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April 16, 2020

As a physician, I get mildly irritated when I hear on talk radio people professing to give advice to “build up” your immune system. This becomes the latest talk in light of COVID-19. I heard from one participant that when a vaccine is available, he will NOT take it because of side effects and that “it just keeps the medical profession alive.” “The Tuskeegee experiments just prove that all these medicines and vaccines do more damage than good.”

It reminds me of those who say “my vote doesn’t count, so why should I vote?”

Tumaric, honey, bourbon, green tea, vitamin C, ginger were all offered as ways to boost the immune system. One person said his grandfather refused to give any of his children or grandchildren any medicine offered by a doctor and all his prodigy “turned out just fine.” Grandpa made his own concoctions. One person went so far as to say the way your cure COVID-19 infections is with lemon juice and aloe 3-4 times a day.

Let me say something here; there is a reason that science fair projects are offered and /or required in school. They teach you about what is called the scientific method. The scientific method requires inquiry, experimentation and most importantly, statistical analysis to prove or disprove a theory. It tries to establish fact. It throws away conjecture, personal opinion, and anecdotal stories that may have worked for an individual but not for the general public. Medicine is evidenced based. Studies are what we call “double blinded “ so as to not enter prejudice. Holistic medicine has its place and is helpful at times but holistic medicine is seldom checked by the scientific method. Often times, when tested, there is no statistical evidence that a product works. Remember to read the fine print on many commercial healthcare products that say “this product has not been tested by the FDA nor shown to be effective to cure or treat any disease.”

Anthony Fauci M.D. and many other scientists who have researched the human immune system would tell you, the field of immunology is still young. There is much more to learn how it works.

NO one knows EVERYTHING about our immune system. When I was a fellow in Allergy and Clinical immunology at Childrens Hospital in Washington, D.C.,(1981-1983) we knew about the structure and function of immunoglobulins, T-cell differentials, intercellular adhesion molecules, interferons, and other arachidonic pathway molecules. We knew about the role of complement cascade molecules. We learned how different aspects of the immune system played a role in allergic, autoimmune and hypersensitivity disorders. We connected clinical disorders with these scientific findings.

Today, we talk about the variety of interleukins, the huge variety of CD subsets, neuropeptides, tryptase and genetic makers for these product to further understand how this whole process works. What we do know is the immune system is divided into two main divisions; the innate and the adaptive systems. The innate system is the backbone of our protection against viruses, bacteria, parasites, and cells that have be mutated into cancerous cells. It has been part of our genetic blueprint since the beginning. Since micro-organisms have the ability to mutate and present to our bodies novel (never seen before) infections, the adaptive immune system has developed over time to deal with these newer infecting agents. The adaptive systems will always have to change to keep up with novelty. The more the body has battled with infecting agents, the more powerful the immune system becomes. This is why a toddler is going to get sick many times but the young adult seldom gets sick. Of course, being physically fit, adhering to a healthy diet and pushing away stress helps to fuel the immune system, but there is no evidence that these, in themselves , enhances the immune system.

Hence, we are relying on our adaptive immune system to fight COVID-19. Adaptive immunity many times fails, but over time it learns and finds new ways to conquer its enemy.

The planet has way more infectious agents than it has human cells. In fact our own body has more bacteria inside than we have human cells. WE ARE MORE BACTERIA THAN HUMAN !

In the end, microorganisms will long outlast humans. I must say, however, that our immune system has put up a good fight to keep us on the planet this long. We are David fighting Goliath.

Dr. “D”

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