedoms.org/2011/06/29/deadlier-whooping-cough-epidemic-likely-caused-by-vaccine/ ? Among other references they point to this as proof:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2481270/ . Personally, I do not see this as a reason to not vaccinate but apparently, of course, they do.

  21. #21 Denice Walter
    July 1, 2011

    I prefer quinine with gin. And I’ve never gotten malaria yet! (btw greetings from my fabulous, incredible vacation/ holiday location!)

  22. #22 Dr Aust
    July 1, 2011

    @pv: Homeopathy is a religion….

    Quite so. And don’t forget that we also have the ‘transmutation’ of a base/everyday substance (water) into something special/’sacred’ (the ‘remedy’) by the special ritual practises of the priest (remedy selection and magic shaking by the homeopath)… this ‘transmuted’ sacred stuff then being dished out with due solemnity to the believers (the paying homeopathic faithful).

    I’m sometimes surprised, indeed, that the Churches don’t try and sue the Hahnemann-iacs for copyright infringement.

  23. #23 DLC
    July 1, 2011

    But (to paraphrase Tim Minchin) somehow water can remember the onion juice that was once in it, but not every bit of poo that it’s been near.
    At least Homeopathic water will cure dehydration,if taken in sufficient quantities.

  24. #24 Matthew Cline
    July 2, 2011

    @julia:

    A “new” attempt at vaccine blaming has emerged. Can anyone comment on this: “Deadlier Whooping Cough Epidemic Likely Caused by Vaccine” http://healthfreedoms.org/2011/06/29/deadlier-whooping-cough-epidemic-likely-caused-by-vaccine/ ? Among other references they point to this as proof:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2481270/ . Personally, I do not see this as a reason to not vaccinate but apparently, of course, they do.

    From the paper:

    The increase in frequency of ptxP3 strains coincided with the increase in pertussis notifications in the Netherlands. Moreover B. pertussis strains carrying this novel allele for the pertussis toxin promoter were shown to confer increased virulence.

    In the Netherlands the upsurge of pertussis was characterized by the expansion of strains carrying a novel allele for the Ptx promoter (ptxP3), which completely replaced the resident ptxP1 strains. It is possible that the ptxP3 allele has increased bacterial fitness and contributed to the upsurge of pertussis. However, the ptxP3 allele may also be linked to other polymorphic loci important for fitness.

    According to Wikipedia the pertussis toxin inhibits a specific part of the immune system, so it might be that making a large portion of the population immune to the bacteria puts selective pressure on increased toxin production, and hence increased virulence. If that is what happened, you’d have to do statistical analysis to see if overall the vaccine saved lives or not. Also, this isn’t generalizable to other pathogens, since most pathogens aren’t virulent because of their mechanism of evading the immune system.

  25. #25 Andreas Johansson
    July 2, 2011

    Matthew Cline wrote:

    Why not a homeopathic preparation of the malaria protozoa?

    The protozoon wasn’t known in Hahnemann’s time?

    Fleegman wrote:

    It reminds me of Scientology in that way. That particular organisation has so much scientology-specific language that learning it, and speaking it with fellow cultists, helps to increase the divide between them and non-scientologists.

    Standard operating procedure for cults, found on most “cult checklist” things I’ve seen.

  26. #26 Mojo
    July 2, 2011

    @Matthew Cline:

    Why not a homeopathic preparation of the malaria protozoa?

    There is a nosode (as a remedy made from the purported causitive agent of a disease is called) called Malaria Co, made from the malaria parasite.

    @Andreas Johansson:

    The protozoon wasn’t known in Hahnemann’s time?

    There is also a nosode, invented before the discovery of the protozoan, called Malaria Officinalis. Because people thought that malaria was cuased by smells from swamps it was prepared from rotting vegetation from a swamp.

    It is still used.

  27. #27 Tsu Dho Nimh
    July 2, 2011

    @4 “Why not a homeopathic preparation of the malaria protozoa?”

    That’s given to PREVENT malaria, not to treat it.

  28. #28 sophia8
    July 2, 2011

    JulesP @25: Not sure exactly which experiment you’re referring to, but for general debunking of the idiotic “water memory” pseudoscience, start here.
    For a debunking of the What The Bleep movie, start here.

  29. #29 stripey_cat
    July 2, 2011

    Becca, Rene, do we know the effect of chronic or recurrent infection on survival rates of other diseases? Will a child with vivax malaria be more likely to go down to diarrhoea than a healthy child? Intuitively, I’d guess yes, but do you know of any studies?

  30. #30 becca
    July 2, 2011

    @stripey_cat
    First, most of what I know is about falciparum. Vivax may vary (I commented about that, but perhaps it was too long).
    Second, I don’t know of studies looking at what you suggest. I agree it seems logical, but especially for vivax, I personally can’t confirm that there are data to support it (I briefly checked Pubmed and there’s a lot there, but I didn’t see anything that relates specifically to quantifying risk of X disease increasing if one has malaria).

