Sunday, September 24

Therapy’s value challenged


Medical community split on opinions of controversial aids treatment

The scientific merits of malariotherapy have been brought into
question in light of a recent investigation into two UCLA
researchers’ possible involvement with the controversial
treatment.

Having been discredited in the United States, malariotherapy
research is currently being conducted on human HIV patients in
China by the Heimlich Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Malariotherapy is the injection of human patients with a more
benign strain of the pathogen which induces malaria, plasmodium
vivax.

Patients who receive the treatment undergo high malarial fevers
for several weeks before the disease is inoculated.

Henry Heimlich ““ founder of the famed Heimlich maneuver
and president of the Heimlich Institute ““ proposed
malariotherapy as a treatment for AIDS in the early 1990s.

The AIDS virus compromises the human immune system by attacking
CD4 T-cells which produce antibodies against foreign antigens. A
HIV patient then becomes susceptible to secondary infections that
can become fatal.

Malarial fevers are theorized to stimulate the HIV
patients’ weakened immune systems by increasing immune cell
production, which HIV destroys.

However, members of the medical community dispute
malariotheraphy’s validity.

“You don’t give an infectious disease to an
immuno-compromised host (a patient with HIV),” said Paul
Bronston, national chairperson of the Ethics and Professional
Policy Committee of the American College of Medical Quality.

“The malaria itself can kill the person and those that
have malaria can transmit it to other people.”

Bronston has sent documents to alert federal and UCLA regulatory
boards of Heimlich’s malariotherapy research.

“(Malariotherapy) doesn’t work, and there are many
people in the medical community that are enraged,” he
said.

The Heimlich Institute has been conducting malariotherapy
research on human HIV patients in China since the 1990s. The
current HIV research is an application of Heimlich’s proposal
for malariotherapy as a treatment for Lyme disease in the
1980s.

Lyme disease patients from the United States were treated with
malariotherapy in Mexico.

After being injected with malaria, the patients remained in
hotel rooms with fevers reaching 106 degrees for several weeks
before receiving anti-malaria drugs.

According to a 1994 Los Angeles Times article, Lyme disease
patients experienced a relapse of severe symptoms even after the
malariotherapy.

“I’m so sick and weak most days I can hardly get out
of bed,” Sally Timpone told the Times in 1994. Timpone was
treated with malariotherapy for Lyme disease.

“But if anybody ever asked me about Dr. Heimlich and his
supposed cure, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them to run away
fast,” she said.

On Dec. 7, 1990, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention
issued a report discouraging malariotherapy as a treatment for Lyme
disease due to a lack of supportive scientific studies, and warning
the dangers of malaria.

Currently on the Heimlich Institute Web site, there is no
mention of malariotherapy as a potential cure for Lyme disease.

In support of malariotherapy as a treatment for AIDS, the Web
site cites a study conducted in Zaire and published in the New
England Medical Journal in 1991, finding that co-infection of both
AIDS and malaria did not lead to a worsening of either disease.

300 million to 500 million cases of malaria are reported each
year, resulting in 1.5 to 2.7 million deaths. Ninety percent of
these cases occurred in tropical Africa, an area also carrying a
widespread infection of the AIDS virus.

According to the Heimlich Institute Web site, the research is
not being conducted in the United States because of a lack of
readily available malaria-infected blood.

Two patients were monitored for two years following the
treatment and showed an increase in CD4, the molecule on which the
AIDS virus docks as the initial step of infection.

CD4 is found on T-cells, the immune cells which produce
antibodies in response to specific foreign antigens. HIV attacks
these cells and compromises the body’s ability for an immune
response.

After the treatment, the increase in CD4 cells persists beyond
the presence of malaria, according to the Institute’s Web
site.

“Based on my understanding as a doctor of homeopathy and
the immune system, it makes perfect sense how something like
(malariotherapy) would be valid,” said Da Vid, medical
director of the San Francisco Medical Research Foundation and
founder of the Light Party in 1984.

The Light Party, which describes themselves as a progressive
political party dedicated to spreading a holistic view of health
through grass-roots influence, sees promise in malariotherapy.

According to Vid, if malariotherapy is proved to be effective,
the Light Party will “get the word out” through grass
roots movements and a large political network.

“I think these guys are on to something very hot,”
Vid said. “I sure hope they can bring it into the
mainstream.”

On April 26, 1993, the CDC issued a public health warning
against Heimlich’s research stating that “the use of
malaria infection in HIV-infected individuals cannot be
justified.”

In 2000, Heimlich’s Institutional Review Board approval
was terminated, which has subjected the research to further
criticism from the medical community.

“It’s ludicrous, dangerous and probably
immoral,” said Robert Baratz, president of the National
Council Against Health Fraud, a private, non-profit health
organization focusing on misinformation and fraud in public health
affairs.

“Infecting people with other people’s blood or
malaria parasites has no basis in scientific fact, and to subject
people to that is tantamount to giving them the death
sentence.”

“(Malariotherapy) violates every principle of research
that there is,” Baratz said. “It’s better
referred to as lunacy.”

Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen, a health
research advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader, also remains
strongly skeptical.

“I don’t care if you’re Henry Heimlich. I
don’t care how many lives the Heimlich maneuver saved,”
Lurie said.

“That doesn’t give you a license to go overseas and
inject people with poor medical care with dangerous
microorganisms.”

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.