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The Novel 2019 Coronavirus


By now, nearly everyone on the planet is aware of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that emerged in Wuhan, China causing multiple cases of pneumonia, adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and a significant number of deaths, mostly in elderly men.[1] There is no conventionally recognized effective preventative treatment or cure for COVID-19, though homeopaths have successfully treated similar outbreaks of epidemic infectious disease for more than two centuries.[2],[3]

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared COVID-19 a pandemic as a growing number of cases are emerging in the US along with many more deaths. The federal government, which initially considered warnings part of a “democratic weaponization” of the news media,[4] has now restricted travel to the US from most European nations and is considering limitations on domestic travel as well.[5] In Westchester County, New York at least one large town has been quarantined,[6] and in the midst of all this activity, with global stock markets tumbling,[7] how does anyone make sense of what is actually happening? What is actually happening?

It’s natural to wonder if this blitz of activity reflects a reliable threat, or if it is an overreaction to a completely normal and natural process. Is this a medical Armageddon, or is COVID-19 simply following predictable patterns of normal viral dissemination? The answer may be a little bit of both: for most people, the media frenzy will turn out to be an overreaction to a largely benign process; but for some who are chronically ill and reliant on certain medicines to protect their health, this epidemic represents a very real and dangerous threat. A brief analysis of the overall situation might explain why.

So far, the majority (at least 82%) of known cases of COVID-19 infection (including children) have either extremely mild symptoms, similar to the common cold, or no symptoms at all. This isn’t surprising since coronaviruses and rhinoviruses typically cause the “common cold.”[8] The remaining 18% have more severe symptoms consistent with a severe bout of influenza, and a very small percentage of these have developed complications including pneumonia and ARDS. Between 2 - 5% have died. The majority of these deaths were elderly men undergoing treatment for pre-existing chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, kidney, lung, heart and liver disease. [9]

Worldwide, most people who are exposed to the COVID-19 virus will only develop mild upper respiratory tract symptoms similar to the “common cold.” A small number of people, predominantly those affected by an underlying chronic medical condition, are at higher risk of developing a more severe symptoms, complications and death.

Since according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the majority (60%) of Americans suffer from at least one form of chronic medical illness, and 40% live with two or more chronic medical conditions,[10] a significantly large number of Americans are at increased risk of complications from COVID-19. Because of this, it is possible that the death rate in the US from COVID-19 will be higher than the averages seen throughout the rest of the world.

Americans spend more per capita on health care than any other developed nation on earth (nearly 20% of GDP), yet rank lower in most health indices, including longevity and infant mortality, and higher in chronic illness than their international peers.[11] This is probably not a coincidence since Americans are the heaviest users of pharmaceutical drugs in the world, spending nearly $400 billion annually on these products.[12]

There is a virtual epidemic of chronic inflammatory illnesses in the US[13] and other developed nations which directly correlates with the use of medicines used to treat and eliminate acute infectious diseases.[14] According to the CDC, the average American child receives 15 courses of antibiotics before their 18th birthday[15] and everyone with the slightest febrile illness is routinely advised to take either Tylenol, Ibuprofen or a combination of both.[16] The heavy reliance on these drugs (and many others) used to treat acute infections and reduce acute inflammation, is associated with significant adverse effects on the microbiome[17] and the immune system.[18] The cumulative effect of this medication-based approach to common acute inflammatory conditions is greater risk of developing chronic inflammation in the form of allergies,[19] asthma[20] and autoimmunity,[21] and an impaired ability to fight infections.[22]

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that are typically associated with mild forms of the “common cold,” although they have also been associated with the more severe infections known as SARS and MERS.[23] The novel COVID-19 coronavirus is a bit more aggressive than the common cold and challenges those with impaired immunity. What isn’t clear is if the increased risk of complications and death from COVID-19 is due only to the underlying chronic medical condition itself, or if it is related to the concomitant use of some medicines that suppress immunity or delay recovery.[24] Much more background information from individual cases would be necessary to determine if it is only the underlying disease, the medical treatment, or some combination of both that increases the rate of fatal outcome from viral infections including COVID-19.

