Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dr. Joseph Brewer at ILADS, 2014

ILADS is a professional scientific conference focusing on the education and treatment of Lyme disease and its co-infections. This year's conference in Washington DC was packed.

I was particularly pleased to see Dr. Neil Nathan from Gordon Medical Associates give several lectures, one on viral treatment for the Lyme patient and one on methylation. Dr. Nathan is a remarkable clinician, one who is open to suggestion regarding different treatment modalities. Dr. Nathan, Dr. Eric Gordon and Dr. Wayne Anderson form a unique group of physicians working on these complex illnesses out of one clinic, Gordon Medical Associates in Santa Rosa, CA. 

Dr. Nathan worked closely with Rich van Konynenburg. In 2009, they did an important study together on methylation.

I really went to ILADS to hear Dr. Joseph Brewer update us on his treatment for Mycotoxins in ME/CFS and Lyme. The bottom line of Dr. Brewer’s lecture was that this treatment is continuing to provide remarkable results. Over time Dr. Brewer has gained confidence that he is really onto something here. Many others are beginning also to understand and treat patients for mold and mycotoxin involvement.

A previous blog post from October 2013 covered Dr. Brewers previous Mycotoxins lecture at ILADS. It can be found here.

Once again Dr. Brewer gave a quick review of the overall picture of mycotoxins and chronic illness.  Dr. Brewer pointed out that mycotoxins suppress all aspects of the immune system. Certainly this is what Shoemaker and others have found. 

Dr. Brewer continues to use Ampho B in an atomized nasal application. Ampho B has caused serious nasal irritation in some patients. These patients either cut back their treatment or shift to another treatment drug.

Dr. Brewer presented a pilot study, done with his own patients. This is an open label observational study done by him and his patients. This pilot study covered treatment of 151 patients between May 2013 and May 2014. The treatment for all patients was two fold: nasal atomized Ampho B and nasal atomized PX chelating formula. Chelating PX is a combination of EDTA and a surfactant. Each patient did each agent once daily for at least six months. A few were every other day dosage.

56 patients dropped out, not able to tolerate Ampho B.

94 of 151 continued on the study. 

Of those 94, 88 showed improvement at the end of the study. This is a 93.7% improvement rate. Improvement was 25-50% or greater from baseline, and this was self-reported.

One third of the 88 are pretty much back to normal. These patients have had a complete resolution of symptoms. 

58% of the total 151 improved with this treatment. 

Die off was reported at 13%. Dr. Brewer believes the die off percentage was higher, perhaps in range of 30-40%.

22 patients continue to be followed. Some of these have stopped treatment while others were on maintenance doses. A number of patients have relapsed after stopping treatment.

A few patients, more recently, have stayed off treatment and have not regressed. It is believed that the treatment has to be continued for a certain unspecified duration for complete resolution.

Since April 2014, Dr. Brewer has begun using nasal Nystatin on a number of his newer patients. He has now treated 80 patients with Nystatin. Most of them were in the Ampho B intolerant group. ASL pharmacy has been unsuccessful in making a liquid formulation of Nystatin for atomization. Instead they fashioned it in a pill form. The pill is opened and the powdered Nystatin is mixed with distilled water prior to being atomized with the Nasa-Touch. The patients on Nystatin have no nasal symptoms. It seems to be very user friendly on the nose. Die off is about the same as with Ampho B cohort. Preliminary results indicate that these patients are improving on nasal Nystatin treatment.

There may be other agents that could be useful and they will be studied.

This report is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not to be seen as medical advice in any way.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


The following is an update on mitochondria and mitochondria testing in ME/CFS, a kind of overview as I see it. None of the following has to do with "Science", say, as practiced by Dr. Lipkin. Instead it fits more into the category of what Dr. Shoemaker would call "desperation medicine". I prefer myself to call it 19th century medicine, epitomized by this: "here, try this".

I do not pretend to be interested in science - especially relative to ME/CFS. However, real science activity in other areas - the immune system for instance, or gut ecology - is of great interest to me. I absolutely believe that something helpful will "slop over" into "my illness area" from other illnesses. This is my view and I work accordingly, trying to calculate the odds of any particular treatment, knowing that all treatments are experimental ("non-scientific") - and a potential threat. No one can convince me though that "my chronic illness" does not involve mitochondrial dysfunction.

Dr. John McLaren-Howard started Biolab in London many years ago. He has always been a real hero to me. When he retired, he formed the small lab Acumen lab in Cornwall UK. (I have always imagined Acumen to be in Dr. Howard's basement - or garage.) Dr. Howard has continued doing various tests that he began at Biolab. Principal among these is a mitochondrial profile test (examples are at the end of this post). Dr Sarah Myhill discusses the mitochondrial profile test here. Dr. McLaren-Howard offers other mitochondrial tests - translocator protein, DNA adducts, cell-free DNA, Cardiolipin studies in mitochondrial membrane, blood metallothionein studies, and toxic effects studies. All these tests give insight into the working of the mitochondria.

