At One Time They Called SARS "Bird Flu" Says Internist/Researcher Lawrence Broxmeyer MD

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Although SARS is no longer either topical or newsworthy, claims Lawrence Broxmeyer MD, the lessons to be learned from the SARS epidemic are still applicable. At the time of its occurrence, observations and experimental evidence purported that a "virus" caused SARS, but such "viruses" were isolated in only less than half of SARS patients in some studies and virologist Vincent Plummer of Winnipeg's National Microbiology Laboratory found at the time that indeed 1 in 5 perfectly healthy Canadians with a history of recent travel to Asia had the virus. Therefore SARS microbiologic origins remained unclear. Moreover outbreaks of multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis and the atypical mycobacteria mimicked SARS in symptoms, in the manner in which it spread, in the laboratory, and on CAT scans and it is only logical therefore to include this diagnosis as a possibility when considering future 'viral' epidemics. (SARS: Just another viral acronym? Medical Hypotheses 61(2), 314-317ª 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.)

In the middle of March, 2003 an unusual but deadly outbreak of "atypical pneumonia" in a Hong Kong hospital ward started incapacitating Chinese medical personnel. Within one week, its case rate, through contact spread, spiraled and it began to appear not only in other countries in the region, but Europe, North America and Australia.

Researcher Lawrence Broxmeyer MD relates: "CDC began supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in the investigation of a multi-country outbreak of the 'atypical pneumonia' of unknown etiology, referred to as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

"SARS" says Lawrence Broxmeyer MD, "appeared to be infectious. Fever, followed by rapidly progressive respiratory compromise were the signs and symptoms from which the syndrome derived its name. But its microbiologic origins remained unclear. Virologists were certain that SARS, which at one point looked to be fast evolving into the first global health crisis of the 21st century, was a virus , but the path leading to their conclusion seemed full of confusion."

"Confusing", according to Lawrence Broxmeyer, MD "because the Chinese first isolated an avian influenza A (HSN) virus, however this 'bird flu', possibly from poultry, was soon ruled out. Then human metapneumoviruses (hMPV) was noticed but could not be verified in other laboratories. Simultaneously Chinese scientists found a chlamydia-like bacteria taken from patients during what later came to be known as the Guangdong outbreak, where death came within hours. But again this could not be confirmed in most laboratories outside of China. Finally, on April 16, 2003, a novel coronavirus, never before seen in human or animals was proclaimed by WHO officials to cause SARS."

"But", reminded Lawrence Broxmeyer MD, "up to this point human strains of coronavirus were only associated with mild disease, typically the common cold, and never known to kill so precipitously. And a much larger problem was that in some studies corona virus was present only in about half of SARS cases, while in others only 40%. SARS corona virus was beginning to look more like just another passenger virus than anything else. And antivirals such as ribavirin and oseltamivir (Tamiflu) were not working, either in SARS culture plates, or SARS patients."

"Isolation of the corona virus" said Lawrence Broxmeyer MD, "was done by culturing whole tissue isolates of respiratory secretions, blood or stool on a live Vero cell line, kept alive since 1962, from the kidneys of green monkeys. Several problems in methodology and thought immediately surfaced. First, how did one know that this member of the corona virus family, never seen before in humans, was actually a virus. There are many viral forms of bacteria, especially mycobacteria such as tuberculosis, which simulate and look like viruses in every way and are also found in respiratory secretions, blood and stool. Secondly, even if it was indeed a virus, how could one testify to the purity of the monkey inoculate (bacteria also grow in Vero Cell cultures). Last, if corona virus was indeed the cause of SARS why was it not found in all SARS patients."

"Then there was, once again, all of this talk of 'viruses' jumping species, this time the corona virus. But 'jumping species' is no catchword for 'viruses', although these days it seems to be used as one," emphasized Lawrence Broxmeyer MD.

"Facts be known", Broxmeyer asserts, "there is no pathogen known to man with a broader range of animals hosts than bovine tuberculosis (M.bovis), which has been jumping species (man, cattle and a large number of other vertebrates) for at least 15,000 years, since the domestication of cattle, that we know of and is practically indistinguishable from human tuberculosis besides."

"Furthermore," Lawrence Broxmeyer MD says, mycobacteria such as a new and particularly virulent tuberculosis or in combination with atypical forms of tuberculosis are just the kind of pathogens that can lead to the abrupt death witnessed in Guangdong. In 1990, a new multi-drug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis outbreak took place in a large Miami municipal hospital. Soon similar outbreaks broke out in three New York city hospitals, many sufferers dying within weeks."

"By 1992," Lawrence Broxmeyer MD recalls, "approximately two years later, drug-resistant tuberculosis had spread to seventeen US states, with mini-epidemics in Florida, Michigan, New York, California Texas, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and was reported, by the international media, as out of control. MDR TB has been the focus of attention for some time and seems extremely important in a disease that killed one billion people between 1850 and 1950 alone, and continues to kill at least 2.7 million humans each year."

"Even on a clinical and laboratory basis it seems that SARS and miliary tuberculosis matched" Lawrence Broxmeyer MD reminds us. "High fever, nonproductive cough, low blood oxygen saturation, and varying degrees of respiratory distress, all found in SARS, are nothing new to the clinical picture of tuberculosis. And regarding Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), the worst scenario of SARS, Roger, and others favor suspecting tuberculosis in all cases of acute respiratory failure of unknown origin. One thing is certain, ARDS caused by miliary TB is associated with just as high a fatality rate as ARDS caused by SARS."

"It is for all of these reasons," concludes Lawrence Broxmeyer MD, "that it should come as a surprise to none that the disease with the label SARS was probably just part of the ongoing slaughter known as tuberculosis and Multi-Drug-Resistant tuberculosis."

Additional information, and downloading this article by Lawrence Broxmeyer MD and his on-going research can be found at

Distribution: Lawrence Broxmeyer, Lawrence Broxmeyer MD, Dr. Lawrence Broxmeyer

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