There have been some deaths from COVID-19 in otherwise “healthy” individuals, but no helpful details have been provided in these cases. It would be useful to know what medical therapies (steroids, antibiotics, antivirals), antipyretics (Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen), anti-inflammatory or over-the-counter medicines (decongestants, antihistamines) were used by these otherwise “healthy” individuals who died, and not used by others. Many of these drugs suppress the immune inflammatory response, temporarily ameliorating symptoms, but simultaneously weakening innate immune defense mechanisms that protect the body against invasive infections. In these otherwise “healthy” individuals, something interfered with their ability to withstand infection, but what it was, isn’t clear. Obtaining this type of background information might be extremely helpful in understanding the factors that contribute to mortality risk from COVID-19.

During the great influenza epidemic of 1918, the global pandemic that killed millions worldwide, there were similar factors involved. In that pandemic aspirin (which was first made available for over the counter use in 1915) was strongly and widely recommended (for the first time in history) to prevent and treat influenza. There is reasonable anecdotal and preclinical evidence suggesting that the heavy use of aspirin was associated with some of the gravest consequences in otherwise “young and healthy” individuals who precipitously died from this virus.[25] Modern-day physicians now understand that aspirin is contraindicated in most viral infections because it is associated with significantly increased risk of immune and neurological complications.[26]

Even though aspirin is no longer routinely recommended for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease “because of [a] lack of net benefit,”[27] it is still routinely used by at least 29 million American men[28] and it causes more deaths from gastrointestinal bleeding,[29] stroke[30] and cancer[31] than it prevents from cardiovascular disease. Since aspirin may also increase the risk of complications from viral infections, it might be wise to advise elderly men at risk of exposed to COVID-19 to avoid this drug (and all other anti-inflammatory agents.[32])

Viruses are not “living” organisms, but they are ubiquitous throughout nature, outnumbering bacteria by 10:1. There are approximately 380 trillion viruses in the average healthy human body (compared with 37 trillion human cells); they are the single most abundant biological agent on the planet[33] with more than 1030 (one nonillion) viruses in the oceans alone[34] and more than 1.7 million different viral species already identified.[35]

Not only do viruses spread through person-to-person contact, but they are readily transported and disseminated through the atmosphere where they remain viable for long periods of time.[36] National border patrols, fences, walls and quarantines cannot interrupt a mode of transmission where more than 800 million viruses fall onto every square meter of ground per-day across the entire globe, even in the most “pristine alpine environments.”[37] In addition to viruses, more than 545 different bacterial and 168 different fungal species are transported in fog, clouds and “fresh air.”[38] The concentration density of these micro-organisms increases as air becomes more polluted with smog, dust and smoke.[39]

For most healthy individuals, community and environmental exposure to viruses is necessary.[40] Only a small number of viruses are associated with human illness and many more are associated with significant long-term health benefits, but for those suffering from chronic illness or taking medicines that interfere with the microbiome or immune system functioning, even relatively benign viruses can cause devastating illness.[41]

Engaging with viruses imparts clear long-term benefits to the immune system. The greater the number of acute lower respiratory-tract infections (which are mostly viral[42]) experienced by children, the lower their risk of developing asthma and allergies throughout their life.[43] Children with older siblings and larger families,[44] and who attend day care at an early age have the most viral respiratory infections, and have a significantly lower risk of developing autoimmune disease including Type 1 Diabetes.[45] A number of diseases including atopy,[46] diabetes, and multiple sclerosis appear[47] to be prevented by early childhood exposure to viruses. Exposure to viruses, and the acute infections that they trigger, activates the innate immune system and forms a bridge to the adaptive immune system, which is responsible for resolving inflammation and providing lifelong immunity.[48] Viral exposure plays a critical role in immune system development and the prevention of chronic illness.[49]

A critical caveat to the benefits of viral exposure is that these long-term benefits are absent when antibiotics are administered to treat viral infections, a common practice among American pediatricians.[50]

Every healthy human hosts a wide variety of benign asymptomatic chronic viral infections all the time.[51] Only a very small fraction of these viruses are capable of causing human illness, and most exist in stable symbiosis with the immune system and the microbiome.[52] Viruses are more likely to cause illness if the microbiome is disturbed, but they have also been found to play an important role in treating certain illnesses. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) exposure reverses late stage malignant melanoma,[53] and many “common cold” viruses (including coronavirus) cure bladder,[54] brain,[55] and breast cancers.[56] Routine exposure to these viruses throughout might life may play an important role in in protecting against these conditions, but more research is certainly warranted on the benefits of viral exposure.

Some viruses only become pathogenic (lead to disease) when either the immune system is impaired (by genetics or medications) or the microbiome is disrupted (by the overuse of antibiotics and some other drugs): antibiotic induced dysbiosis (ecological imbalances in the form of yeast infections and bacterial overgrowth) has been shown to trigger the herpes simplex Type II virus (HSV) to become more lethal,[57] while other dysbioses trigger the human papillomavirus (HPV) to become invasive and cause cervical cancer.[58] It is important to realize that both of these viruses can exist in benign symbiosis with the body without causing illnesses, but by disrupting the microbial balance in the body they can be triggered to cause harm.

Many viruses have been found to play key roles in immune system development, and their absence can create long-term health problems: the offspring of mothers who have never been exposed (prior to pregnancy) to rubella or coxsackie B viruses, are at significantly higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes.[59] Mice harboring herpesvirus, cytomegalovirus, or Epstein Barr Virus are protected against bacterial infections caused by Listeria monocytogenes (which causes gastroenteritis and brain infections) and Yersinia pestis (which causes bubonic plague).[60]

Most viruses evolve rapidly and adapt to their hosts, aiming to become less “virulent” and more symbiotic over time.[61] Even corona virus COVID-19 has been pressured to mutate and is already present in at least two different forms, one more aggressive than the other.[62] This adaption process depends on many factors and can be the result of treatment pressures that force the organism to become more resistant and aggressive to survive. This viral evolution is reminiscent of the mutations made by bacteria in response to antibiotics. A successful virus adapts to its environment reaching a state of “metastatic equilibrium” by becoming commensal or symbiotic with its host.[63]

Viruses and other infectious organisms tend to become less virulent and disruptive over time, unless external pressures (from antibiotics or antiviral medicines) force them to mutate into more aggressive forms simply to survive.

Viruses (like bacteria) are essential components of the environment (and the microbiome) and are critical components of all living systems. Healthy survival in any ecosystem requires continual exposure, adaptation to and symbiosis with viruses. Conventional medical therapeutics have historically favored antibacterial and antiviral approaches that fail to acknowledge the ecological and long-term health ramifications of trying to prevent contact with or destroy these organisms. The results of this approach include heightened ecological and microbiome disruption, immune system dysfunction and skyrocketing rates of chronic inflammation coupled with increasingly resistant and aggressive organisms. The COVID-19 epidemic is an example of the consequences this approach: the conventional system of medicine has been hellbent on dominating and fighting the natural environment, but this approach ultimately backfires when organisms evade these methods.

What is most needed at this time is an effective system of medicine that promotes immune system health and diverse microbiome ecology instead of weakening the relationship between these critical organs and promoting antibacterial and antiviral resistance.

Homeopathic medicines have been shown to be effective across a wide range of infectious conditions,[64] both in clinical and pre-clinical (laboratory) settings[65] without damaging the immune system or the microbiome. Ultra-highly diluted homeopathic medicines work by regulating the expression of genetic information at the cellular level. They have been shown to significantly lower the risk of developing infection when used prophylactically before viral exposure.[66] Homeopathy has been shown to be effective in the management of life-threatening sepsis (a systemic infection) when used adjunctively alongside conventional management in the intensive care unit (ICU) with significantly improved acute and long-term benefit.[67] Homeopathy has been found to be effective in numerous public health situations treating a range of both infectious[68],[69] and noninfectious conditions.[70]

Homeopathic medicines demonstrate significant antiviral effects against multiple human pathogenic respiratory viruses in-vitro, altering patterns of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting that it may lower the risk of “cytokine storms”[71] while restoring the ecology of the human microbiome. Homeopathic medicines have been used to treat and prevent epidemic illnesses around the world significantly reducing viral loads, improving lymphocyte counts, and providing physical, neurologic, immunologic benefits along with improved quality of life and increased survival in HIV/AIDs[72] and reducing the occurrence of epidemic Leptospirosis.[73]

