BIOFILMS, HERXHEIMER REACTIONS AND TISSUE REMODELING
“Biofilms are increasingly being recognized as the preferred mode of growth of microbes in a wide range of habitats and have a large and varied role in human activities.” From the homepage of the Cambridge University Press’ medical journal, Biofilms
“The vast majority of laboratory methods used today examine culture microorganisms in their planktonic mode.” From a ten year old issue of American Scientist (A New Understanding of these Microbial Communities is Driving a Revolution that May Transform the Science of Microbiology)
“Biofilm growth is associated with an increased level of mutations as well as with quorum-sensing-regulated mechanisms.” From the April 2010 issue of the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (Antibiotic Resistance of Bacterial Biofilms). Stick around because we will talk momentarily about “Quorum Sensing”.
“Biofilms are highly tolerant to antibiotics. Persister cells actually go dormant during treatment and, when the treatment stops, they return and repopulate.” From Science Nation — the magazine of the National Science Foundation.
“Once established, however, biofilm infections persist. They are rarely resolved by host defense mechanisms, even in individuals with healthy innate and adaptive immune reactions. Active host responses, such as invading neutrophils [the most abundant type of white blood cells — a critical part of the Immune System], can even be detrimental since those cells can cause collateral damage to neighboring healthy host tissue. Biofilm infections respond only transiently to antibiotic therapy.” Dr. Garth James, professor and manager of Montana State University’s CBE Medical Biofilm Laboratory
“Okay, so the leg and butt pain is pretty darn good. Energy levels crap though, like lots of toxins in my body…. That would make sense after all you broke up right?” Three time world champion triathlete who also has Lyme Disease, LESLEY PATERSON, answering my emailed question about how she was doing, and asking another question in the process. I responded thusly, “Yes, it’s a toxic dump with that much broken scar tissue. Drink tons of water to flush it out. Will call tomorrow to check in.” Lymes has been known to have an affinity for muscles. The Herxheimer Reaction was gone in a couple of days.
You’ve always heard, you are what you eat. This is only partially true. Not to long ago I wrote that YOU ARE YOUR MICROBIOME. Narry a day goes by that some study or another from around the world shows us a new way that our health is directly related to bacteria. Nowhere are bacteria proving to be more important than in the field of GUT HEALTH. Virtually the same things could be said of FASCIA.
Lest you think I am exaggerating, how many of you are aware that some scientists believe that problems in the Fascia are the root cause of all — or at least a great deal of — disease (HERE). Enough chit chat; let’s get this post rolling with a quick biology lesson.
Microorganisms, and most particularly bacteria, are similar to people in that when given a choice, they they would rather live together in a group than all alone. When bacteria get together, they look for an available (or favorite) surface to attach to, creating something called a “Biofilm”. Biofilms are groups of organisms (bacteria, fungus, virus, etc) which cling both to each other and whatever surface they happen to attach to via a colony-produced matrix most commonly called — you guessed it — slime.
Off the top of my head, the best example of this phenomenon would involve that slice of ham that’s been hiding in the back of the fridge since Thanksgiving. Before you throw it away (or decide to use it as stink bait), put a clothespin on your nose, take the saran wrap off, and run your finger over the meat. Notice how slick and slimy it is? This is a biofilm. It’s sort of like the slime that grows on the walls of your pool if you don’t take care of it.
Biofilms have the ability to form just about anywhere the conditions are right (dark, warm, moist, etc), whether the surface is living or non-living, organic or not. In 2002, our government’s National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute published a study called Research on Microbial Biofilms.
This study stated that, “A biofilm is an accumulation of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and/or protozoa, with associated bacteriophages and other viruses) embedded in a polysaccharide [SUGAR] matrix and adherent to solid biologic or non-biologic surface. Biofilms are medically important, accounting for over 80 percent of microbial infections in the body.”
After listing the almost infinite number of places these creatures like to inhabit in the body, they go on to tell us that, “Biofilms are remarkably difficult to treat with antimicrobials. Antimicrobials may be readily inactivated or fail to penetrate into the biofilm. In addition, bacteria within biofilms have increased (up to 1000-fold higher) resistance to antimicrobial compounds, even though these same bacteria are sensitive to these agents if grown under planktonic [independent] conditions.”
There are several features that make biofilms interesting and potentially dangerous. Part of it has to do with something called “Quorum Sensing”. Have you heard the old saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts“? The example I am going to use today is Roman Legionaries. While individually formidable, when they formed up in the ‘Testudo (Tortoise) Formation’, a small group of soldiers had the ability to make themselves extremely difficult to defeat.
