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Dr. Cheney on Glutathione Deficiency and CFIDS

February 1999: (Transcription)

. . . immune-activation states can also induce the activation of endogenous microbes in the presence of Glutathione deficiency. And that might explain why in this immune-activation state that we call Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you see a lot of endogenous viral activation such as EBV, CMV, HHV6, mycoplasma incognitus, chlamydia pneumonia, candida, and on and on and on. You see the activation of this microbial ecology, and why is this happening? It could be that it happens because cytokines in excess stimulate these organisms, especially in the presence of glutathione deficiency. The converse is true, however. In the presence of good glutathione levels, it's very difficult for that to happen

. . . . Conclusions from all of this are: Glutathione has potent anti-viral properties--if you raise the glutathione level you can stop the replication of most any, at least, intracellular pathogen. Chronic fatigue syndrome patients are glutathione deficient. Glutathione deficiency itself has a potent pro-viral effect. That is, not only does (high?) glutathione levels tend to act as an anti-viral, but glutathione deficiency produces a pro-viral effect. It can actually augment viral replication. Augment it from the case of toxins, toxins could augment viral replication and also cytokines themselves. So immune-activation states would itself augment these things.

. . . I'm trying to set the stage for how important it is to address this glutathione defect. It could be THE major issue in this illness. Maybe not so much in the beginning, but over time become the major issue. Because we're dealing with a sub-group of people who have cellular detox failure and all that that causes. Because if you have cell detox failure, you become a canary to your environment. . . . If you get a glutathione defect, then you become vulnerable to your own cell toxicity, specifically the portal circulation.

We found out that when you give oral reduced glutathione, it helps a little bit in some people, especially these pressure toxic headaches they get. But when you keep raising the dose, they actually get sick again, and it was never a very impressive response. When we tried NAC we saw some evidence of toxicity. In the use of NAC--I'm concerned about high-dose NAC in this disease. I think it may be toxic. We tried other methods to affect glutathione. Nothing seemed to be working.

Then we got wind of undenatured whey protein, lightly denatured to preserve the peptide action of this milk protein. It's concentrated to about 90 percent protein and it's very, very lightly denatured. In fact, the more lightly they denature it, the better the action appears to be. And the more they denature it, the less active it appears to be. In fact, if you denature it completely, down to its constituent amino acids, it really doesn't work well at all. People who normally have milk protein allergy seem to tolerate this, by and large. Not 100 percent, but by and large.

This is the data from a six-month study. There were eight people entered into the study, seven of them completed the study. We got data on seven of them. One dropped out at three months for a reason involved with the design of the study. (Note from Carol: the patient dropped out when the study protocol randomly required half of the participants to drop to one packet (10 grams) a day at the halfway point. He was improving so much on two packets a day that he refused to drop back, so he quit the study.) The first three months of the study we treated with two packets a day, and then the second three months, half were randomized to two packets a day and half were randomized to one packet a day. We wanted to see if you could tell a difference clinically or by other means between one packet a day versus two packets a day. 

We did this because there was some indication that the more you treat with this, the higher the dose, the better the effect. When you look at the group that goes from two packs a day to one pack a day, you can see this nice dip where they started going back up (in their urine lipid peroxides). Suggesting that one pack a day doesn't work very well. (He's referring to a slide of a chart here, I think.) 

By the way, you can extend this--there are people, I've discovered since the study was done, that do really well on three packs a day and not very well at all on two. (Note from Carol: Cheney told me in October that he has patients on 4, 5, and even 6 packets a day!!!) So clearly there is a dose response issue. Two packs a day would probably be my recommended starting dose, but I wouldn't hesitate to go up if it seemed like it wasn't working.

This is the exciting stuff. We wanted to see not only if this product improved glutathione functionality, which it did, but we also wanted to see if it knocked out micro-organisms, like the PNS article said it would. Chlamydia pneumonia is an intracellular pathogen. It's a common cause of hospital-acquired pneumonia. It ubiquitously infects the population, but seems to activate under certain conditions. And if it activates, some of the clinical conditions of this organism are chronic sinusitis, pharyngitis, and laryngitis. But it also gets into the central nervous system.

In a study published by a neurologist out of Vanderbilt showed that chlyamdia pneumoniae may be a very important pathogen in multiple sclerosis. Indeed, data they shared with me recently (and this is coming to publication soon) showed that 80 percent of the cerebral spinal fluid of MS patients is actively infected with this organism. Versus 15 percent of other neurological diseases that are not MS. In a journal-published article on neurology, aggressive treatment for chlyamdia pneumoniae rapidly reversed an acute exacerbation of multiple sclerosis.

So we measured IgM levels for this pathogen at Vanderbilt. Most laboratory measurements of this organism are not very good, so this is a research grade assessment, and probably may not generalize to the run-of-the-mill types of tests that you might get in your local labs. But IgM elevations of 1 to 1600 (?) dilutions is evident of significant active infection with this organism. Six months later, it just wiped it out. IgM just fell to normal levels. It didn't really matter whether you were taking one pack a day or two packs a day. Just wiped it out. Makes you wonder what this might do for MS. Think about that. 

We also looked at mycoplasma fermentans and mycoplasma penetrans. Both of these pathogens have been linked to Gulf War Syndrome. They've been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome. Again, they may be a relatively ubiquitous mycoplasma species, intracellular, and can cause a variety of problems when active. Again, by PCR done in Irvine, California. We were able to show that this product also wiped out mycoplasma incognitus and penetrans.

Then we looked at HHV6. It was a little mixed here. We tested three people. 

By the way, this study was designed to do some microbial testing on everybody, but not everything on everybody. The patients were allowed to pick and choose depending on what we had in their chart before. We weren't able to do everything on everybody because they were paying for this.

We did HHV6 rapid culture testing, which is a technique developed by a company in Wisconsin. This particular culture technique uses an intermediate (captures fiberglass?) cell line, so that you are positive only if you are really infected, so it reduces false positives to zero. That is, under these conditions, all normal people are negative. You have to do that because HHV, both A and B strains, are relatively ubiquitous. Under these conditions, we had two positives and one negative at beginning of the study. The person on two packs a day went to zero culture (negative); the person on one pack a day stayed positive. The person that was negative stayed negative. Suggesting that maybe this isn't as good against viruses as it is against bacteria, but at two packs a day it might be good against viruses. Again, the numbers (of participants) are small.

But to me, the satisfaction of this is tremendous because I'm always faced in this disease population--well, are they sick from EBV? or are they sick from HHV6? or are they sick from mycoplasma incognitus? or are they sick from c pneumoniae? And the [traditional] treatment for mycoplasma and c pneumoniae is 18 months of triple drug antibiotic therapy. And if we're wrong on this issue, we've wiped out their gut flora and leave them a gut ecology cripple for the rest of their lives. So now what we have is a nice way to address almost any microorganism that happens to be there. Just as the PNS article suggested.

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