The science of understanding viral infections and the human virome[74] is in its infancy, at best, but it is abundantly clear that viral epidemics and pandemics can be made worse by practices that weaken, rather than strengthen the immune system-microbiome axis. It is clear that, at least part of the gravity of the COVID-19 epidemic now facing modern society, has been aggravated by modern medical practices which weaken immunity, restrict diversification of the microbiome and overtreat common infections with antibiotics and antivirals. Routine forced vaccinations have also demonstrated problems since they don’t promote permanent immunity to infectious agents, and their regular use appears to promote pandemic infections.[75]

Modern medicine has provided many advantages in the world, but there is no sustainable substitute or shortcut if the environmental imperatives of the microbiome are ignored. The homeopathic approach, which supports the immune system-microbiome axis, is critical to maintaining health, particularly during times of epidemic illness.

In terms of a practical approach to COVID-19 it is imperative to recognize the importance of healthy lifestyle and diet in addition to appropriate homeopathic treatment. It is also important to avoid (as much as possible) unnecessary medical therapies that weaken the immune system or damage the microbiome. Avoid immune-suppressing medicines, including prescription or over the counter (OTC) drugs that block inflammation (ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol), or damage the microbiome (antibiotics, antivirals) if they are not necessary. Inflammation is the primary defense of the innate immune system, and drugs that interfere with it will impair the body’s ability to fight infection.

At this time, no homeopathic practitioners have treated cases of COVID-19 or made the results of this treatment public. A worldwide network of practitioners, from India, Asia, Europe and the Americas, have been in communication and have been looking to share information on the Genus Epidemicus when it emerges. Since no one has had any direct experience using homeopathy to treat COVID-19 to date, the following seasonal influenza medicines have been highly recommended as fallback for consideration in individual cases, but they are clinically unproven in COVID-19. Each case should be carefully evaluated to determine the most appropriate medicine:

Gelsemium sempervirens, Bryonia alba, Mercurius vivus, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Arsenicum album, Squilla maritma, and Kali muriaticum.

A COVID-19 nosode is not yet available, nor is it expected to be manufactured at any time soon, but evidence from the recent Cuban experience73 suggests that it might prove to be extremely beneficial in this epidemic.

Prevention Basics:

Wash hands and take reasonable precautions to avoid people who may be ill. Most people should avoid the use of antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, gloves and masks. Antibacterial products cause many more problems, including resistance,[76] and the use of barriers deplete limited supplies of these items which may be necessary to protect those with chronic illness.

Adequate rest and relaxation are critical and should be prioritized. Manage stressful activities and work situations in a timely manner to ensure adequate time for recovery. Regular moderate exercise and sun exposure are beneficial for immune system function.

Reminders when sick:

Eliminate refined sugars and foods with a high glycemic index from the diet, discontinue all nonessential vitamin and mineral supplements for the duration of an acute illness. Utilize probiotics and pre-and pro-biotic containing foods (naturally fermented foods and brine). Eat lightly, or fast for short periods.

Remember to hydrate adequately but avoid over-hydration. Urine frequency, odor and color can be used to judge hydration status.

Do not try to lower fevers unless this is deemed medically necessary. Postpone showers and baths to avoid becoming chilled.

Stay in contact with your primary care physician. Remember that viral illnesses are normal and that most people who are otherwise healthy will benefit immunologically from these experiences (even though they may be unpleasant) in the long-run. Infections help the immune system manage and reduce chronic inflammation and can provide significant long-term health benefits. Try to avoid using any unnecessary medicines that simply manage symptoms. Consult closely with your homeopath if you are having difficulties or if you seem to be getting worse, rather than better. Pay attention to your instincts and ask for help if things are progressing unexpectedly.

About the Author: Ronald D. Whitmont, MD is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, and Holistic and Integrative Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine at New York Medical College, immediate past president of the American Institute of Homeopathy. He maintains a practice of Classical Homeopathic Medicine in Rhinebeck and New York City, NY.


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