Aspirin, Pneumonia and Brilliant Sudanese Citizens

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Wasn’t it just yesterday that the medical field was recommending a daily aspirin to nearly every adult patient that stepped into their office? Why? Well before being replaced by the new darlings of Wall Street, the statin drugs, doctors learned that aspirin was almost magical in its ability to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes while simultaneously reduce the risk of many kinds of cancer. 

 

To a physician, cancer and heart disease is largely unavoidable, so their concept of using an aspirin daily is analogous to my avoiding grains and exercising. A daily aspirin to them is “preventive medicine”. The same is currently (yes, it will change before too long) true of statin drugs.

 

When researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently discovered that aspirin was linked to an increased risk of macular degeneration, it is likely that this correlation drew little concern from physicians anymore than the stomach bleeding aspects of aspirin did. The attitude seems to be that such risks are minor when compared to the benefit that aspirin offers. Blindness and bleeding are minor risks? You be the judge, but remember that before there was aspirin, people chewed on the bark of the White Willow tree for relief from pain and fever. In the early 1800’s, it was discovered that it was the “salicin” within that bark that helped them. One of the derivatives of salicin is “acetylsalicylic acid”, which is synthesized (man made) to make aspirin today. I’m going out on a limb here (excuse the pun) by betting that chewing white willow bark never provoked macular degeneration or bleeding. It goes without saying, certainly in this newsletter, that salicin has powerful anti-fungal properties. What must be an overlooked cause of heart disease and cancer, if anti-fungals prevent them?

 

My dad died of kidney failure while in the hospital in San Diego. I watched dad struggle while many antibiotics were dispensed for the pneumonia that hospitalized him. He never had kidney problems until he spent a few weeks in that hospital being treated for pneumonia. I think dad had fungal pneumonia, and I spoke to his physician about that. The blank look on his face said it all, and I knew that dad’s life was in jeopardy. It is such a sickening feeling knowing that a different drug in their pharmacy might have saved his life, but physicians have very little knowledge of anti-fungal drugs. Medical school taught them that all infections, with very few exceptions, are bacterial. If one antibiotic doesn’t cure pneumonia, a treating physician simply orders a stronger antibiotic  and another and another, as they did with dad – never considering that a completely different germ, one being fueled by the drugs they are prescribing, might be causing the pneumonia-like symptoms. Although fungal pneumonia is well documented, few doctors are aware of how common it likely is. Dad’s doctor told us that he had tried all the antibiotics, and they had not worked. As his kidney enzyme blood tests worsened, we were told that it was time to start IV drug therapy, enabling a comfortable death. He died the next morning. Why not at least try an anti-fungal drug? I was told that it wasn’t “standard procedure”. I recall thinking, “And death is?”

 

Swiss doctors have recently added to the literature on fungal pneumonia by sequencing a genome of a fungus called Pneumocystis jirovecii and discovered two things that I thought were relevant, not only to the millions dying of pneumonia, but also to this newsletter. First, this fungus strikes people with weakened immune systems. Second, this fungus is a parasite that must live inside the human body in order to survive.  

 

This, of course is not news to Know This readers, for we have taken their discovery a step further. Remember that pathogenic (disease causing) fungi are all immuno-suppressive. In other words, they are the cause of the weakened immune system, rather than a contributor to it. It is my guess that the patient first had a systemic fungal infection that impaired their immune system and later acquired pneumonia rather than the current belief that bacteria caused the pneumonia. Further, it is quite possible that what I first discovered in the 1970’s (and have been teaching for decades) is just now becoming credible research. Fungi inhabit our bodies and live as parasitic symbionts (two or more different living species living on or in each other) until something activates them. Choose your poison; alcohol, trauma, antibiotics, tainted grains, etc.