Dr. Howard has worked with Norman Booth and Sarah Myhill and published various papers on his mitochondrial testing, as it relates to ME/CFS patients. A 2009 paper can be found hereHere is another important paper from 2012.

I wrote about this mitochondrial test in 2011 in another post on this blog, and also here a year later.

For a fee, Dr. Myhill will write an analysis on the test result and suggest various treatments. The treatments that she suggests to increase mitochondrial function are well known and can be found here and roughly parallel what in the larger world of mitochondrial illness is known as the "mitochondria cocktail". This includes co-Q10, acetyl-l-carnitine, d-ribose, NAD, creatine, and magnesium. I think it is fair to say that great weight is put on magnesium.

Often magnesium is found to be low in ME/CFS patients and this is one element that Dr. Myhill says can be corrected through sub-Q magnesium injections. (I would appreciate hearing a conversation between Myhil and Cheney on this subject.) Tests at Quest or Biolab can be done on coQ-10. Status of blood levels of carnitine and NAD are part of the basic Acumen test. The basic test covers ATP profile, SOD, Cell free DNA, NAD blood levels, and Carnitine blood levels.

Anecdotally, various items can be altered with supplements. Blood levels of coQ10, carnitine and NAD can be improved. What this means clinically is another matter.

A third paper of the collaboration, emphasizing treatment, can be found here. It indicates that a majority of patients improve with supplemental treatment. I myself have found that the test can be normalized with aggressive treatment. In the third paper published by Myhill et al, patient betterment was achieved, indicating clearly, as in my case, that mitochondrial normalization (via this test) is helpful.

Dr. Paul Cheney might take a slightly different view of the matter of mitochondrial treatment. He might express that "front-door" treatment of the low measurements of carnitine and co-Q10 is ineffective, and indeed perhaps counterproductive. Dr. Cheney believes that mitochondrial dysfunction in ME/CSF is a self-protective down-regulation and has to be dealt with carefully. This is a fantastic idea and certainly possible. Dr. Robert Naviaux holds similar views with his "playing dead" thesis.

Dr. Cheney himself would perhaps treat mitochondria with high- dose hydroxocobalamin B12, frequent S/Q magnesium injections, transdermal creams or sprays. It is his belief that magnesium in these patients is constantly leaking out of the mitochondria and needs constant replacement. Dr. Cheney might also suggest Isoprinosine (Inosine) and Klonopin. Mitochondria have a klonopin receptor.

Dr. McClaren-Howard and Dr. Derrick Lonsdale, now retired, would suggest thiamine injections or supplementation with an active form of thiamine, as found at Our Kids. Dr. McLaren-Howard would suggest that thiamine is necessary to get magnesium into mitochondria. A transketolase test can be done at King James lab to determine active thiamine levels and the presence or not of a blocking enzyme. This is not an unimportant detail. (Actually King James lab has closed now. Life goes on.)

Dr Joseph Brewer tested PQQ on a number of his patients several years ago, looking to increase mitochondrial function. He also told me about Dr. Richard Boles, who is medical director at Courtagen Life Sciences, a mitochondrial research company. This is another level of mitochondrial research testing and perhaps the wave of the future. Current prices for testing put it far out of reach.

Terry Wahls

And then there is Terry Wahls. I first wrote about Terry Wahls in 2009 on this post. Dr. Wahls recently published a book on her mitochondrial diet, which is a great elaboration of her first book, Minding My Mitochondria. Various ME/CFS patients gain physical strength in taking on her diet, including daily bone broth, seaweed, and fermented foods. Again there is very little that one would call science here and the treatment improvement is only part of the larger picture.

LRT - lipid replacement therapy

The recent ME/CFS conference in SF featured a poster paper of Dr. Garth Nicholson on lipid therapy for mitochondria. Dr. Nicholson has been working in this area for some years. It was interesting to see Dr. Nicholson and Dr. Cheney discussing Dr. Nicholson's poster paper. Here is a recent article on Garth Nicholson's ideas about LRT - or lipid replacement therapy. Dr. Nicholson has made presentations at various conferences promoting his research and treatment into phosphytidyl lipids, especially NT factor. Dr. Nicholson was certainly telling Dr. Cheney how effective NT factor was - and that it really did get into the cell membrane for repair.

Differing with this and giving a second argument would be Patricia and Ed Kane, both of whom have long advocated a separate phosphytidyl lipid treatment, mostly involving IV infusion. This treatment involves their proprietary phosphytidylcholine (PC), sold at bodybio. More recently they have moved into liposomal or microsomal phosphytidylcholine treatment, which proves to be effective. Here is a video of Ed Kane speaking on phosphatidylcholine therapy. It is a winner.

All of the above are different approaches to "feeding the mitochondria" - and improving the function and the number of mitochondria.