Biofilms act in a similar way. Instead of a few “Planktonic” (individual) bacteria floating around and looking for trouble, you are much more likely — particularly in chronically ill individuals — to find vast cities of microbes that have created a veritable fortress by anchoring themselves in formation to a surface of some sort, even going so far as to incorporate nearby material into their matrix (film), which can be many-layered. Because they live in such close proximity to each other, they have the ability to communicate with each other as well as pass genetic material back and forth — a critical factor in their BATTLE TO SURVIVE.
Here’s what I want you to glean from this. Firstly, the vast majority of microbial infections that occur in your body are due to the action of biofilms. Secondly, ANTIBIOTICS and antimicrobials don’t do so well against them — a fact the medical community has been slow to get through their collective heads (HERE). Until recently, doctors were full steam ahead with Antibiotics, chemical sterilizers, antibacterial soaps, antimicrobial wipes, antibacterial clothing (I’m not making it up), and who knows what else. What has all this antimicrobial action done?
Firstly, it’s left us with a wide array of new “superbugs” that genuinely have researchers and those who are in-the-know both befuddled and freaked out. Secondly, even though these Antimicrobials don’t work well over the long haul, they have been used to the point of FOULING OUR INNER HYGIENE. The end result is a weakened Immune System, 80% of which is made up of the critters that live in your Gut (HERE).
Do you think that a “hidden” infection — possibly some sort of DYSBIOTIC JUNK running amok in your digestive tract — could be a driver of SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION? You bet your sweet bippy it can. And what do we know about the end-product of Inflammation? It always leads to Fibrosis — the medical name for what I refer to in the office as “MICROSCOPIC SCAR TISSUE“. If you need to see the peer-reviewed proof for this, I have written at least three posts on this very topic (HERE and HERE are two of them — I’ll give you the third momentarily). Listen to this description of a Mycoplasmic Infection’s affect on Fascia.
“In cases of Mycoplasma, fatigue is pervasive, resulting in a sense of total exhaustion. All the neurotoxic conditions cause nonrestorative sleep, but debilitating fatigue is a hallmark of Mycoplasma. These disorders also frequently cause inflammation of the fascia (which wraps every muscle in the body), resulting in chronic muscular pain or aching. In sum, if the patient is utterly exhausted with symptoms of joint pain, tender fascia, or skin irritations, consider Mycoplasma.” Doctor Wayne C. Anderson from the Townsend Letter (Neurotoxic Disorders: Reactivity to Lyme, Coinfections, Molds, and Petrochemicals).
There is abundant evidence in the literature to suggest that chronic microbial bacterial infections (the literature dwells extensively on Lyme’s) can attack — or at least have an affinity for — Fascia. Allow me to show you a couple of quotes — the first one concerning Lyme’s and the second one concerning a rare and deadly problem called “Necrotizing Fasciitis” (NF). NF can be caused by the so-called “flesh eating” bacteria or by an infection gone wild. Because it is rare, I am not really interested in NF itself. What I am interested in are the conditions that the authors say make Fascia ripe for assault / Insult by chronic infection.
“Some argue that plantar fascial pain is found in both Babesia and Bartonella [tick-borne bacteria thought be be involved with Lyme-like symptoms], but I think that it is more related to Bartonella. In any case, whenever extreme anxiety is patients’ overriding symptom and is found in conjunction with neuropathic symptoms, such as burning pain, then I suspect that a Bartonella-like organism is causing these symptoms.” Steven Harris MD, from his book Insights Into Lyme Disease Treatment.
“Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) is rapidly progressing bacterial infection spreading along the deep fascial planes with relative sparing of skin and underlying muscles. Blood supply to the fascia is typically more tenuous than that of muscle or healthy skin, making the fascia more vulnerable to infectious processes. Additionally, the propensity for fluid collection between involved fascia and adjacent tissues further weakens fascial immune protection.” From the book, Non-Odontogenic Oral and Maxillofacial Infections by Drs. Petr Schütz and Hussein Hassan Hamed Ibrahim
Sort of like humans, as the microbes begin to make themselves at home — particularly when they form up as biofilms — they begin to produce garbage, some of it in the form of toxins. Relatively small amounts of some of these toxins, along with the Inflammatory Response, have the potential to make people feel sick. But imagine for a moment what might happen if we had a huge “dumping” of these toxins into your bloodstream, to be carried SYSTEMICALLY throughout your body? Enter Doctor Karl Herxheimer.
