Cures, Promises, and Snake Oil: False Hopes in a Bottle

By Tom Grier

What Goes Around Comes Around: Old Snake Oil Cures Are Being Repackaged and Sold

One of the problems of having a chronic illness in the family is seeking out unconventional treatments. What do you do when the established medical protocols have failed? What do you do when conventional medicine has for whatever reason abandoned the patient? For many the solution is to seek out unconventional cures. For Lyme disease patients the list is long and disappointing, and speaks to the enduring effects of this infection.

In 1995, one such chronic patient was very excited when she called me about a new diagnosis method for Lyme disease. Her exact words were "magic microscope". The word "magic" made me cringe. My worse fears were soon confirmed when I saw the laboratory's literature and the video tape of her so called spirochetal infection of her blood.

The sales pitch goes like this: "Are you chronically ill with some vague illness that the medical community can neither confirm nor treat? If so we can help. With the use of our "magic microscope" we can take a single drop of you blood and find hundreds of organisms that the medical community doesn't want you to know about.."

The labs (there have been several in America, Mexico, and Canada that have come and gone since 1995) go on to explain that there is a secret medical conspiracy and how their high tech microscope makes them all look foolish. So the NIH, CDC, AMA, FDA, etc., have all supposedly silently conspired to keep this technology out of the hands of the public, but special benevolent scientists who helped developed the microscope are secretly helping people (free of charge!) because it is the right thing to do. There are, of course, several variations of this sales pitch, but it all ends with a drop of your blood on a slide.

The labs claim to be able to show you the cause of MS, ALS, Lupus, CFS, Lyme disease and other lingering disorders. For each patient, the procedure is the same. You, the patient, travel to the lab, where you fill out a health questionnaire. Then, you are led to an exam room where a preliminary, but cursory, exam is done. Then , you are brought to the microscope to have your finger pricked and your blood analyzed right in front of you as you watch. They sometimes even videotape your blood for you, so you can show your friends.

During the time you are waiting, you may see and hear many things that make you think the lab is legitimate. You may hear phones ringing and phone conversations involving results and treatments. You may even see other patients who have returned and will give you their personal testimonials as you wait for your test.

Then, the researchers prick your finger and place the drop of blood on a slide. Moments later, you are looking at an alien, bizarre world of microorganisms - all living in your blood. "You see! This is why they don't want you to know about this microscope! Your blood is crawling with bacteria!" says the technician. "If the medical community treated everyone, insurance agencies would go broke!"

What the patient is actually looking at is their own blood, but it has been mixed with a drop of swamp water or some other contaminate on the slide. Usually, the contaminated fluid is added by using an innocent looking bottle of microscope immersion fluid. The microscope is not magic at all, but merely an expensive phase contrast microscope, or sometimes even just a standard light microscope, set up for dark-field work. The result is a bizarre, high-contrast world of motion in black and white.

You will see your red blood cells look like black and white donuts swirling and bouncing into hundreds of little pulsating organisms. You will see granulocytes (white blood cells) engulfing dozens of organisms. You will even see many of these little creatures moving inside the white blood cells. Sometimes you will see larger, ciliated creatures that almost look like millipedes, twisting and crawling like insects. These are not secret organisms the medical community has kept under wraps. They are pond scum just like the con artists trying to trick you!

The "doctor" will then tell you that the particles you are seeing are various forms of the spirochete. They will use the poorly understood theory of L-forms and cell wall deficient forms of spirochetes to tell you that you are looking at granular forms, or shperoplastic phases. You are not. These are just swamp water parasites added to your blood to make you feel vindicated that yes in deed you have been sick for all these years, and here is incontrovertible truth.

The lab already knows everything they need to know about you to convince you to part with your money. The first thing they know is that you're sick, vulnerable and less resistant to mounting a cogent argument against their subtle tactics. Next, they know you are desperate because you are seeking alternative medicine. They also know that, if you have gotten this far, you are disgruntled with the medical community and willing to believe their story of paranoia and conspiracy that forces them to conceal their secret "magic microscope". So if it's all free, where's the con?

This is the part where the patient convinces themselves that the laboratory is legitimate. The doctor will tell you that the blood test confirms that you have Lyme disease and that you should go back to your own doctor to get treated with antibiotics. The patient then whines, "But I've already been on antibiotics!" (They already know this, because you already told them and even if you didn't tell them its an easy thing to assume.) Then the patient expounds how their doctors have abandoned them and they are left with no alternatives.

"Mmmmmm," mulls the laboratory quack. "It looks like you have a resistant form of the bacteria! You are going to need special therapy," he says. He will then present you with a shopping list of therapies. The goal is to get an immediate commitment to something that costs as much as possible right away like $5,000 for Ozone treatments of the blood. If you can't, or won't, do this, they keep finding cheaper treatments, such as a $400 per month treatment with cow colostrums, or peroxide treatment etc. Converting you from one big cash sale to monthly treatment protocols is just like a car salesman putting you on time payments. If you can't afford $5,000, all at once we'll take time payments!

The list of worthless treatments that they offer will usually include such things as: homeopathy, magnet therapy, crystal therapy, aroma therapy, ozone treatments, hydrogen peroxide treatments, RIFE machine (electro magnetic therapy), cow colostrum, colloidal silver, and various herbal oils and supplements. Mostly treatments that are easily and cheaply administered with a low rate of complications.

I know that there are people reading this who are convinced many of these treatments are effective, and maybe even have been helped them. But consider this: Was the method they used to get you to try these treatments legitimate or fraudulent? Were their claims real or unsubstantiated? If you think electro-magnetic treatments are a valid treatment, then, by all means, I think you have the right to pursue that treatment, but no one has the right to make false claims or misrepresent themselves or the benefits of a treatment for the purposes of profiting by them. If the people treating you tricked you by using a phony lab and a "magic microscope" or any other scam, then what are you to believe about anything that they tell you?

In an earlier and more detailed paper, I pointed out that using the patient's video tapes of their blood as to what tips us off that the whole magic microscope procedure is a scam. Without too much detail, consider just this one element: Anyone with some knowledge of microbiology can instantly see the scam. For one thing if this has been an ongoing chronic medical condition, then why are all of the organisms engulfed by the granulocytes only just beneath the membrane, and not deep inside the white blood cell's internal vacuoles? There should be various stages of vacuolization and lysosome induction. All the cells are in the earliest stages only! In other words, the blood has only been recently exposed to the organisms. Believe me, we don't have zillions of motile creatures bigger than our own platelets swimming around in our blood.

There are numerous other scams that have been aimed at Lyme patients. * I will talk about some of those at another time. If you know of other Lyme treatment scams, please write the Spotlight On Lyme and let us all know about them. Both the FDA and the FTC have some very helpful tips on their web pages under consumer protection about health scams. Also, two brochures can be ordered from the Government Consumer Catalogue in Pueblo, Colorado, that address health care scams.

Caveat Emptor!

Some Lyme disease treatments to be highly skeptical about: