Mail harmless bacteria, go to jail

Being a microbiologist can be a dangerous business. Some of us work out in the field, exposed to weather, animals, and pathogens of all different forms. Some do research in countries with unstable governments, collecting samples and tracking down infected individuals in the midst of strife, poverty, and warfare. Some remain in the lab, but share it with agents that can be handled only under high levels of containment, and may need special labs and permits just to do their research. We all realize our job contains some level of risk, and do what we can to minimize that.

However, as much as we try to protect ourselves against biological dangers, we can't wall ourselves off from every form of risk, especially if it comes at us from unexpected places--like those who are supposed to keep the public safe. Since 9/11, the government has invested a huge amount of resources into research on pathogens that have the potential to be biological weapons (at the expense of basic research into other, more "mundane" pathogens), and scrutiny of all things microbiological has increased dramatically. This has caused scientists to get caught in the crosshairs, such as Thomas Butler, a microbiologist at Texas Tech who worked on Yersinia pestis (the bacterium that causes bubonic plague) among other organisms.

After initially being investigated for charges including bioterrorism (later dropped) following his report of missing bacterial vials, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison for a collection of other charges unrelated the original incident, producing a chilling effect upon the microbiology community: no one is safe from prosecution, and even a simple mistake can land you behind bars, stripped of your job and defending yourself with your retirement savings.

This isn't the only case like this, either. Just last week, a University of Pittsburgh geneticist, Robert Ferrell, plead guilty to charges of failing to follow proper procedures in mailing samples, after being investigated initially for charges related to bioterrorism that were dropped (similar to the Butler case), and another professor awaits trial; more after the jump.

Dr. Ferrell's story begins in 2004. Ferrell ordered two isolates of bacteria from the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), a central repository for all types of biological samples. The species that Ferrell ordered were Bacillus subtilis, a soil bacterium sometimes used to model its pathogenic cousin, Bacillus anthracis, and Serratia marcescens, a ubiquitous bacterium that occasionally causes opportunistic infections. These species of bacteria are commonly used in high school and college microbiology labs because of their low pathogenicity. (Serratia is particularly nice because it produces a red pigment as it grows). Ferrell then mailed these to another professor and artist, Dr. Steven Kurtz of SUNY-Buffalo and founder of the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE).

Kurtz then used these bacteria as part of an art exhibit raising awareness about genetically modified food, and all hell broke loose:

In May 2004 the Kurtzes were preparing to present Free Range Grain, a project examining GM agriculture...when Hope Kurtz died of heart failure. Police who responded to Kurtz's 911 call deemed the couple's art suspicious, and called the FBI. The art materials consisted of several petri dishes containing three harmless bacteria cultures [the two mentioned above plus E. coli--TS], and a mobile lab to test food labeled "organic" for the presence of genetically modified ingredients. As Kurtz explained, these materials had been safely displayed in museums and galleries throughout Europe and North America with absolutely no risk to the public.

The next day, however, as Kurtz was on his way to the funeral home, he was illegally detained by agents from the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force, who informed him he was being investigated for "bioterrorism." At no point during the 22 hours Kurtz was held and questioned did the agents Mirandize him or inform him he could leave. Meanwhile, agents from numerous federal law enforcement agencies - including five regional branches of the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Buffalo Police, Fire Department, and state Marshall's office - descended on Kurtz's home in Hazmat suits. Cordoning off half a block around his home, they seized his cat, car, computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife's body from the county coroner for further analysis. The Erie County Health Department condemned his house as a possible "health risk."

A week later, only after the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State had tested samples from the home and announced there was no public safety threat, was Kurtz allowed to return to his home and to recover his wife's body.

These events have been made into a recent movie; however, the story (obviously) didn't end there. You see, Ferrell had signed a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) with the ATCC. The one at the link was updated in September 2003, so I can't be sure it was the version Ferrell would have used, but it states in part:

Scope of Use


The Purchaser shall not distribute, sell, lend or otherwise transfer the Material or Replicates for any reason. (emphasis in original)

Ferrell violated this agreement by sharing the strains with Kurtz. Normally, this would be an issue handled between Ferrell (and his university) and ATCC; however, under the broad definitions of mail and wire fraud under the Patriot Act, the government stepped in and charged Kurtz and Ferrell with mail and wire fraud--felonies that, since they're being charged under the Patriot Act, could carry a possible 20-year sentence.