Nicotinamide Riboside

Recently I received the heads-up from my friend Nancy Rouch about a mitochondrial lecture by Dr. Robert Rountree, chief medical officer of Thorne products. While this is one long advertisement for various mitochondrial supplements, it does present interesting information. (This lecture will be available for viewing until the end of July.) Dr Rountree suggests the "usual suspects" - or "foods" - for mitochondria - magnesium, co-Q10, acytel-l-carnitine, creatine. He also adds these items: sulforaphan, green tea polyphenals, berberine, quercetin, cucurmin, resveratrol, pterostilbene, melatonin, NAC, and ketogenic amino acids. He spends a significant amount of time on NR - nicotinamide riboside, a precusor to NAD. What he says about NR is quite impressive. NR can be purchased from Thorne as NiaCell and is a proprietary formula developed and marketed by Chromadex. It is not cheap.

Important research is being done on Nicotinamide by collaborating groups in Switzerland and at Weill Cornell. A significant study was published in 2012.

I would be remiss not to mention all the information and discussions on mitochondria function in ME/CFS on Phoenix Rising and Healthrising. Just search for mitochondria and start reading. The internet is an amazing resource - and these sites are just great.

All these suggestions have to be approached carefully and are entirely dictated by trial and error. To me, strictures and dogmas are not particularly welcome. It is well known that each ME/CFS patient responds individually to any particular treatment. So one must work carefully. Taking things slowly, over weeks and months as opposed to days, is often helpful, setting the goal of building a long term framework. This is a one on one game. Incidentally this is not medical advice. I am not a doctor and I certainly do not want to be one, never did.

Here are the first and second page results of this Mito Profile:

The following is commentary by Dr. Myhill of the above page. "The result is made up of three elements. First of all it measures the rate at which ATP is recycled in cells. Because production of ATP is highly dependent on magnesium status, the first part studies this aspect. The second part measures the efficiency with which ATP is made from ADP. If this is abnormal it could be the result of magnesium deficiency and/or low levels of co-Q10 and/or low levels of NAD, and/or low levels of acetyl L-carnitine. The third possibility is that the protein which transports ATP and ADP across the mitochondrial membranes is impaired and that too is measured."

Friday, April 25, 2014

More on Enteroviruses and ME/CFS

A few recent comments on the history of research into enteroviral involvement in ME/CFS are worth highlighting. These comments come from Dr. Charles Shepherd and from Hip, of the Phoenix Rising forums. Hip contributes multiple, important observations to the Phoenix Rising forum and his ideas are always insightful.

From Charles Shepherd:

"I have now met and listened to Dr. Chia on several occasions and I was at the IACFS/ME conference in San Francisco - where he again presented his findings relating to persisting enteroviral infection. I agree with Tony Komaroff that these findings cannot simply be dismissed and we do need another independent group of virologists to see if they can replicate these findings. I have made these points in my own detailed summary of the conference - which is now being prepared for publication. At present, the balance of evidence (much of which was done in the UK by Professor John Gow and colleagues in Glasgow) relating to persisting enteroviral infection in ME/CFS is against any such link. But I think we should adopt a position of 'the jury is still out' on persistent enteroviral infection in ME/CFS until someone has tried to replicate what is a very thorough and interesting piece of virology research."

From Hip:

"Hi Charles Shepherd,

I believe Professor John Gow primarily looked for enteroviruses in the muscles of ME/CFS patients. However, generally speaking, muscle symptoms such as muscle pain are not that common in ME/CFs, whereas gut and of course especially neurological symptoms (e.g. brain fog, sound sensitivity) are the norm. Thus unless you look for enteroviruses in the areas where the symptoms exist, i.e. gut and nervous system or brain, you may not find much evidence for these viruses. Dr. Chia looked in the gut, and found a strong association between ME/CFS and enterovirus infection; but ideally I think you would want to look in the brain and nervous system (in postmortem studies), because neurological symptoms are really the core of ME/CFS. It is known that when enteroviruses like coxsackie virus B enter the brain, they form a persistent infection of the astrocyte cells and the neural progenitor cells. So these perhaps are the areas where we should be looking for enteroviruses in ME/CFS. Two brain autopsies on deceased ME/CFS patients did indeed find enterovirus in the brain.
Viral Isolation from Brain in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (A Case Report) 2001 J. Richardson 
Enterovirus in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 1994. McGarry F, Gow J, Behan PQ.

Also, it is now known that enteroviruses such as coxsackie virus B form two distinct types of infections in the body: first the normal lytic enterovirus infection, and second the noncytolytic enterovirus infection.  The latter resides purely within human cells, and is not easily detected. Nevertheless, Dr. Chia, and other researchers such as Dr. Nora Chapman, suggest these hard to detect noncytolytic enteroviruses may play a significant role in ME/CFS. Thus ME/CFS studies need to search for both lytic and noncytolytic enteroviruses in ME/CFS patients.

Hi Charles Shepherd,

Also, if you look at the list of enterovirus studies by British researchers from 1983 to 2001 (which includes Prof. Gow's studies), these all found a pretty strong association between ME/CFS and enteroviruses such as coxsackie virus B. This list of enterovirus studies can be found here.

