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Oxygen Settles The Great Pasteur-Beschamp Debate

Majid Ali, M.D.

Oxygen, the ultimate spin doctor, is also a great peacemaker. In this chapter, I show how oxygen settles the important and long-standing Pasteur-Bechamp debate.

Louis Pasteur, a 19th-century French chemist, introduced the germ theory and stated that specific infections are caused by specific microbes invading the body from outside. He further believed microbial species were fixed (monomorphism). Antoine de Bechamp, his opponent and a prominent microbiologist of the French Academy of Science, believed infections were caused by organisms that develop from within the body and that such organisms underwent radical changes under different conditions (polymorphism, pleomorphism). Pasteur and Bechamp showed nothing but disdain for each other's view. Thus began the great Pasteur-Bechamp debate. Pasteur's without versus Bechamp's within view of the origin of diseases controversy persists.

My view that oxygen settles that debate may be simply stated as follows:

When oxygen metabolism is optimal, Pasteur's microbes from outside play more important roles in causing disease. When oxygen metabolism is dysfunctional, Bechamp's life forms multiplying from within the body become more important.

I draw the above conclusion from a large number of personal clinical and experimental observations. To fully understand the above simple statement, we need to be familiar with the essential oxygen order of human biology, which has been discussed at length for the professional readers in a series of articles.1-10 In this chapter, I include a brief history of pleomorphism and an examination of the work of many pioneers in the fields of pleomorphism and the study of life forms in the circulating blood. The immediate relevance of this material to my oxygen (dysoxygenosis) theory of aging becomes apparent later in this chapter.

During the 150 years after Pasteur, most mainstream doctors accepted Pasteur's dogma as an article of faith. Indeed, many of them scoffed at the very idea of microbes developing from within. Many researchers and clinicians, on the other hand, championed Bechamp's cause and openly laughed at the blind faith of mainstreamers. To this day, the Pasteur-Bechamp debate among persons with interest in the ecology of the blood has been usually lively, sometimes bitter, but always inconclusive.

A peculiar aspect of the Pasteur-Bechamp debate is that the leaders in Bechamp's camp ("Bechampists") have been passionate microscopists while Pasteur's disciples ("Pasteurists") have shown little, if any, inclination to use their microscopes to study the patterns of microbial growth in the blood. The ideas of Bechampists often seemed radical to their peers, but they used their microscopes with great care and persistence. In clinical medicine, they focused on changing the internal conditions of the body. The Pasteurists, by contrast, completely neglected issues of blood ecology and committed themselves to killing microbes with chemicals. Their attitude was all the more remarkable because they considered themselves scientists and took great pride in the scientific method in medicine. Yet, they refused to use their microscopes to validate or refute the findings of Bechampists. What could be more scientific than to observe directly with a microscope what populates the blood of their patients? That question never seemed to trouble them.

By the middle of the twentieth-century, the main body of physicians had forgotten about both Pasteur and Bechamp. Oddly, Pasteur's name survives for reasons quite removed from his seminal work linking microbes with human disease. The milk industry adopted his method for treating milk and dubbed it pasteurization. Thus, children learn of Pasteur's name when they are taught the difference between good milk and sour milk. The wine industry also co-opted Pasteur. His name comes in handy when telling stories about how wines are aged. Fresh air, we are told, is an enemy of wines. The difference between death and glory in drinking can be minutes of exposure of wine to oxygen in the air, so counselled the French enologist, Emile Peynaud. Of course, the man behind all such insights about wine was Pasteur. In 1863, he was asked by Napoleon III to find out why so much of his choice wine from the Mediterranean was going bad. The great Pasteur did not disappoint the emperor. He figured out that the culprit was air (oxygen, in the present context). And so it is that Pasteur's name lives on in our class rooms as well as in our vinyards.

Bechamp did not have the fortune to have any such method named after him. With uncommon exceptions, doctors only pay lip service to the history of medicine. They have been too preoccupied with antibiotic chemistry to pay any attention to the matters of terrain (integrity of the microecologic cellular and macroecologic tissue-organ ecosystems, in my terminology). Medical schools have turned out generations of antibiotic enthusiasts with total commitment to an ever-growing list of antibiotics. They have had neither any use for the great medical controversies of bygone years nor an interest in understanding the pertinent ecologic issues. They ridiculed all ideas of natural restorative therapies based on the basic Bechamp concept of diseases arising from within. Professors in medical schools in the United States and elsewhere never bothered to learn anything about the great Pasteur-Bechamp debate. How could their students be expected to know even Bechamp's name?

But pleomorphism did not die. A handful of diehard bacteriologists and physicians continued their search. Some of them developed remedies derived from their special "cultures." That created a commercial reason for keeping the names of the pioneers alive long after they became inactive or passed away. The great benefit of such commercial activity was that some important books were reprinted and translated so that valuable original works were saved from extinction.