Dr. Karl Herxheimer (1861-1942) was a German Dermatologist. After becoming the head of the Dermatology Clinic in Frankfurt, he teamed up with Nobel Prize winning physician, Dr. Paul Erlich, to found the University of Frankfurt. Among Herxheimer’s chief areas of study was a skin condition (acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans — diffuse idiopathic cutaneous atrophy) that occurs in the latter stages of Lyme Disease.
Herxheimer, along with Erlich, was working with another Dermatologist, Dr. Adolf Jarisch, to find a cure for Syphilis. Some of the drugs they came up with, were, due to their high concentrations of things like arsenic and MERCURY, quite toxic to host and invading microbe alike. In other words, in similar fashion to modern Chemotherapy, the goal with these drugs was to use their toxic nature to kill off the baddies without killing the host / patient.
When microorganisms are killed, they release (dump) their toxic contents into the blood stream. When large numbers of these critters are killed at once, they release their toxic load at once. With something like Antibiotics (or non-antibiotic ANTIBIOTIC-LIKE drugs), the toxicity builds faster than the body can clear it. The result is feeling like crap — tired (even exhaustion), muscle pain, FEVER, chills, HEADACHE, and at times, more serious issues.
However, Herxhimer Reactions are almost always self-limiting, and while you might feel terrible or even “Flu-like” for awhile, the reaction typically won’t last more than a couple of days, and will not leave any sort of permanent damage. Just remember that the goal is not to go overboard.
“A Herx often indicates more die-off than the body can detoxify, which results in an activation of symptoms. In the past we thought that the greater the Herx response, the more we were helping the patient. We believed that it was desirable to have a significantly aggravated response. We now realize that an intense Herx is probably confusing to the immune system and may only be creating more havoc.” Again, from Dr. Anderson
If you follow my blog, you already realize that in many cases — especially for those of you with CHRONIC PAIN caused by severe cases of DIFFERENT CONNECTIVE TISSUE-RELATED PROBLEMS — breaking the adhesions can be harsh. In fact, in many (maybe even most) cases it must be harsh. Why? Because when it comes to getting rid of the microscopic Scar Tissue that the medical community calls “Fibrosis,” the tissue is either being broken or it’s not. There’s no middle ground. To better understand what I’m saying, you can read the post about it (HERE, which also contains more information about Inflammation and Fibrosis).
So, if you have some sort of sub-clinical or hidden infection creating a microscopically thin biofilm on your FASCIA, breaking it can, in some cases, cause a Herxheimer Reaction. This is particularly true with people who are dealing with any number of CHRONIC INFLAMMATORY DEGENERATIVE DISEASE or AUTOIMMUNITY.
CHRONIC “HIDDEN” INFECTIONS (AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO BIOFILMS)
1.) Initial Attachment 2.) Irreversible Attachment 3.) Maturation I 4.) Maturation II 5) Dispersion
“Most research into bacterial pathogenesis has focused on acute infections, but these diseases have now been supplemented by a new category of chronic infections caused by bacteria growing in slime-enclosed aggregates known as biofilms. Biofilm infections, such as pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients, chronic wounds, chronic otitis media and implant- and catheter-associated infections, affect millions of people in the developed world each year and many deaths occur as a consequence. In general, bacteria have two life forms during growth and proliferation.
In one form, the bacteria exist as single, independent cells (planktonic) whereas in the other form, bacteria are organized into sessile aggregates. The latter form is commonly referred to as the biofilm…. In cases where the bacteria succeed in forming a biofilm within the human host, the infection often turns out to be untreatable and will develop into a chronic state.”From the May, 2013 issue of the medical journal APMIS Supplementum (The role of Bacterial Biofilms in Chronic Infections), Københavns University, Denmark
“Could mild and even undetected infections reduce our lifespan? New research published in the journal Science is suggesting the possibility that mild illnesses throughout ones life, even those that may not produce any symptoms whatsoever, could speed up the aging process in the long run.” Andrew Fazekas from his recent Yahoo Weather “Geekquinox” blog (Hidden Infections may Shorten our Lifespans)
“His interviews revealed that 38,000,000 people in this country have (or had) a chronic sinus problem [think biofilm here]. At Southwest Regional Woundcare Center, Dr. Randy Wolcott explained that 550,000 deaths related to biofilm infections occur annually – almost the same number of fatalities as cancer – and thirty times the number of AIDS patients lost each year.
Doctor David Kennedy, a retired dentist, lamented that most adult Americans have gum disease — another bacterial biofilm condition involving chronic infection.” Taken from the website of the Arthroplasty Patient Foundation (yeah, unfortunately Biofilms love the surfaces of joint replacements), discussing something from the Ondine Biopharma website.
“Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs), which include infections of skin, subcutaneous tissue, fascia, and muscle, encompass a wide spectrum of clinical presentations, ranging from simple cellulitis to rapidly progressive necrotizing fasciitis. SSTIs may be caused by any of a formidable number of pathogenic microorganisms, and they may be either monomicrobial or polymicrobial.” Skin and Soft Tissue Infections – Incision, Drainage, and Debridement, written by a group of MD’s for MedScape.
There are two classes of infections I want to mention today. The first are known as “subclinical infections” and are found via standard testing, in people who show no signs of any significant illness. These individuals are often described as “asymptomatic”. The second kind of infection I want to mention — the one we are discussing today — are known as “chronic” or “hidden” (often times you’ll see them referred to as “occult”) infections. They are the infections that cause people definite (often serious) problems, but for whatever reason, have not shown up on any of the standard blood tests.
An example of the former would be most cases of Polio. Did you know that there was much more Polio during our nation’s epidemics that most people realize? This is because 90% of those infected had no symptoms. Of the remaining 10%, most of those had varying degrees of what they thought was a cold. Unfortunately and for reasons that no one completely understands, a small portion of the latter group ended up with the symptoms that we associate with the disease.
A great example of a Hidden Infection involves a recent patient. A young man whose family has been a patient of mine for years, developed a case of tinnitus and noise-sensitivity (among other things) that was so severe it was debilitating. After suffering for months (despite every test and specialist you could imagine) and wondering if he would have to live the rest of his life in this manner, they found a natural doctor who discovered a “Hidden Infection” in the lymph nodes on one side of the neck. The cure (natural remedies of various kinds) not only solved his problem, but brought on a whale of a Herxheimer Reaction that lasted over a week.
All of this begs the question of just how common these “Hidden Infections” really are. You should be able to tell from a few of the quotes that Chronic “Hidden” Infections are quite common (many would call them an epidemic in this country), as well as being a major cause of MUPS. If you go online you can read about any number of health problems which are associated with Hidden Infections caused specific strains of bacteria, virus, YEAST, etc.
Some of the more common places to develop these chronic infections are in dental work (specifically Root Canals, although dental plaque is itself considered a Biofilm), SINUSES, the PROSTATE, as well as Dysbiotic Gut Infections (H. PYLORI is a common one). Be aware, however, that they can arise from just about anywhere. And finding them can sometimes be difficult — a topic I will cover in another post.
There are any number of protocols for getting rid of the Biofilms in Chronic Infections — some good, some not so good. Bear in mind that many will use the word “detoxification” to describe what they are doing. If you want to see a picture of MD’s who are destroying Biofilms as they solve even severe cases of AUTISM, take a look at the websites of a couple of medical doctors who ended up in Functional Medicine due to the fact that they have chronically ill children (I won’t even mention that VACCINES might have been a culprit); AMY DAVIS WRIGHT.
NOT ALL BIOFILMS ARE BAD
I feel that I need to mention that, in the same way that most bacteria are not “bad”, neither are biofilms. Listen to what the venerable Dr. Art Ayers says concerning this subject on his “Cooling Inflammation” website (Dr. Oz, Vitamins, and Biofilms).
“People with healthy, diet-adapted gut flora, can subsist on very limited diets without vitamin deficiency diseases, because all of the vitamins can be obtained from bacteria growing in films coating the lining of the gut. These biofilms are complex communities of dozens of different bacteria and fungi. The bacteria synthesize polysaccharides in which these and other bacteria and fungi become embedded. The biofilms release vitamins that are taken up by intestinal cells to provide the needs of the body.”
In another article (Cures for Inflammatory Diseases) Ayers goes on to reveal why certain natural products have almost “UNIVERSAL” curative powers. Listen carefully. “Glucosamine works sometimes for arthritis, but little of the glucosamine that is eaten reaches the blood stream and the aching joints that seem to become less inflamed. Vinegar, pectin, and fiber have also been attributed with curative powers, yet none is likely to impact inflamed joints directly. Impacting gut biofilms is much easier to explain.” I wrote a post about this phenomenon HERE.