Why all the concern over the H1N1 virus with the WHO, the CDC, etc? Annually in the US alone, around 36,000 people die from the flu; and so far less than 200 people in Mexico have died (primarily children). So, why the concern that this could be the big pandemic of the proportions of the 1918 Spanish flu—an outbreak that killed 40 to 50 million people worldwide?
There are several factors that have caused the world health authorities to put this virus at a level 5 pandemic alert (6th level is the highest).
Historical usage: The Spanish Flu started modestly, and for a period of time didn’t appear to be much to worry about, but then it took off and the rest is history; possibly as many as 50 million people died in one year between 1918 and 1919. That is more than died in The Great War (WWI) in four years.
The Immune System
Preparing for battle: A snapshot of our army.
From a war or battle analogy, on one hand, we have bacteria, virus, fungi, parasites, prions, mycoplasms trying to eat us, and xenobiotics (heavy metals, industrial chemicals and pollutants) incapacitating us; and, on the other hand we have our immune system trying to protect us.
Our immune system is a very complex army of cells whose job is to monitor every cell, every tissue in our body, and if something is amiss, its job is to report it and fix it. Our army can be divided into two parts— the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.
>From an evolutionary point of view, the innate immune system is thought to constitute an evolutionarily older defense strategy and is the dominant system found in plants, fungi, insects and primitive multi-cellular organisms. It is their only defense, and it is our front line defense. Circulating patrols of natural killer cells, macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells, plus the more stationary fighters, embedded in the mucus membranes, the eosinophils, basophils and mast cells. All are members of the innate fighting force, responding immediately to microbial attacks and invasions.
The macrophages, neutrophils and dendrites are phagocytic cells, capable of engulfing invaders, digesting them and displaying their identifying proteins on their cellular surface to be identified later by the adaptive immune system lymphocytes. All innate system cells are also capable of destroying the foreign invading organisms by employing powerful bursts of oxidants and acids— histamine, bradykinin, serotonin, leukotrienses, prostaglandins and hypochlorous acid; biochemicals weapons that not only kill the bad guys but cause collateral damage in the process as well; creating inflammation and pain, destroying good tissue as well as the bad. Natural killer cells are the innate immune system’s primary front line weapon against viruses. When a cell becomes infected with a virus, a marker is expressed on its surface, killer cells seek out these marked human cells and destroys them; hence the name killer cells.
While, the innate immune system offers a more generic solution to pathogen control, the adaptive immune system targets specifically the exact pathogenic organism it wants to eliminate and does so with precision. Adaptive immunity emerged on the evolutionary scene with the dawning of the more highly evolved phyla of amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
The cells of the adaptive immune system are called lymphocytes, of which there are two major types— T lymphocytes (T cells) and B lymphocytes (B cells). The human body has about 2 trillion lymphocytes, constituting 20 to 40% of the white blood cells (WBCs). Their total mass is about the same as the brain. The cells and weaponry created by the T-cells constitute what is called cell-mediated immunity and those created by the B-cells is called humoral immunity.
For the cell-mediated immune response to occur, first a front line defender like a macrophage must gobble up the invading pathogen and display the pathogen’s identifying proteins (the antigen) on its cell surface receptors. When a T- lymphocyte with the matching receptor for this antigen binds to the macrophage’s antigen receptor, the joining together causes the antigen-specific T-cell to clonally proliferate and produce helper T-cells, cytotoxic T-cells, suppressor T-cells, and memory T-cells all of which have on their cellular surface receptor site specific for the particular pathogen. The cytotoxic T-cells specifically go after viruses, the particular virus that it is designated to destroy.
Helper T-cells, through putting out a different set of cytokines can stimulate the growth and differentiation of B-cells, which grow into plasma cells that produce antibodies. B-cells and antibodies are part of the humoral immunity. Humoral immunity also is particularly relevant when in comes to viruses, as the antibodies seek out the viral and neutralizes their ability to infect and facilitating their removal from the body.
If one has a healthy immune system it can get rid of mercury, it can get rid of infections, and it can get rid of viruses. If one doesn’t, then those infectious agents and xenobiotics get accumulated in the system causing toxicity and illness. Paying attention to our immune system’s state of health should be of the first order of business in the practice of medicine today. How does seeding the gastrointestinal tract with strong probiotic organisms aid the immune system and protect us from a virus, like the influenza virus?
The Gastrointestinal tract
Aside from being a digestive, absorptive and eliminative organ that processes 60 tons of food in a lifetime, the GI tract is an immunologic organ, as 70% of the immune system is centered in and around the gastrointestinal tract’s mucus membrane. Why there? Because the GI mono-layered mucus membrane is sandwiched between the cells of the immune system on the inside border, and 100 trillion organisms from the outside world, on the outside border; the border facing the lumen of the gut. The gastrointestinal membrane border is our body’s largest surface area of exposure to the outside world. It therefore can easily become the Port of Infection.
Maintaining tight cellular junctions, a healthy thick mucus coat, an ample expression of secretory IgA, and cultivating an abundance of beneficial gastrointestinal flora are key to protecting the gut (and the respiratory tract) from an influenza infection.
How do good probiotic organisms contribute to this defense, especially against possible pandemics from organisms such as H1N1? How can seeding the gut with good bugs benefit the mucus membranes of the respiratory tract—the very membrane under attack by the influenza virus?
There is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that immunostimulation by probiotic bacteria in the gut can enhance immune protection at distal mucosal sites, such as the urogenital and respiratory tracts. Next week we will discuss in some detail just how these protective benefits are achieved through a regular intake of healthy synbiotic formula.
Clinical Note: The Bulgarian society has been known historically for the longevity of its people and their resistance to disease. This in large part has been attributed to their regular intake of certain probiotic organisms. Through our collaborative work with Bulgarian scientists we have created three very powerful formulas: the Supernatant Synbiotic Formula, the Cranberry Pomegranate Synbiotic Formula and the Number Seven Systemic Booster. They each contain carefully selected Bulgarian lactic acid bacterial strains and their metabolites (which are called supernatant); all stains that have a rich history of medical use and benefits. Check them out on our website at BioImmersion.com.
The Last Quiz Answer: This beautiful animal is a Bobcat or Lynx.
Harvard Medical School weighs in on the swine flu.