Then came the epidemics of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivity syndrome, and infections by the so-called stealth microbes that could not be controlled no matter how hard the antibiotists tried and how many killer antibiotics they used. Many caring physicians in different parts of the world began to search for answers outside the "box" of the prevailing dogma of symptom-suppressing pharmacologic therapeutic regimens. That led to a widespread resurgence of interest in pleomorphism.

Now we need to revisit the old Pasteur-Bechamp debate. But it must be done in light of the newer knowledge of genetics and the essential roles of oxygen in preserving man-microbe harmony. In this chapter, I show that Pasteurists and Bechampists argued ineffectively because they failed to understand the many roles of oxygen in man-microbe interrelationships. As in all other areas of disagreement about the cause of disease, oxygen effectively settles the Pasteur-Bechamp debate. It validates where Pasteur and Bechamp were right, and where both men went wrong.

Two Essential Questions about Microbial Pleomorphism

Microbial pleomorphism is a phenomenon in which microbes change their shapes under different conditions ("pleo" derived from the Greek word pleon meaning more; and morphs, meaning shapes). From reading the chapter, "Oxygen and Primordial Life Forms," many readers might wonder what relationship, if any, microbial pleomorphism might have with my theory of primordial life forms (PLFs). Here again, oxygen explains the relationship between the phenomena of microbial pleomorphism and PLF overgrowth.

Champions of both Pasteur's monomorphism and Bechamp's pleomorphism agree that microbes do change their shapes under different conditions. At the heart of the debate is what pleomorphism really means. There are two issues there:

1. Can pleomorphic forms arise from within the body?

2. Can microbes change from one species to another, from bacteria to fungus to parasite?

Based on my understanding of the genetics and the many seemingly contradictory roles of oxygen in health and disease, the following are my simple answers to the above two questions:

1. Pleomorphic living bodies (primordial life forms, in my terminology) do arise from within the blood cells.

2. Microbes do not change into different species of bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

Thus, in my view, people in both Pasteur's camp and Bechamp's group are right, but only partially.

Mainstream doctors hold that microbes do not arise from within, and that when microbes do change, that affects only their appearance and not their nature. Most holistic and integrative physicians interested in pleomorphism will answer both above questions with a forceful "yes." Notwithstanding the revolution unfolding in the so-called alternative medicine, there is a wide gulf between the views of mainstream doctors and holistic physicians on the above two issues. The main point of the present chapter is that both groups are partially right and the ongoing confusion results from their failure to understand the many paradoxical roles of oxygen and their unfamiliarity with the oxidative-dysoxygenative phenomena discussed in the chapter, "The History of Oxygen and Dysfunctional Oxygen Metabolism." I will briefly cover the main arguments of both groups and return to the matter of how oxygen settles the Pasteur-Bechamp debate later in this chapter.

Returning to the two questions, I will first address the second question because it requires simple answers and because those answers pave the way for more effectively answering the first question. Furthermore, I believe the first question concerning the matter of microbes arising from within could not be effectively presented without a historical review of the work of the great microscopists of the past who concluded, as I did from my own studies, that microscopic bodies with features of life do arise from within the blood cells.

Microbes Do Not Cross Species Boundaries

Ernst Almquist, a nineteenth-century Swedish microbiologist, first observed that typhoid microbes may look different under different conditions, but they do not change into some other microbial species. The microbes remain typhoid bacilli. The altered forms revert back to their original form when their ecologic conditions return to the prior state.

I cite a simple experiment to illustrate the point. Proteus species (a microbial species that is frequently present in the human bowel) can be grown in a culture medium in the laboratory under different sets of conditions so that bacteria grow in pleomorphic forms. That culture can then be exposed to sound waves and the microbes broken up (ultrasound homogenization) so that bacteria turn into an organic soup and no whole bacteria survive. Next, the microbial soup can be divided into 100 portions and the samples sent to 100 good laboratories in 100 different countries, asking the laboratories to identify the microbial species by using antibodies specific for various bacteria. Almost all laboratories will correctly identify the Proteus species. Such an experiment clearly established the distinctness of that Proteus species regardless of how many different forms it might take. Similar experiments have been performed. For example, in actual studies, Proteus species were cultured for thousands of generations over a period of about ten years. At the end of that period, all microbial samples were clearly identified as Proteus species. None of those microbes had morphed into fungi or parasites.

Pregnant Cats Do Not Deliver Puppies

Another line of strong evidence that supports the view that bacteria do not change into fungi and parasites is the specificity of their DNA. Simply stated, one has to reject the entire field of genetics before one can make a case for some particles within the body turning into bacteria, then into fungi, and then into parasites. The celebrated case of O.J. Simpson has made one thing clear: Most people in the world now do have some basic understanding of how human beings can be distinguished from each other. What is not common knowledge is that microbiology laboratories have routinely used DNA techniques for identifying many microbial species. Thus, the very notion of pleomorphism proposing that particles in cells turn into bacteria, fungi, and parasites seems to be utterly incompatible with the genetic specificity observed by everyone every day. Roses do not grow on pine trees. Eagles do not emerge from hens' eggs. Pregnant cats do not deliver puppies.