At the time of his arrest, Ferrell was getting ready to undergo a stem cell procedure as a treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma that he'd been battling for many years. Since the case began 3 years ago, he's suffered 2 minor strokes and one major stroke; his exhaustion was cited as a reason he agreed to the plea deal on lesser charges of failing to follow proper procedures in mailing samples (though I've not seen it explained how he mailed them; did he fail to include explanation that it was biohazardous material?). Kurtz is still fighting the charges and waiting for his day in court.

Many questions remain. Neither ATCC nor the University of Pittsburgh filed charges as the presumably defrauded parties (the bacterial samples cost $256 from ATCC)--so why is this a federal issue? Why have these cases, which started out as high-profile bioterrorism investigations that rapidly fizzled out, resulted in federal charges at all, when pre-Patriot Act they likely would have been a civil matter between the (supposedly) wronged party and the professor in question? Supporters have their own theories:

CAE supporters were relieved, but had mixed responses. "This is still a case of intimidation and harrassment," said one. "The FBI is pissed at having gone to such lengths and having found absolutely nothing besides a $256 technicality that won't even stick. They're pissed about how they have been made to look like total idiots in the press for pushing ahead with this, when everyone can see there's nothing there. And they're probably pissed about CAE's writings, which I remember someone speculating they paid someone to read very carefully."

3 years of pursuing this over, as they note, a technicality. What a waste of taxpayer dollars, not to mention the damage done to the reputations and lives of the men and their families at the center of these cases.

More like this

The US bioterrorism program has claimed another victim. Not from a lab accident. Not from an attack. But from a ridiculous and mindless application of regulations meant to protect us from malefactors but which have instead punished scientists who may (or may not) have made missteps in this new…
The art professor is finally cleared but a distinguished biologist was still punished by a ridiculous, mindless, cruel and utterly reckless use of raw power by the Bush administration: A federal judge dismissed criminal indictments on Monday against an art professor at the State University of New…
Tara has a real horror story: a geneticist failed to follow procedure in mailing some samples, sharing some harmless commercial strains of some innocuous and common bacteria with an artist, the kind of thing that a bureaucrat would reasonably respond to with a hand-slap and insistence that the…
Last fall I wrote about the bizarre case of University of Pittsburgh geneticist Robert Ferrell. Dr. Ferrell, you may recall, had been prosecuted for sharing generally-harmless strains of bacteria with a colleague, SUNY-Buffalo art professor Steven Kurtz. Dr. Kurtz then used the bacterial cultures…

I sure feel safer with those damn liberal professors off the streets.[/sarcasm]

This is a sad commentary on the utter lack of common sense and decency in all levels of our government.

Too bad most people assume that the Patriot Act doesn't apply to them since they "aren't doing anything wrong"; guess they don't figure the government will make up bogus accusations and then pursue them too the hilt.

Makes you want to turn some people in to the feds for carrying e. coli onto airplanes hidden in their digestive systems.

This is all based on the same theory as the Mooninite invasion of Boston bruhaha: anything that scares ignorant people must be a crime. And once ignorant people are scared, the police must step in and "protect" them by "getting" the perps.

"OhMyGosh -- Bacteria!!!!" Anything they don't understand must be dangerous, I guess. Heaven help them if they ever culture and type their guts or the soil in their garden. I guarantee there are more nasties out there!

By spudbeach (not verified) on 15 Oct 2007 #permalink

I think Serratia marcescens has been recognized as kind of a problem lately, but this is a definite overreaction.

Too bad he didn't culture it off of a shower curtain, get B. subtilis from the dirt, or culture the E. coli from some spinach or apple juice.

Wow. Back in my college days (late 80's), we carried C-14 tagged phototrophic bacteria samples in our carry-on luggage from Boston to Seattle.

Today we'd be nailed on two counts: Bioterror and Nuclear weapons...

By dochocson (not verified) on 15 Oct 2007 #permalink

Admitting that "harmless bacteria" is anything but a contradiction in terms would:

1. be bad for business, to anyone who sells disinfectant wipes or alcohol hand rub or Triclosan-laced liquid soap

2. erode the authority of law-enforcement personnel who need a heightened state of fear to keep operating the way they do.

a fish rots from the head. unless law enforcement runs by it's self look above the guys on the ground.. they need cases to show up in the statistics. we only know what we are told. what percent of the cases that are stated as "look how good we are doing keeping you safe" are just like this when the law says you can't make any of it public?