As far as I can see, there seems to be solid and consistent evidence over several decades for the role of enteroviruses in ME/CFS."

Thanks again to Hip and Dr. Charles Shepherd

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"ad astra per aspera" - Dr. John Chia's ideas taking hold

("ad astra per aspera" - "a rough road leads to the stars")

Several summaries have emerged of the IACFS/ME conference, for those who are interested in the details. The first is the transcription of Dr. Komaroff's summary at the end of the conference. We have Patricia Carter of ME/CFS forums to thank for this. Another summary is by Dr. Charles Lapp. It can be found here

Several paragraphs in each summary caught my interest and both deal with a favorite subject of mine: Dr. John Chia and his research into Enterovirus and ME/CFS.

From Patricia Carter's transcription of Dr. Komaroff:

"Dr Chia reported again at this meeting, as he has in the past, the expansion, the latest summary of data from a remarkable report and a remarkable amount of work, Enterovirus Antigen and nucleic acid found in biopsy samples from stomach in cases and control subjects. Finding very marked differences in the frequency of both antigen and nucleic acid in CFS patients compared with controls. He then also reported that when you took the biopsy specimens that these tests suggested contained enterovirus and injected them into mice that, in fact, you found when you sacrificed the mice, evidence of enteroviral infection, a virus in the mouse, indicating that this thing lit up looking like it might be an infectious agent of the biopsy tissue actually produced an infection in another animal. 

To me, these results are very impressive, but it's also depressing to see that, to my knowledge, no academic enterovirologists have sought to try to reproduce this, not even in bulk, to take the samples that already have been collected at enormous effort by Dr. Chia and test them themselves to see if they get the same results that Dr. Chia does. It's a great shame and I hope it changes." 

In fact two of the infected mice died over a weekend, one on a Friday, one on a Monday. "If they do not believe in death, then what do they believe in?" At least one enterovirologist, and perhaps two,  have worked with Dr. Chia's samples.

And then there is this from Dr. Lapp:

"Dr John Chia is an infectious disease specialist and pathologist from Lomita CA. He and his son contracted CFS/ME and were found to have enterovirus infections in their stomachs (see his article in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, Jan 2009. After treatment with a Chinese herbal called oxymatrine (there is no other known therapy for EV) both have recovered and stayed well. Dr. Chia reported to us on further EV studies from his lab. To demonstrate the infectiousness of EV, Chia injected the lysate (Osterized tissue or homogenate) from 24 EV-positive human stomach biopsies into immune deficient SCID mice. When the mice were later sacrificed, 13 out of 20 were positive for EV in their spleens, but only 1 of 10 control mice were positive. However, Chia could not culture the virus from any of the spleens suggesting that although the infections were transferred, incomplete viruses were formed in the receiving mice. In a second study, Chia obtained pathology specimens from 27 women with CFS/ME who had undergone total hysterectomy or salpingo-oophorectomy for chronic pelvic pain. 24 or 27 specimens stained positive for EV, whereas none of 15 healthy control specimens were positive. Three SCID mice were injected from EV-positive specimens and the mice were sacrificed at either 2 or 5 weeks. Spleens and fallopian tubes stained positive for EV at both 2 and 5 weeks, although spleen stain was less obvious at 5 weeks. Western blot studies of all mouse fallopian tubes demonstrated enteroviral proteins. (Ed. note (Lapp) Dr. Chia is making a strong case for enterovirus as a common trigger for CFS/ME, and these studies imply that the infection is transferable. I found it interesting that chronic pelvic pain was localized to the infected fallopian tube in his patients, and that surgery relieved the pain. Sadly, no one else has taken on the task of confirming Dr. Chia's studies. Also there is no known antiviral therapy for EV - just an ill tolerated herbal preparation. Hopefully someone with Chia's expertise will investigate this further and confirm these important findings!)"

It has been seven long years since Dr. Chia's important paper of potential enteroviral involvement in ME/CFS. No one has significantly picked up on his study. As the backbone of his work, Dr. Chia has studied and revisited the history of ME especially in the UK. He has personally re-ignited important and forgotten associations. Dr.Chia is not coming out of nowhere on this. 

"We need to declare EV as one of the causes of ME/CFS. It has been 30 years!"

"Enteroviruses need to be accepted as one of the causes of this illness this year, or else we will wait another ten or more years before a drug will be available for this disease. You need to ask the researchers at Stanford and at the meeting why they are not working on enteroviruses."

I personally have witnessed several virologists flatten Dr. Chia's work. A prominent virologist (regarding Dr. Chia's work, which I had sent him) gave this blunt assessment: "It's crap". There is evidence that this prominent virologist might have altered his views - and perhaps might be willing to help.

We need to move on beyond these attitudes and find out what Dr. Chia is finding. Dr. Chia himself says: "I have spent considerable time trying to convince that I am right. Now it is time for others to prove that I am wrong."