A Scientist Has Neither a Dogma Nor Any Paradigm

Science is purity of observation. An accurate scientific observation should not be open to debate, although all conclusions drawn from it may be. Thus, a true scientist knows that an observation once accurately made, stands on its own. It needs no support from anyone. The fact that roses do not grow on pine trees is not open to question. Many holistic physicians steadfastly cling to the notion of microbial pleomorphism turning cellular particles into bacteria, fungi, and parasites. It puzzles me when I hear them express their strong belief in pleomorphism and yet consistently sidestep the core issue of DNA specificity of microbial life. Bacteria are as different from fungi as dogs are from donkeys. Fungi are as different from parasites as frogs are from fruit flies. Those facts are not open to debate.

And yet, I cannot ignore the diligently documented microscopic observations of researchers in pleomorphism concerning appearance and multiplication of bodies with features of living beings which I call primordial life forms. This matter deserves a careful consideration. But first we must return to Pasteur and summarize the work of several important pleomorphism researchers.

Pasteur's Sheep and Anthrax Microbes

Pasteur is generally credited with the germ theory of illness. But, as we have seen in the chapter, "Oxygen and Primordial Life Forms," he was not the first to think of that theory. Indeed, the idea of a contagium animatum as the cause of disease had germinated in the minds of some very ancient writers. More than two centuries before Pasteur, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the microscope discovered his "animalcules." Beginning around 1676, he sent a series of letters to the Royal Society of London in which he described microbes he had found in water, wet organic matter, and scrappings of his own teeth. We know the microbes from his teeth as Streptococci. Amazingly, neither he nor anyone at the Royal Society saw the link between his animalcules and disease. Thirtenn decades earlier and more than three hundred years before Pasteur, one Girolamo Fracastoro predicted that seminaria, his term for an unseen microbe, will be found to explain the cause of disease.

Pasteur was led to his germ theory by a beer brewer of the French city of Lille, where he was Professor of Chemistry. The beer brewer was distressed by the "mysterious" disaster that spoiled his beer and turned it into a distasteful slimy liquid. The curious professor examined samples of spoiled and good beer, and discovered that beer was not produced by a chemical process but by a biologic phenomenon in which sugar was turned into alcohol by one type of microbe (yeast). The discipline of biochemistry had not come to existence then, and the biochemical differences between beer production and beer spoiling were not known. Pasteur discovered that beer spoiled when it was exposed to another type of microbe (bacteria). Later he found that fermentation of milk is also caused by multiplication of microbes in milk. Those two discoveries opened the way to his further work that linked microbes to human and animal diseases. His experiments with anthrax microbes and vaccination in sheep clearly established the role of microbes in the disease. He argued that specific infections are caused by specific species of microbes. That theory was designated monomorphism by some. Today the idea of specific microbial species from outside the body invading and causing specific diseases is so deeply entrenched that it is hard to imagine that anybody could have possibly opposed it. But that was not the case then. Pasteur's theory was loudly ridiculed by the members of the French Academy of Science. What does a mere chemist know about our diseases?, the French doctors screamed.

Following great initial resistance, Pasteur won the first round and his germ theory was widely accepted, ushering in an era of monomorphism in medicine. A natural extension of that idea is the now prevailing dogma: Where there is a disease, there is a bug. Where there is a bug, there is a drug.

The infatuation of the disciples of Pasteur with the bug-drug thinking was fanned by research in antibiotic chemistry. The discovery of penicillin was hailed as the ultimate control of man over the world of bugs. That, as it turned out, was silly thinking. Amazingly, it still persists among many doctors, mostly because they failed to learn about natural ways of controlling common infections. That is ironic, because Pasteur himself believed that microbes cause disease when the terra (terrain) is suitable. How could he, the developer of a vaccine against anthrax, have failed to grasp the point? Is the very efficacy of vaccination not the absolute proof that internal condition determines the outcome when microbes invade the body?

Bechamp's Microzymes

Bechamp is credited with the idea that some preexisting particles within the human body develop into disease-causing agents under certain conditions. He claimed to have seen minute particles in the blood which he believed were of vegetative origin and which he called microzymes. Next, he proposed that microzymes multiplied, changed their shapes, and grew into microbes under certain conditions, thus causing disease. That phenomenon of microscopic bodies changing their form and function was called pleomorphism. Bechamp fought hard against Pasteur's monomorphism of fixed microbes causing fixed diseases. However, Bechamp's voice was drowned out in the sea of the germ theory, except among some elite in medicine who kept the mono-pleo debate alive, but only as an intellectual exercise.

As far as I can determine from what is known of Bechamp's views, he believed that his microzymes were the source (seeds) of the larger microbes that caused disease under certain conditions. He did not believe that microbes, once fully developed, could change their species.




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