By uncle frogy (not verified) on 15 Oct 2007 #permalink

Since 9/11, the government has invested a huge amount of resources into research on pathogens

Yeah, a couple of hijackers flying planes into buildings resulted in research on bio-terrorism, like Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction resulted in total chaos in Irak. Sorry, you said? There were no mass destruction weapons? Yeah, I know. Everybody knows. But few come to the right conclusions. Like for instance, Bush should have been kicked in his ass for his lies, instead of being reelected.

Being a microbiologist can be a dangerous business.

Yeah, if you spread fairy tales about deadly bacteria, you must be prepaired to face a judge when you expose people to the subject of your baby talk.

Send me a box of Yersinia pestis, Tara, I couldn't care less even if you put the contents of your box on my table next time I have dinner. What? Oh yeah, I forgot. You can't send me anything like that, you might be imprisoned. Too bad ain't it? You would have done it long since if you only could. Or some HI-virus in pure culture, or H5N1, or whatever.

collecting samples and tracking down infected individuals in the midst of strife, poverty, and warfare

Microbes... Ha! Ha! Ha!
Strife, poverty and warfare, that's what we should track down, Tara. The guy with the gun over there, Tara; the jerk who sold arms to both parties, Tara; The thieves from rich countries stealing the poor;
There are your pathogens, Tara.

... tracking down the infected individuals...
Do you simply realise what you wrote, Tara?

I believe it's time to spam-block jspreen.

By James Stein (not verified) on 16 Oct 2007 #permalink

The only way they can get a "conviction" is via a plea agreement. No jury would convict under such circumstances. The obvious prosecution strategy is to apply pressure which obviously was successful. To make a bad pun 3 strokes and you are out.

It is worse than a waste of resources. It is resources being actively used to cause harm.

I believe it's time to spam-block jspreen.

Well, I can understand my messages hurt many eyes. But if you blocked them, could you reasonably call it SPAM-blocking?

Oh yeah, I forgot. You can't send me anything like that, you might be imprisoned. Too bad ain't it? You would have done it long since if you only could.

That's a rather slanderous claim...

That's a rather slanderous claim...

Yes, I recognize and I regret. But it's not meant that way at all. I meant it in the sense of a challenge like: Ok, jspreen, you really think germs are harmless? Here, I send you some. Now you can prove what you stand for.

to jspreen,

If you really want to get some Yersinia pestis, just go chase some squirrels out west. Make sure that you can dig through their nest so that you can get lots and lots of flea bites.

Your argument is logically inconsitant. If you imply that deadly bacteria are fairly tales then you accuse Tara of wanting to kill you with the deadly bacteria. So which is it, do you think that bacteria are harmless, or do you think that Tara wants to kill you? You got some serious issues to work out.

We had another recent attack of Mooninite hysteria among the authorities here in Boston. An MIT student made the mistake of going to the airport wearing a homemade bit of electronic jewelry with flashing lights and a visible circuit board. Panicked authorities confronted her, and it sounds as if she came very close to being shot (because everybody knows that terrorists like to decorate their bombs with flashing lights, right?). They announced to the newspapers that they arrested a perpetrator with a "hoax bomb." She wasn't even inside security, but in the outer part of the terminal where people walk around with impunity toting large, not-yet-inspected bags big enough to carry a significant quantity of explosive, yet they pounced on a girl wearing a visible circuit board about the size of an iPod.

Of course, when something like this happens, nobody can admit that they made a mistake, because that would reveal that the people supposedly protecting us from terrorism don't have the faintest idea what they are doing, which might result in their being replaced by somebody actually competent, so the hapless student is being charged with a crime.

So, jspreen, is it your contention that ALL bacteria are harmless? Just curious.

By dochocson (not verified) on 16 Oct 2007 #permalink

Homeland security in its never ending battle against terror plots (real or imagined) now plan to test all airline passengers for the e. coli bacteria. Because the enemy is scary all bacteria must in turn be as scary as well. An undisclosed source was quoted as saying "we intend to make sure no one is allowed to board a plane without a clean gut, no bacteria will be allowed to impede the safety other passengers no matter what the cost".…

vital to what?

So, jspreen, is it your contention that ALL bacteria are harmless?

Yes. The germ theory of diseases is nonsense. Pasteur was a vulgar plagiarist and imposter. Google Antoine Béchamp to learn more.

The theory of kinematics is nonsense. Newton was a vulgar plagiarist and imposter. Google Gottfried Leibniz to learn more.

