What’s Old Is New Again

Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recently made a big announcement. They’re developing a “new and innovative” approach to treating bacterial infections. Of course, the traditional method of treatment is to bombard the body with antibiotics. Now, they’d like to develop ways to boost the immune system so it can naturally take out bacteria.

Finding alternatives to antibiotics has indeed become critical. Thanks to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Including MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and so-called “flesh-eating” bacteria, like the kind that nearly killed a young girl in Georgia back in May following a zip-line accident.

In this new study, researchers found that one of the immune system’s normal biomolecules actually suppresses inflammation. This molecule can normally act to dampen the immune response to infections and other threats. (Of course, it’s critical for the body to have ways of turning off the immune system. When it’s functioning properly, this natural response is what prevents autoimmune disorders.)

The researchers believe they can use this finding to develop a way to neutralize the biomolecule that suppresses inflammation. And, in turn, allow the immune system to more effectively block bacterial infection. Of course, their approach involves a high-tech method of creating a “monoclonal antibody.” This antibody would counteract the biomolecule that suppresses inflammation. (Monoclonal antibodies, by the way, are synthetic, lab-produced versions of natural antibodies.)

The article goes on to explain that, “despite the availability of antibiotics, bacterial infections continue to extract a heavy toll of suffering and death. A better understanding of how the immune system recognizes and responds to infectious agents would aid efforts to develop new, more effective treatments.”

Yes, it certainly would. And I’m glad to see medical science finally admitting that its “understanding” of the normal human immune system remains sorely lacking.

But my favorite quote came from one of the lead researchers, who said, “This offers a completely new approach to fighting infections by targeting the host immune response rather than the bacterium.”

Keep in mind, this is a scientist working in St. Jude’s Department of Immunology. And she believes that modulating the immune system is a “completely new approach.”

The fact is, Nature has been accomplishing this “new and innovative” approach for centuries (or longer). Without using lab-generated antibodies.

First of all, the human body already has natural ways of defeating bacteria. Most notably, fever—which stops bacterial growth just like an antibiotic can.

But there are also many herbs, such as Echinacea and goldenseal, that are well-known “immuno-modulators.” Which boost the immune system naturally. And help it to overcome bacterial infection.

In fact, these herbs are helpful even when an antibiotic is used. You still need as much immune support as possible to help your system catch up to and overcome the bacteria.

And, unlike antibiotics, these natural immune-modulators work for viruses as well as bacteria. Even for the common cold (caused by viruses). A cure for which still eludes mainstream medicine, despite all their high-tech approaches.

Modulating the immune system is indeed a great way to overcome any type of infection. But despite what the “experts” at St. Jude’s might believe, this concept was not just discovered in their hospital laboratory.

“NLRP6 negatively regulates innate immunity and host defense [sic] against bacterial pathogens.” Nature 2012; July 1 (epub ahead of print)