First post from my new series – when microbiology was still relatively new ALS was already known disease and it was suspected to be caused by microscopic pathogens as well.
It is unfortunate that we still cannot do anything good enough with ALS and help the suffering patients. This problem is with us for a quite long time. People started to register ALS more on the turn of the 20th century (i.e. 19th and 20th centuries). In terms of fighting with diseases in general this age was revolutional because people have just realized there are tiny microbial enemies – first bacteria and later even smaller ones, viruses. Humans started to look at every health problem from this perspective and were trying to find the causative infectious/pathogenic agent. In many cases they succeeded. I liked the description of this period as is written in this work1. I am adding couple of citations below.
The roots of this microbiological revolution were deep: speculations about the existence of a contagium, usually presumed inanimate, had circulated for centuries; the microscope had long ago revealed tiny creatures; fungus had seemed to blame for some skin disease even in the 1830s; and about the same time, living yeast was discovered to be the cause of alcoholic fermentation. All the same, it was hard at first to place these observations in the thought style of early nineteenth century medicine. Conceptual resistance eventually tumbled, however1.
In the 1870s, German physician Robert Koch confirmed that a rod-shaped germ, the bacillus, was responsible for anthrax; and within a decade he identified the microbiological causes of those great scourges of humanity, tuberculosis and cholera. At the end of the nineteenth century, microbe hunters were revealing one after another the minute life forms responsible for dozens of major diseases1.
It is not surprising people wanted to find bacteria or later virus responsible for ALS or MS as well. When I read the memoirs of Lou Gehrig it also contains the citation of a letter which Lou Gehrig wrote to his wife when initially heard the bad news.
The bad news is “lateral sclerosis,” in our language infantile paralysis. There isn’t any cure, the best they can hope is to check it at the point it is now and there is a 50-50 chance for that. My instructions and my physicians will be furnished by Dr. O’Leary. There are very few of these cases . . . it is probably caused by some germ. However, my first question was transmission. No danger whatever. Never heard of transmitting it to mates … [it continues]2
He (Lou Gehrig) had to receive this information from medical personel which did not want to give him the fatal outlook right away – great attitude of that time! Of course this trace, early guess, may seem very weak to today reader but wait for the others to come (this is post series). The reason why I am listing it as a first one and obviously quite weakly supported trace is that it was a logical and intuitive guess which was never reliably ruled out in the future till our time. This early assumption was not yet influenced by other findings which came in 1950s and much later but it was based on new revolutional and amazing finding of that period. That revolution has not ended – humans are far from complete understanding the microscopic world. In ALS XT I mainly speculate on the multi-factor microbial aspect where individual pathogens form coincidental relationships. Think about it using following analogy.
There are six persons which are individually known as boring and weird people. Others try to better avoid them – they are just not fun to be with. However one day, by coincidence, these six people gather at the single table in a restaurant together with several other people. It can be some celebration where also these known nerds were somehow invited – perhaps just from familial reasons (tradition). Then let´s add some spice – a bit of alcohol. After some time these six people with special nature change to laughing and great fun making individuals – something they would not be able to do, when alone or when only three or four of them met together. There is someone who has “ice breaking” skills and those others then start reacting and further promoting the fun. At the end people change their opinions on those six persons as they witnessed how they can be funny and good companions, it is very surprising. More over they start to thinking why they are grumpy for the most of the time – what troubles or life experience is behind it. They ask and get some understanding of it. However nobody is able to say what was that magic behind the change in behavior of those persons. Nobody noticed it is that simple – they individually did not have rare good day, rapid change in the mood or something like that. They just met those others and that created the unique atmosphere or conditions and then there was also alcohol – which they drink normally but it never improves their mood. Even those six persons do not realize the simplicity behind their good time. Day after the party they switched back to the grumpy mode further complemented with hangover.
Above fictional story is really weird but still it is possible – humans can imagine it could happen because everyone knows he or she can feel better or worse depending on the presence of other people and their behavior. It can be an analogy to microbial elements (viruses, bacteria, fungi) which individually are found not interesting or super dangerous but when they meet together and when spice in a form of accumulated heavy metals is added to the hosting organism they can form a deadly lock. In this case it is not fun, it is a terrible situation where life is at stake. These advanced relationships and changes in the pathogen modus operandi based on that rendesvouz are something current science probably does not intensively consider. Instead it uses old school simple pathogen to disease mapping as it got established in 19th century. Today we have 21st century and this new type of complexity should be really put at the center of the efforts, it can be a key to some of our medical problems.
The old wisdom says the intuitive and first guess is often the right one but it is not easy to recognize & confirm it and there is a hard way to walk to prove it. Usually there are traps which make evertything very complex and one can be easily routed to different and “more logical” paths. Even in case of my problems and my absolutelly lame initial knowledge my intuition (“boreliosis/Lyme”) was very close to my today findings (after reading and studying lots of resources). I also remember my mother hypothesis (“inflammation in cervical spine”) which was relevant but it did not help her at the end. Still she repeated this and was prepared to fight it somehow. Then she received the ALS diagnosis and it broke her. I tried to help her to overcome it but I was not successful.
Today we have year 2021 and there is no official information ALS is caused by this or that bacteria or virus. However there is a great amount of suspicions because certain pathogens were reliably identified in tissues or body fluids in ALS patients. Everyone can check this on his/her own – even simple 15-minute Google exercise can be certain eye opener.
Please ask yourself why it is not communicated openly to public while even less relevant, unsure and cryptic genetics & gene factors and studies are mentioned so often and loudly.
- 1.Anderson W, Mackay IR. Intolerant Bodies: A Short History of Autoimmunity. Johns Hopkins University Press; 2014.
- 2.Eig J. Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig. Simon & Schuster; 2006.
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