The theory of nuclear physics is nonsense. Hahn was a vulgar plagarist and imposter. Google Lise Meitner to learn more.

The theory of the structure of DNA is nonsense. Watson & Crick were vulgar plagarists and imposters. Google Rosalind Franklin to learn more.

Ad hominem still gets you less than bupkis, jspreen. What you should get, though, is a job. Or MRSA. I don't care which.

This over reaction based on ignorance is getting more and more common. I especially hate the way they flail around to find some other offense that justifies their error, when in fact it compounds their failings.

The kid whose iPod slipped out of his pocket into an airplane toilet is another case in point. That time it was Canadian security idiots. They used all possible means to get something on him, including a Customs search of his computer for child pornography and hate speech. At least they didn't invoke the Anti-Terrorism Act to detain or charge him.

We put people in charge of keeping us safe from highly improbable events. Somehow the current system does not deal well with false positives.

As I write this it strikes me that, except for the highly improbable part, this is very much analogous to the immune system. We are seeing the equivalent of a flawed and overactive immune system causing allergies and auto immune responses.

No I am not going to actively stimulate the security system so as to generate false positives until they learn how to handle them better. I have seen others speculate that a coordinated terrorist attack intended to generate many false positive responses would be an effective way to dupe the security forces into causing the intended disruption themselves.

By JohnnieCanuck, FCD (not verified) on 16 Oct 2007 #permalink

Now what's that, Dustin?

Newton and Leibniz: same theory. Both are renowned scientist today.
Meitner and Hahn: Idem
R. Franklin and Watson&Crick: Idem

But Bechamp and Pasteur: Totally opposing each other. The great scientist of the two was undoubtedly Bechamp. But Bechamp has been completely wiped out of the history of science. Why? His work clearly shows that the germ theory of diseases was stupid.
In a certain way Bechamp vs Pasteur is comparable to Gallo vs Duesberg a century later. But today we have the Internet and it will be quite a job to get defenately rid of Duesberg&Co, I figure.

What you should get, though, is a job.

I desperately try to get one but up to now GSK did't respond.

But Bechamp and Pasteur: Totally opposing each other.

Oh, pardon me. I either misunderstood the words "plagarism" and "impostor" or I ascribed to your posts more coherence than they actually have.

Say, in the interest of enlightening these dogmatic scientists, would you care to offer a dissertation on the mechanism by which black bile produces a melancholic disposition? Or maybe the mechanism responsible for the negating effects that sustenance of a sanguine nature seems to have on black bile? If that isn't your area of expertise, perhaps you've managed to isolate that most elusive of humors. Also, I've found myself wondering how to properly use my beads and rattles to produce the powerful mojo, and I think you're probably THE go-to expert in that field. Do you have a link to a short tutorial?

Yeah, I really have no idea why they didn't introduce you to GSK, seems odd. After reading that letter the only conclusion I can come to is they are afraid of you powerful skills of deduction and your masterful control of logic being far beyond that of any average human being. Stay strong jspreen, your tireless contributions to mankind will be noticed and rewarded eventually!

After reading that letter the only conclusion I can come to is they are afraid of you powerful skills of deduction and your masterful control of logic being far beyond that of any average human being.

It's true! His awesome grasp of mathematics is almost too much for me to bear. How is it that his elegant equations have not been brought before the mathematical community and awarded the Fields Medal they so richly deserve?


You are speaking truth to those who think they are power.

Good gods, is jspreem a bloody joke? I actually used germ theory denial as a absurdly extreme example, in a discussion about why I write about denialism. I know such people exist, but it's rather shocking to actually witness the burning stupidity.

On Topic,

I have a old high school friend who caused me to be visited by the FBI (they actually raided his house). I don't even recall what it is that he cultured, there were several bacteria involved, but all of them were harmless. We found out later that his nemesis from the marching band, overheard us talking one day, when he was explaining that C-4 explosives, were actually based on a bacteria culture, one that he could culture with the various items he had in his bedroom lab. In the same discussion, I related the anecdote about accidentally blowing up the laundry room at home, when I miscalculated the amount of zinc to hydrochloric acid and produced fairly copious amounts of hydrogen gas.