After this IACFS/ME conference it seems that things are turning in a more positive direction for Dr. Chia's stupendous efforts in trying to get at this nasty illness. For those interested, there is more information on Patrick W. Calvins' Quixotic blog. 

And then there is the recent very exciting news regarding new drugs for Hep C. One drug, Sovaldi, from Gilead was approved by the FDA and is both well tolerated and extremely successful in treating Hep C. Two more amazing Hep C drugs are in the pipeline, one from Abbot and another from Bristol-Myers. There is some hope that one of these drugs might be effective against enteroviruses. "If this proves true, it will make all the difference in the world".

So there is some urgency here, and some real hope - but only if Dr. Chia's work is followed up on. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dr. Joseph Brewer and Mycotoxins, an update

Dr. Joseph Brewer of Kansas City was one of the physicians who did not attend the recent IACFS/ME conference. Dr. Brewer is an infectious disease doctor who has been working with AIDS, Lyme and ME/CFS patients for a very long time. Over the years he has become interested in various treatments for ME/CFS - and has been open to thinking about associated subjects such as Mitochondrial impairment (or down regulation) or Mycotoxin involvement - to describe two of his recent interests.

About two years ago now, Dr. Brewer stumbled upon Mycotoxins and their potential involvement in ME/CFS. Dr. Brewer and his associates, Dr. Thrasher and Dr. Hooper, published their first paper on Mycotoxins and ME/CFS in April 2013. It can be view here. In this study, Dr. Brewer reveals finding 93% (104 of 112) of his patients positive for one of three mycotoxins (there are hundreds of mycotoxins) through a test at Real Time Labs in Carrollton TX. 55 controls yielded no positives.

The Real Time Labs test is a urine sample for Ochratoxin A, Aflatoxin and Trichothecenes (MT). (Real time labs will soon have a blood test for gliotoxin, a mycotoxin associated with Aspergillus.) The initial test costs about $700 and appears to be partially reimbursable. On Dr. Brewer's initial study Ochratoxin A showed up the most, although a good number of patients had more than one and some had "the trifecta" - of all three. Dr. Brewer feels that mycotoxins are not good for patients to have in their bodies -  and that they represent a major factor in their ME/CFS illness.

Dr. Brewer reports that these mycotoxins impair mitochondria function and interfere with cell membranes. Loss of mitochondrial function can cause detoxification problems with other toxins. Poor detoxification might have something to do with clinical response.

Dr. Brewer's previous experience with mold or mycotoxins was non-existent. He is an infectious disease doctor who looks for bugs and tries to kill them. In no way can Dr. Brewer be described as a "mold doctor".

In December 2013, Dr. Brewer, Thrasher and Hooper published a second paper on Mycotoxins and their connection to chronic illness - "Chronic Illness Associated with Mold and Mycotoxins - Is Naso-Sinus Fungal Biofilm the culprit?" In this study they laid out their case based on examination of existing literature, citing case studies.

Faced with this high percentage of his patients with potential mycotoxin involvement, Dr. Brewer was both surprised and perplexed. He began treating some of his patients with heavy duty anti-fungal infusions. In time, again through researching the literature, Dr. Brewer concluded that the most likely reservoir for the mycotoxins was the sinuses. This involved a bit of guesswork. It is Dr. Brewer's thesis that these mycotoxins get into the body and colonize in the sinus. Once colonized and protected by a biofilm, the body cannot get at them and they just stay there forever. It is his belief that they have to be rooted out. He finds in his patients that the exposure can be from the distant past, up to 20 years ago. From Dr. Brewer's point of view, focusing on the sinuses in no way excludes other reservoirs harboring the mycotoxins - the gut, stomach and lung.

Dr. Brewer began treating his patients with nasal Ampho B - and he started getting results. Dr. Brewer works with a nasal drug delivery company called ASL pharmacy. They have a nasal delivery system called Nasa-touch which atomizes the medicinals. In time Dr. Brewer added another nasal drug to bust up biofilms that he believes are harboring the mycotoxins. This is nasal EDTA in combination with surfactant, an ingredient in Johnson's Baby Shampoo.

Two side effects of this treatment are noted. One is that the Ampho B can cause nasal irritation and even mild nosebleeds in a few cases. The second is that the treatment often causes a strong herx reaction as the mycotoxins are exposed and the drug kills them. In both situations, Dr. Brewer moderates or cuts back the treatment and all cases have been manageable.

Dr. Brewer has been surprised, astonished really, by the results of treatment. In his first 100 patients treated, 70% showed improvement, including six whose symptoms completely resolved, including all symptoms of their larger illness.

With treatment, the successful patient's urine Ochratoxin A will go down to zero in a matter of some months. The Trichothecenes (MT) takes longer but it too will diminish with treatment.

Three quarters of the patients treated had preexisitng sympotms of sinus problems. One quarter did not. Both segments showed equal improvement.

