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Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Alternative Medicine


Dr. Lester CN Simon

I write in reference to the article, “Antiguan Naturopath Cures HTLV-I” submitted by Mr. Ted Emanuel and published in the Antigua Sun on Wednesday July 26, 2006. I telephoned Mr. Emanuel in Jamaica and suggested to him that his article did not contain sufficient information to conclude that the he cured the patient of HTLV-I.

HTLV-I means Human T cell Lymphotropic Virus type I. Like all viruses, HTLV-I needs a living cell to reproduce because it does not have the full reproduction machinery for this vital function. Viruses may show a particular affinity or tropism for certain types of cells. The members of the group of viruses called HTLV derive their group name from their affinities or tropism for human T lymphocytes, which are types of white blood cells.

HTLV-I is the first member of a distinct group of viruses. Other members of the group include HTLV-II, which cases a blood cancer, and the HIV viruses that cause AIDS. HTLV-I does not cause AIDS. HTLV-I is associated with some types of cancer, a nerve disorder, skin problems and other abnormalities. The major routes of transmission of all these viruses include sexual activity, blood transfusion and mother-to-child.

Many tests for viruses, including HTLV-I, are actually tests for the substances called antibodies that the body makes in response to infection by the virus. A person may be virus positive and antibody negative because the antibodies are in very low, immeasurable quantities. Hence the article by the Antiguan naturopath should have stated whether the test on the patient was a test for the antibodies or a test for the virus. Additionally, the sensitivity and specificity of any test should be included and referenced to a gold standard, which is a test that detects extremely small amounts of the tested material. Everyone is familiar with the fact that the inability to detect something does not necessarily mean that it is absent.

In the absence of pertinent scientific data, the article submitted by Mr. Ted Emanuel falls short of basic scientific principles. In this regard, I wish to note that there is a place for naturopathic medicine in the healing process but that place must be earned and maintain by proper attention to scientific principles in medicine, statistics and logic.

I am a medical doctor and I have no hesitation at all in saying that we must acknowledge the shortcomings of orthodox medicine and attend to them. But we must not discard the baby with the bathwater. Reverting solely to natural medicine without attention to orthodox medicine, science, statistics and logic would be akin to discarding the baby, the bathwater, the basin and the entire bathroom.

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