I actually had more explaining than my buddy, who was able to clearly show his work with and identify the bacteria he was working with. I, OTOH, had eighteen+ pounds of home-made black powder, a bunch of various oxidized metals and several home-made mortars. The books on the art of making fireworks saved me from serious trouble, but my parents let them confiscate the black powder and oxides (most of which I had made myself). All my hard work, gone in moments. At least they didn't get my solid fuel for the magnesium torch:) (McGyver inspired the magnesium torch)

On Topic

Thank the Einstein Field Equations. I was getting the impression that didn't happen here. I am glad this spirit of persecution wasn't loose on the world when I was in high school. We occupied ourselves with those Mimms books from Radio Shack. We already had plenty of problems with the administration and counselors because we tended to keep to ourselves, and (as we all know) "It's always the quiet ones". I can only imagine what might have happened if the nerd hate was combined with an overriding fear that anything with LEDs or ICs might be a terrorist device.

...well, there was that one time we stole all of the locker combinations for the entire school. And that other time we disabled all of the nanny software in the library.

Now that I think about it, I may have been a rotten kid. Still, that was just rotten kid stuff. These days, it would probably result in rounds of public scorn and expulsions and criminal charges.

I'm going to have to stop joking about the "biological experiments" gestating on those leftovers in the back of the fridge.

By tourettist (not verified) on 16 Oct 2007 #permalink

Dustin -

I am glad this spirit of persecution wasn't loose on the world when I was in high school.

No shit. I would have been so gone to jail. I never had an interest in hurting anyone, last thing that would ever have crossed my mind. But I really liked to make pretty fire and find interesting ways to photograph it. I also really liked to make explosives. Had my bust happened today, they would have probably found a lot more interesting information, including my designs for detonators. Hell, the magnesium fuel would have probably been a serious charge, never mind that it was intended to "impress the girls" by writing with it in dirt (not that I ever actually did that, too introverted back then).

Good gods, is jspreem a bloody joke? I actually used germ theory denial as a absurdly extreme example, in a discussion about why I write about denialism.

Spreen has already had a thread devoted to him: In which I quit my job and rally against the germ theory of disease

Somebody jokingly mentioned gravity denial expecting that to be obviously absurd. Never underestimate the stupidity of fellow man. A gravity denialist emerged.

On topic. Things I learnt going through security checks at airports: Wear shoes. Don't carry chemical samples in plastic zip lock bags in shirt pocket.

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 16 Oct 2007 #permalink

why not start a gravity truth site? like john moore did with aids truth. LOL a crazy argument doesnt need a "truth/debunking site" unless the orthodoxy is SCARED, hiv fact or fraud google it project day lily google it.

X-posting so as to catch as many eyeballs as possible.

Is there any public, organised effort being made to help Ferrell? A legal defense fund? A health fund? A letter-writing campaign? If there is, can someone please share details?

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

For luna the cat

This is a website describing a defense fund set up by the organization that the artist belongs to. I don't know if they are collecting money strictly for him or also for Ferrell but at the very least they would be able to direct you to an appropriate site.

So, jspreen, you deny the existence of parasitic bacteria and of any viruses?

Surely you also deny the existence of parasitic animals like tapeworms, and of parasitic plants like mistletoe? That would be logical.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

why not start a gravity truth site? like john moore did with aids truth. LOL a crazy argument doesnt need a "truth/debunking site" unless the orthodoxy is SCARED, hiv fact or fraud google it project day lily google it.

Wrong. Debunking sites are also a good idea if lots of people believe in a crazy argument due to ignorance. I gave you links last time: for example, there is a page that debunks the "there was no landing on the moon" myth.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

On the one hand, I want to know how germ denalists explain the efficacy of antibiotics.

On the other hand, I really don't.

Also: Yeah, a lot of conspiracy theories scare the orthodoxy. This is because delusional people are scary.

By Michael Ralston (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

So, jspreen, you deny the existence of parasitic bacteria and of any viruses?

You really have problems with your eyes, David MarjanoviÄ, and I do better understand now how come you see corpses and debris all over the photographs of the Pentagon lawn.

You see, I don't deny the existence of germs, I simply wrote that the germ theory of diseases is nonsense meaning that germs, however active they may be during a phase of a disease, do not cause diseases. Comparable to saying that flies didn't cause the death of the corps they're on.

Cooler -

In the case of woo like yours, woo that kills, it is important to debunk the bullshit, lest the credulous believe you and die for it.

I realize that you must feel really grand and superior, not buying into the "popular" line, on a number of issues. Like you know something that people who follow the evidence don't. Getting that certain sense that, because you piss people off and people call you crazy, you must be right. Well, it follows like this. While it is true that children appearing rather stupid and backwards, can be a sign of great intelligence, it can also be a sign that they're stupid and backwards. Likewise, while it is true that ideas that most people think are insane and stupid, sometimes turn out to be true, quite often the ideas are just plain insane and stupid.