Dr Brewer has continued testing and treating more patients. He has now tested 350 patients, 325 of whom are positive for one or more mycotoxins. More Trichothecenes (MT) have been showing up recently in his patient population. He is now treating up to 200 patients and I believe another paper will be coming out soon. Dr. Brewer reports that those patients who have fully resolved and ended treatment tend to relapse and have to go back on treatment.

Dr. Brewer's absence at the recent IACFS/ME meeting has already been noted. How could this happen? How could the emergence of a target for treatment not be acknowledged at this conference? This is all the more unusual in that Dr. Brewer published his first paper a year ago and then gave an exciting presentation at the Lyme conference in October 2013. In this situation, there seems to be a target, a treatment that is relatively benign - and Dr. Brewer is getting results. Doesn't this warrant more attention? Wouldn't it be interesting to find out what is happening here?

Of course, in spite of this, there was quite a lot of discussion of the subject of Mycoyoxins in the hallways of the IACFS/ME conference.

Regarding mycotoxins and ME/CFS we have to ask some questions. The most obvious one concerns the validity of the testing at Real Time labs. At the moment this seems the only lab that does mycotoxin testing. Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker has not been overly excited with this test, or with the idea of nasal colonized mycotoxins. If it isn't mycotoxins that are being knocked out, what is the activity of Dr. Brewer's treatment? A 70% response rate of over 100 patients is impressive. Dr. Brewer himself says that he has never seen such success with a single treatment.

Meanwhile other physicians are beginning to test their patients. A West Coast physicians group has tested over 100 ME/CFS patients for mycotoxins at Real Time labs - and are getting the same high positive results. Preliminary reports on Dr. Cheney's testing of his patients also indicates a high positive response, especially for Trichothecenes. Even Dr. Ian Lipkin indicated that mycotoxins were dangerous, and warranted looking at in ME/CFS. Other physicians, Dr. Chia, and Dr. Enlander, are aware of Dr. Brewer's work and have been encouraged to test their patients.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

IACFS/ME - and then Mission Delores

At the end of this year's IACFS/ME meeting I headed out on foot to the Mission District and to visit an old favorite: Mission Delores. Over the years, I have come here often, as well as many of the other missions up and down the coast of California. (The mission system was sort of the CDC of the late 18th and early 19th centuries)

Mission Delores and its cemetery are featured in a mistily mysterious scene in Hitchcock's "Vertigo" - one of my favorite films. I am going to watch it again when I get home.

The day was sunny and warm and the sweet smell of dope wafted through the air in the Mission District - as the locals were seeking their medicinal or medical improvements. Crowds of people flocked to a local park to see a concert of the Rollin' Snows or the Scoobie Doos.

The IACFS/ME conference ended Sunday afternoon. The IACFS/ME conference was four, very long days, running March 20-23. Always I find this conference too long - and too broad in its reach. I suppose I understand why the planners do this, as they have a large constituency to please or honor - but they include so many items that I consider to be auxiliary. To me parts of this conference are like watching a bad movie over and over - or falling to one's death off a very tall building.

I come to these conferences as an observer - to watch and listen. I don't think of myself as a participant, but more of an outsider or outlier. I am in the process of my own illness discovery. I figure that I represent my daughter, who cannot be here.

Over time I have learned to be very selective in going to lectures. This time I think that I went to five. I am happier just looking at the poster papers, and talking to old and new friends. This is my fourth IACFS/ME, and it functions as a touchstone of sorts. I just wish it were more focused. I have learned what a focused conference can be. I saw it at the Stanford Conference, I see it at Mt. Sinai, and I see it every year at the Invest in ME conference in London.

Am I giving a mixed message here? Yes I am giving a mixed message.

Dr. John Chia delivered two important talks. It has been seven years since Dr. Chia's pivotal paper was published showing enterovirus protein found in stomach tissue of ME/CFS patients. No one has followed up with this paper. It just sits there with its weight of ME history leaning on it. Meanwhile Dr. Chia continues his superb research - on his own, in virtual isolation. Dr. Chia gave two talks in a section on "Virology Research", chaired by Dr. Jose Montoya. (I hope that Dr. Montoya was listening.) The first talk was entitled "Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) in patients with ME/CFS is associated with chronic enterovirus infection of ovarian tubes" and the second was entitled "Pathogenesis of chronic enterovirus infection in ME/CFS - in vitro and in vivo studies of infected stomach tissue". Regarding the second study, "Of 24 mice injected with VP1+, and RNA+ stomach biopsies, 2 died in two weeks and13/20 (66%) spleen specimens tested positive for VP1 where 1 of 10 controls tested positive for VP1 by immunoperoxidase staining."

("If they do not believe in death, then what do they believe in?"). Of course there is the possibility that these mice died of sneezing fits - or committed suicide.

There was considerable interest during the question period and Dr. Chia answered a host of questions. He also made a hard-nosed presentation, and defense, of his research over the years, stating that "I have spent considerable time trying to convince people that I am right. Now it is time for others to prove that I am wrong". Perhaps soon we will finally be able to answer this question, whether Dr. Chia is right or wrong. I am betting on his being right.