    I do know that counting malaria fatalities is complicated. At one point, many people in certain endemic areas just assumed any fever was malaria. Now we are getting better numbers with combinations of microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests. Another factor that I’ve been told is important is that it is reasonably common for people dying of malaria to actually have multiple infections, making it harder to attribute the cause (the arsenic and old lace effect, i.e. “he wouldn’t have died of pneumonia if I hadn’t shot him!!!”). Based on that, I’d strongly suspect vivax could make children more susceptible to diarrhoea

    I also know there’s some literature on worms and malaria (having worms may make malaria worse) and HIV and malaria (having HIV may make malaria worse; but I don’t know of any studies looking at risk of HIV if you’ve got malaria).

    There is also ancient pre-ethics board work on using malaria infections to treat syphilis (yeah, weird).

    In addition, there are really strange and interesting connections between malaria and Burkitt’s lymphoma. It seems that getting malaria early in life may set you up for getting EBV early in life and thus put you at higher risk of Burkitt’s lymphoma. I’ve got no clue if vivax could do the same in that context (the data I’m familiar with are from Kenya, where falciparum is endemic).

  31. #31 Rene Najera
    July 3, 2011

    Has anyone done a word count? I’m willing to bet good money that Becca has now written more in her comments than Orac did in the article.

  32. #32 Calli Arcale
    July 3, 2011

    I don’t know who wins the word count, but I gotta say, becca’s posts are fascinating!

  33. #33 Wolfgang
    July 4, 2011

    and this pharmacist tops them all:

    http://www.alpha-shop.biz/epages/62721738.sf/de_DE/?ObjectPath=/Shops/62721738/Products/C0021/SubProducts/c0021-001

    sorry its in German only.
    We are told that travelling abroad our immune system is confronted with until now unknown challenges like malaria etc..

    For this we have problematic vaccines. And the pharmacist has the solution:

    He mixes different vaccines together (also the non existing malaria vaccine !!!) and then this broth is destilled twice.
    The result is bidestilled water, which is formulated in a spray and the information derived from the vaccine protects against malaria, when you spay the distilled water below your tongue. The price for this bidistilled water is 15 €/50ml.

    Unbelievable that this pharmacist can earn money with his junk.

  34. #34 dt
    July 4, 2011

    @ToddW
    The difference between malarial presentations:

    Recrudescence – a flare of malaria symptoms within a short period of time usually caused by incomplete treatment which temporarily suppresses but does not eradicate the blood forms of the cycle.

    Relapse – True relapse is due to subsequent re-emergence of dormant hypnozoites from the liver, with re-established blood cycles and further symptoms mimicking an acute attack. This happens with vivax malaria, but not falciparum. It usually occurs within 6 months – tales of it happening out the blue “20 years later” are urban myth.

    Re-infection – obvious really, this one requires new infection with a new “dose” of malarial parasites as distinct from the above 2 types.

  35. #35 MPH
    July 4, 2011

    Thanks to homeopathic drug makers who are apparently incapable of making a serial dilution, you CAN get sick from overdosing on homeopathic drugs:

    http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm230761.htm

    Last fall, Hyland’s Teething Tablets, a homeopathic remedy given to babies, were recalled after infants reported symptoms of belladonna toxicity and the tablets were found to contain inconsistent and possibly hazardous amounts of belladonna, one of the most lethal plants known to man.

  36. #36 maxh
    July 4, 2011

    Gosh, this is really interesting! Partly because I’ve suffered from malaria twice within the last year (July ’10 and October ’10) while I was volunteering in The Gambia. The first bout was when I was taking anti-malarials (doxy) and was fairly mild and I treated it quickly and successfully. The second bout was about a month after my anti-malarials ran out and was horrific. I was out of work for a ood week. Fever, chills, head aches, pains etc etc. I treated with the same drug as I did previously but instead of clearing up over night it took days to get better. And then I came down with a stomach infection!

    So now I’m wondering if I have any parasite still in my liver, and if it will re-emerge at any time or if now I’m done. I started taking doxy again after my second bout and was fine for the next 6 months.

    Homeopathists are a bunch of frauds. I was in the middle of the Gambian bush and all around me my friends and colleagues came down with malaria during the rainy season and if they were lucky, went to the vaguely local health centre for IV treatment. My expensive western pills were literally life-savers.

  37. #37 dt
    July 5, 2011

    Maxh, you won’t get a malarial relapse unless you were infected with the vivax or ovale strains, which are much less common in Gambia, where virtually all the malaria is falciparum, which won’t relapse. Nevertheless, should you ever get similar symptoms, always mention to your doc that you were in Gambia in 2010, so they can do the right tests to rule out a relapse.

  38. #38 Paul Murray
    July 6, 2011

    Hmm. I wonder if Arsenic actually would kill malaria? Rather like Mercury for Syphilis

  39. #39 Erwin Alber
    July 13, 2011

    By a curious twist of fate, vaccination was first launched by Edward Jenner the same year (1796) Samuel Hahnemann launched homeopathy, which ironically is virtually the only healing modality which can be used with some degree of success to alleviate or to reverse some of the needle nuts’ vaccine-induced disasters, including autism.

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