Google Greta Christina "Galileo gambit". She explains this notion with great clarity and eloquence.

That said, there is one scientifascist plot that really burns my butt. This whole notion of DNA, DNno's more like it. Seriously, like a little squiggly line can actually define traits such as hair color and height. This whole genetics hype is just a way for scientifascists to suck up our tax dollars. Everybody knows that Odin didit. 'Sides, you can see bacteria in a regular microscope, but no ones been able to show me this DNA bullshit. I'm not to sure about this gravity stuff either, again, Odin does it.

I think everyone is really not seeing what a valuable resource to science jspreen is. For generations we have been blinded by a Conspiracy of Germs (COG) against knowledge. jspreen, and those like jspreen, have the x-ray goggles of truth, to see through the massive Conspiracy of Evidence and Logic (COEAL). So what if jspreens website has an animated knight that is probably in copyright violate with Age Of Empires II (AOE II) from Microsoft (stock symbol MSFT), copyrights are just another tool that the COG uses to oppress the true thinkers. Keep on fighting the good fight jspreen, someday you and evidence will be one energy and those blinded scientists will rue the day.

You see, I don't deny the existence of germs, I simply wrote that the germ theory of diseases is nonsense meaning that germs, however active they may be during a phase of a disease, do not cause diseases. Comparable to saying that flies didn't cause the death of the corps they're on.

OK. I see.

Now, please answer the comment directly above yours. If "germs" never cause a disease, why does getting rid of them so often rid a patient of the disease?

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Now, please answer the comment directly above yours. If "germs" never cause a disease, why does getting rid of them so often rid a patient of the disease?

Jesus, MarjanoviÄ, it's like you don't know anything! You balance the patient's humors by exorcising the demon causing the imbalance, and because the illness is corrected by the balanced humors, the illness can't produce the germs anymore.

There are various ways of adjuring the offending demon. A tincture made of three pennyweight of mandrake root boiled in water blessed by a priest makes an odor offensive to most demons, thereby causing them to flee. It is often best to have swine around, the demon will take the swine instead, and they can be slaughtered thereby preventing remission. Alternatively, beheading a chicken in a ritualistic fashion can sometimes rid the possessed of the vile spirit in cases where the patient is shown to be adversly affected by the tropane alkaloids in the mandrake root, or in cases where a dog cannot be found to harvest the root to protect the physician from the eldritch scream of that vile plant.

If the demon proves to be particularly resistant to exorcism, one can attempt to negate the effects of the resulting humor imbalance by administering food or drink of an opposing temperament. If the patient is melancholic, he should drink wine. The sanguine nature of the drink will negate the adverse affects created by the over-production of black bile. Alternatively, if a patient is overly sanguine or manic, then removing the offending sanguine humor by leeching or bleeding is advised.

Finally, it should be noted that the act of balancing humors doesn't breed antibiotic resistence, but that wouldn't be a selling point to a genocidal scientist like you, would it?

If "germs" never cause a disease, why does getting rid of them so often rid a patient of the disease?

Why do you ask? You know my answer beforehand, dontya? Well, what the heck. You ask, I answer.

Tell me, how does one get rid of germs present in a patient? You put the guy in a vapor sterilisator or something? And, having cooked the patient, does he really feel much better? Or maybe you use OE? Or radiation? Or a J&J STERRAD?

You can't get rid of germs. They're always around. And they're included in our organism. And, if some germs aren't readily available all the time, microzymas are. Besides, even sterilization doesn't get rid of germs, microzymas can stand over 250°C. That's why traces of germs can be found in rocks millions of years old. Not the germs survive, microzymas do.

Antibiotics don't actually kill the germs. They change certain mechanisms of disease, hence the decrease of germs.

David are you blinded by your dogmatic Faith in the Establishment (FITE). You are a True Believer (TB). Think a little harder, take the blindfold off and look with your eyes for once! Antibiotics don't do anything to germs, they augment your energy and make you vibrate at a higher frequency because low frequency vibrations are the cause of disease. Someday you'll come around David, keep on lookin.

jspreem, keep fighting the good fight, they'll come around!