Dr. Maureen Hanson's team gave a talk, "Plasma cytokines in ME/CFS patients and controls before and after a cardiopulmonary exercise test." Dr. Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik's team gave a presentation on NK cells. There has been a string of exciting research coming out of this lab.  Dr. Gradisnik will also be making a presentation in May at the Invest in ME conference.

It seemed a great oversight that Dr. Carmen Scheibenbogen was not giving a talk or a poster paper. I don't think she was even here. I could say the same about other UK or European researchers. Nothing was presented or mentioned about Dr. Joseph Brewer's recent work in mycotoxins. This seemed a slight oversight. Dr. Brewer made a recent presentation at the Lyme conference in October and will follow up at the next ILADS conference. So someone besides myself must know of his existence?

Where were research concerns involving gut ecology, the metabolome, mitochondria, lipid membranes (Yes, it was great to see Dr. Garth Nicholson's poster paper), mycotoxins and a host of important subjects? What world do these people live in? What illness are they studying?

The strength of this conference lies in its poster papers. This year there were several exciting presentations. I took note of Dr. Maureen Hanson's gut biome study in ME/CFS. Dr. Hanson will be giving a talk at the Invest in ME conference this May. She will be able to trade notes with Dr. Simon Carding, who is also working on a gut biome study in ME/CFS. Dr. Hanson reminded me that her colleague, Dr. Ruth Ley, works mostly in the gut biome arena. Incidentally, there seems to be a percolating effort to have ME/CFS patients do their biome study through Ubiome. The objective would be to publish their own biome study. Is this a good idea or what? - and it all sounds vaguely familiar.

There was another study out of Griffith University of the team of Dr. Sonya Marshall Gradisnik. Nancy Klimas and her group had an entire host of poster papers. I hope these poster papers become readily available.

The most interesting poster papers were two by Dr. Paul Cheney. Dr. Cheney has always contributed one or two important poster papers. One yearns for Dr. Cheney to be given a chunk of time to make a full presentation of his ideas. Dr. Cheney does best in three-hour slots of time, so he could have a morning session, a break for him to rest for a half-hour (but does he need it?), and then an afternoon session. This could go on for two or three days. And then maybe we could have a comprehensive conversation of what might be happening in this illness. But, of course, this is not going to happen. Instead we have to content ourselves with Dr. Cheney's self-published studies, and with Dr. Cheney's riveting explanations in front of his poster paper. He gives it willingly and repeatedly.

Asked what he does for his patients, Dr. Cheney says that "he stabilizes them".

I witnessed a few snippy engagements and comments, which are always interesting to me - and which I will keep to myself. I watched old adversaries be cordial and even respectful to each other.

The conference awards dinner had an especially good feeling to it. Nancy Klimas got a top award, which she certainly deserves. Dan Peterson gave the Keynote Address and took us on a stroll down memory lane. He described the history of IACFS/ME meetings, in the process recognizing many individuals in the audience, including Hillary Johnson, the gifted writer. Dr. Peterson showed a short video with 1990's video snippets of the early heroes in this struggle - Komaroff, Cheney, Bell, Klimas and Peterson himself. It was a hoot to see Nancy Klimas as a young clinician/researcher. This video was a lot of fun. Dr. Peterson has a special skill, either natural or developed, of getting the flow going in a positiive direction.

I was surprised, really surprised - and pleasantly surprised - to see Pia and Richard Simpson of Invest in ME receive an award. Never were there two people who have less interest in awards. Instead, they are interested in science - and money to fuel research. So if you have extra money, after giving to John Chia's EV Med Research, write a big check to Pia and Richard Simpson and Invest in ME.

Now that Richard and Pia have been recognized by IACFS/ME for their stupendous efforts, maybe the steering committee of the IACFS/ME group can select a group of "Important People" to actually make the journey to the upcoming Invest in ME conference - and thus learn a bit about how to organize a meaningful conference.

One thing that always, always irritates me about this IACFS/ME conference is the lack of attention to the severely ill. In fact, I have trouble connecting the severity of my daughter's illness with anything that happens at this conference. I do not think that most of the people who attend this conference have the slightest clue as to the true nature of this illness. They look at the half-sick, always at peak times, and draw their conclusions - if they only did a little more exercise.

And it is my belief that they do not want to know. I have observed the displeasure incurred by Dr. Kenny De Meirleir at an Invest in ME conference for presenting videos of very seriously ill patients from Norway, and for the testimony of a young woman who lived in the same house with a severely ill sister and had not seen her sister for four years. And then there is the whole anxiety about showing Voices from the Shadows. It is a very profound and great video, but it is seen as a downer. Well, this illness is a downer.

