Mycoplasma Bacteria Tied To Chronic Illness

Slow growing infections may cause or promote a host of chronic illnesses, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia Syndrome and Gulf War Syndrome. Symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, soreness, joint pain and others overlap across many chronic illnesses. And patients with these ailments have few treatment options because of limited understanding about the cause of their signs and symptoms.

In one study on 203 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients, around 70 percent had mycoplasma DNA in their bloodstream, indicating the presence of mycoplasmas. In contrast, only nine percent of 70 healthy individuals compared carried such signs. Another trial compared 200 Gulf War Syndrome patients to 62 healthy military subjects. People with the illness were more than seven times more likely to have mycoplasmal infections.

Mycoplasmas lack many of the features of more aggressive infectious bacteria, such as cell walls, than enable antibiotics like penicillins to target invading germs. Because of their simple structure, mycoplasmas reproduce slowly, using the machinery of invaded cells to produce their energy and many of their synthetic molecules. Individuals with immune systems compromised by viruses, radiation or pollutants appear to be at risk from mycoplasmal infections.

The breakthrough is using new genetic tools to find and measure the bacteria. Dr. Garth Nicolson, the study’s author, has adapted the DNA analysis used by crime investigators to detect germ genes in each patient's bloodstream. Once mycoplasmas are identified, Dr. Nicolson provides antibiotic treatment suggestions to physicians who then treat their patients.

Two federal efforts based on Dr. Nicolson's results are now underway to seek to determine whether antibiotics can cure chronic illness. One, conducted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, looks at the blood of Gulf War veterans for signs of mycoplasmas. The other, conducted at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers nationwide, involves giving some mycoplasma-positive Gulf War Syndrome patients antibiotics and others dummy pills under rigorous experimental conditions designed to ferret out the true effectiveness of the therapy.

Medical Sentinel Vol. 4, no. 5, 172-75 September/October 1999

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

I first heard Dr. Nicholson about four years ago when we both gave presentations at the AAEM annual conference. His was on the Gulf War Syndrome and mine was on the use of antibiotics to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

He has used some very elegant tools, such as PCR DNA techniques to provide some very compelling evidence of the causal relationship between mycoplasma and many chronic illnesses.

My own personal belief is that an impaired immune system is more likely to be responsible for the infection. Restoring the integrity of the immune system will most frequently allow the individual to recover from the illness, as they are able to clear the infection.

However, this is not always possible, and many people do seem to benefit from the antibiotics.

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