I have resisted entering this fray for days, but genuine curiosity compels me: jspreen, what about malaria? Plasmodial species are found in the bloodstream, not just with the dreaded death-dealing electron microscopy, but using good old optical microscopy of blood smears, and if you want to look at them alive, you just have to dilute the blood a little bit. A stain will improve visibility, but isn't necessary. As I understand your argument, the organisms are a byproduct of the illness - but then why do we find them in the gut of the mosquito, as well?

And what about multicellular parasites like liver flukes? They can live just fine outside the body, in water. Would human tissues really produce a whole different organism as part of its illness process?

.... what about malaria?....And what about multicellular parasites like liver flukes?...

jen_m, thank you for asking some questions that are not a mere expression of sarcasm with no other goal than to have some fun on behalf of the supposed fool of the village.

Honestly, about malaria, I don't know. And once we leave the beaten path of germ vs microzyma, and do some steps towards multicellular organisms, apparently at the origin of ill-being, things seem to get complicated. Flee, lice, tenia, etc.. Where does the disease begin, inside or outside? The lice on someones head, are they the cause or are they there because something (and I'm not talking about saop and personal hygiene) preceded them.
The man with the gun and the victim... Some say there was already a relation between the two of them before the trigger was pulled. I don't know...

The mal aria, or bad air, is not actually transmitted by mosquitos, but simply carried by mosquitos who live in the valleys and gulches and riverbeds which hold the stagnant air, allowing it to befoul. Like most miasma, the mal aria upsets the humors in a choleric fashion, from which the so-called parasites are made to manifest.

It is particularly sad that the miasmic theory of disease has been supplanted by the false religious doctrine of the pathogenic theory of disease because embracing the latter leads us to believe that it is these imagined unseen "microbes" on doctor's hands and instruments which kill patients, rather than the doctor's halictosis.

I would also like to point out, on top of Dustin's excellent explanation that one of the main perpetrator of this germ theory scam gas been John Snow. He must have been vibrating at a very low frequency indeed when he produced a map supposedly depicting epidemiological evidence to refute the miasma theory, he set science back two centuries at least with his evidence and reasoning.

Yeah, and now we have vaccinations as a result. If people really wanted to keep their children safe from the adverse effects of a miasma, they would have them snort the juicy stuff in a Glade Plug-In.

And because snorting Glade Plug-In goo has kept my children healthy, you know it works.

Honestly, about malaria, I don't know. And once we leave the beaten path of germ vs microzyma, and do some steps towards multicellular organisms, apparently at the origin of ill-being, things seem to get complicated.

But Plasmodia aren't multicellular; they're still unicellular, though eukaryotic. Why should that make a difference?

Do you realize bacteria also form multicellular, specialized structures called biofilms, which are also "some steps toward multicellular organisms"?

(It's easy to appear level-headed when one keeps out of a fight until after everyone else has become completely frustrated.)

To be fair, Dr. Smith, I think that jspreen was alluding to my question about the flukes in the second part of the quoted sentence.

I admit to a great deal of additional confusion about this business of rejecting Pasteur and germ theory. Certainly Koch's original postulates are too black-and-white, as they don't allow for host resistance and problems of sensitivity and specificity of case definition; moreover, deliberately infecting humans with an agent thought to cause disease is a vast ethical no-no. (Jenner was a right bastard. He'd be jailed and sued today.) However, between lab accidents and ghastly old military experiments, several microorganisms have in fact gone the whole way through the process. Neisseria gonorrheae definitely causes gonorrhea; yellow fever is caused by a flavivirus transmitted by mosquitoes in nature.

I also don't understand this business with the microscopy and inability to study living organisms at high resolution. We've had confocal laser scanning microscopy for almost 20 years now. Sure, it usually takes some fluorescent dye to make the sample really super-clear, but we can and do look at living samples all the time without hurting them.

If disease were *not* caused by germs, if it were caused by stress, negative thoughts or bad diet or poor lifestyle, I should think the insurance companies would be all over it. Diseases previously believed to be allopathic would fall under the same category as self-injury, and - voila! - CLAIM DENIED! It'd be the biggest bonanza a corporate bastard could dream of. Every study on a viral or microbial pathogen would be matched by an equal and opposite study discrediting it, thanks to heavy federal funding under the influence of the insurance lobby. Hmm, I wonder how many deniers of germ theory are really just insurance industry shills?

By tourettist (not verified) on 21 Oct 2007 #permalink

It's too bad we don't have someone running for President who is opposed to the excesses of the Patriot Act and has a medical background.

Oh, wait. We do!

--and for those unfamiliar with whom rocketship is talking about,

His name is Ron Paul. But you MUST go out and register republican well BEFORE the primaries (no matter how left you are) and then vote for him in the primaries. He's the only truly honest and intelligent person that has run for president in quite a while.

Ron Paul, MD, has an absolutely uncompromising aversion to soviet-style government over-reaching like this. Everyone, right or left, with a care for liberty and personal rights ought to go vote for Dr Paul in the Republican primary.

Do this to make a statement, if nothing else. True, a Republican primary may be strange territory for many. But what else ya gonna do-- vote for Hillary?

By sesquiculus (not verified) on 14 Nov 2007 #permalink

Not that I disagree with you entirely tourette but insurance companies don't operate like that. They need real disease and disasters to even justify insurance. That still doesn't stop them from denying coverage.

I'm wondering if we ought to temporarily amend Godwin's Law to state that, as the length of a comment thread increases, the probability of someone plugging Ron Paul reaches one. At least until November '08.

There are more health-related issues than the Patriot Act - don't rush out there and register Republican unless you also endorse Rep. Paul's stances on federal regulation of health care (anti), abortion (anti), gun control (anti), federal income tax (anti), and the War on Drugs (anti.)

(There's a reason he's nicknamed Dr. No.)

I know the following statement may seem a little base but it must be said,


"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

By Persona non grata (not verified) on 14 Nov 2007 #permalink

Voodoo is thought to be real by those who practice it, but, as yet, has no basis in science. Many bacteria do exist in the human body, as well as yeast and other fungi. They do not cause disease because they are non-pathogenic. Cultures in yogurt are intentionally introduced to help with gastrointestinal health, in some people. Tetanus is caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria clostridium tetani, salmonella produces a toxin that causes the illness (bloody diarrhea). That is why killing the bateria will CURE THE DISEASE! My aunt was one of the first, in the nation, to be saved from death, from tetanus, by getting antibiotics. Some of the theories and arguments, I just have seen in the comments, above, amaze me. Bad humors were talked about in the middle ages, not modern medicine. And MRSA is no joke. But, it has been around for years. But, it is not "flesh eating bacteria". That is a combination of two types of bacteria that cause a horrible, almost unbeatable, infection. (micro-aerophilic strep and b. fragillus, if I remember right). Without bacteria in the gut of cows,(and many other herbivores) to assist in digestion of cellulose, they would die. So much for McDonald's!

Cops are not scientists and they are making big mistakes in this case, as well as, dealing with pain management doctors! So far, science does not trump the cops and the government! They know more than the scientists!! But, where did the cops get their scientific education to be able to tell the doctors and scientists that they do not know what they are doing?! Screwed up? I'll say!

Who is next to be locked away years as a "suspected terrorist" for making a reasonable mistake. How easy is it to be put on the no-fly list? The Patriot Act is real scary, at its present level of enforcement.

Actually Jenner's experiment probably would pass an ethics committee. At the time a standard procedure was to inoculate with Smallpox. It was known that this carried a far lower risk of death than an infection picked up in the wild did, about 3% as opposed to 30%. So what Jenner did was administer the, not very dangerous, Coxpox, before performing the standard inoculation, which he was going to do anyway. So any additional risk was simply the risk of the Coxpox infection itself.

By Brett Dunbar (not verified) on 11 Jan 2008 #permalink

If you think its bad for microbiologist, trying being a legitimate,honest law abiding chemist. I went to buy some iodine to be used in a simple iodination reaction... something most organic chemistry classes in college might do.
Much to my shock I learned that Iodine was banned, and controled by the DEA.
Even iodine in the drugstore has been confiscated by the Government, because molecular iodine can be isolated. A favorite shampoon of mine, Betadine, used by hospitals to sterilize a surgens hands has now been confiscated.

I am nearing my retirment and I do not think in this present day enviroment of BIG Brother Government that I would even dream of becoming a chemist again. Why? There is no chemical you can buy, own, or use, without the Government big boys coming into your home and carting you off to jail because you own a bottle of -Betadine shampoo...

Where are the professional societies to support scientists?
Where is our congress?
Where is our freedom?
Where are we going as a free society?

Yet anti-vaccination types get away with mailing pathogens to each other to have chickenpox and measles parties and announce to the world these events and mailings on Facebook!
THOSE people should be arrested for bioterrorism and detained where they belong, with Al Qaeda at GITMO.