There is something so frightening about the core of this illness - from which almost everyone turns away. A little of this "ground zero"can be seen in Natalie Boulton's and Josh Bigg's extraordinary film. Dr. Montoya had the wisdom, the courage to show "Voices" at the Stanford Conference. (Dr. Montoya understands, he has learned this.) These totally isolated human beings hold the key - or a key - to the essential nature of this strange and devastating illness. Why are they not studied? Why does everyone turn away? Can we move forward if we are a bunch of cowards? If one is careful, blood, urine, saliva and feces can be removed from these patients (in some cases). If one wants to know what tests to do, I and others can tell you.

The efforts here at the conference and elsewhere to engage or embrace the severe ME patient is pathetic - really pathetic - and this means something.

Maybe this is all an age-related problem? Maybe I am just unable to see all the connecting parts at this conference and put them together? I will have to ask others, back in NY, like Jay Spero, if this is the problem, if this is my problem. In the meantime, I am in a hurry. I am not interested in the one-hundred year fix. I am less interested in stasis and more interested in dynamism, as reflected perhaps in what Dr. Skip Pridgen announced yesterday. Was Dr. Pridgen at this conference?

A number of serious clinicians did not go to this conference - Dr Eric Gordon, Dr. Kenny De Meirleir, Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, Dr Derek Enlander, and Dr. Joseph Brewer. One has to ask why?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dr. Jose Montoya and the Stanford ME/CFS Symposium

It is March 19, 2014 and I have come to Palo Alto for a one-day conference at Stanford University. The weather here is ideal - sunny and warm. I take the long, familiar walk up the allee to the conference - past the Caltrain station, past the museum. This is familiar territory to me, having been here many times in the past - for much different purposes. The air is full of anticipation. It is exciting to come to a major university for an ME/CFS conference.

This conference is the product of one remarkable person: Dr. Jose Montoya.

Dr. Montoya has single-handedly forged this ME/CFS research collaboration at Stanford.  There is nothing of its breadth and scope anywhere else in the world.

Seven years ago or more, Dr. Montoya, an infectious disease doctor, stumbled upon ME/CFS. At that time, his burgeoning interest in this illness did not seem to be particularly welcome to his colleagues at Stanford. An outsider might have given Dr. Montoya no chance of making headway in this environment.  Why would an infectious disease doctor want to waste their time on CFS?  In spite of this resistance, Dr. Montoya forged ahead - and he has created a very strong collaborative research team, including the likes of Dr. Ron Davis. It is a remarkable story.

The series of conference lectures was impressive. The morning’s session included Dr. Jarred Younger’s “Daily Fluctuations of Cytokines in ME/CFS patients,” and the afternoon was highlighted by a presentation by Marcie and Mark Zinn entitled “Quantitative EEG studies Suggest Subcortical Pathology in ME/CFS." (Others, here, and  here, will present a more detailed explanation of these lectures and the scientific strengths of this conference.)

The final two lectures were what I had come to see: Jose Montoya and Ian Lipkin.

Dr. Montoya’s lecture “Circulating Cytokines in ME/CFS Patients reveal a novel Inflammatory and Autoimmune Profile” articulated the results of his long-standing research into cytokines in ME/CFS. For a number of years, Dr. Montoya has been looking to create a cytokine signature and he looks like he might have done this. Over the years I have asked Dr. Montoya how his work towards a cytokine signature was progressing. Each time he said that it was going well and that he was taking his time to make sure that “he got it right”. Now the time of “getting it right” has arrived. Dr. Montoya invites criticism of his work in order to strengthen it.

Dr. Ian Lipkin gave his generic lecture, aimed at college freshman science majors. I found it fascinating, but, in reality, he was actually addressing a room full of hard-core scientists.  One wonders. At the end he tacked on additional work coming out of the Chronic Fatigue Initiative at Columbia.  His results continue to be unimpressive - and we wait for publication of some of his work.

A young woman asked Dr. Lipkin about Enteroviruses and ME/CFS. He gave a vague, evasive answer. Later I asked Dr. Lipkin specifically about Dr. John Chia’s work. Dr. Lipkin professed to not know of Dr. Chia, or of his 2007 paper, or actually of any of Dr. Chia’s work. I found this difficult to believe.  Dr. Lipkin did say that he believed that the stool sample work, for which he is hawking support, would reveal Enteroviral involvement. According to others, others that actually know something about Enteroviruses, this is not possible.

The sold-out conference took place in a large room filled with round tables with chairs and three large screens for slides. It was an ideal situation in which to see and hear the presenters, and the format was constructed in such a way as to encourage interaction. It was a great conference, tightly focused, no bullshit.

Obviously, Dr. Montoya’s efforts have paid off and he now has a momentum to study and treat ME/CFS at Stanford. How lucky can we be? He and his collaborators are producing significant results and garnering attention from the larger science world. This is what is necessary in this ME/CFS illness discovery - serious consolidation and collaboration. The great success of this conference only guarantees that Dr. Montoya and his colleagues will be back with more information, more research, more results, and more hope in the very near future.  Dr. Montoya has done what everyone wants to do in life - but very few can actually pull off. I take my hat off to this fellow.

If one wants to learn more about Dr. Montoya, check out this video: